Building Blocks for Technology Integration: A Strategy for Success

August 10, 2007

This is a guest posting from my friend and colleague, David Carpenter, who is working abroad as an instructional technologist in Asia. Read his other posts, "An Instructional Technologist Muses on Lessons Learned: The Peaks and Pitfalls of Discovery Learning" and "Travel Tip: It Is a Terrific Time to Teach Abroad."

As I was reading comments to your recent blogs, I was struck by the insights of fellow bloggers and commenters about technology integration and education, and found that I could apply their ideas directly to my job. I am an instructional technologist who will soon be working at a new school, and these blogs prompted me to think of ways to integrate technology once I get there. The ideas I came up with are nothing new but do provide a foundation from which a school can successfully advance the use of technology and information literacy to enhance student learning.

A commenter named Karen responded to Chris O'Neal's " blog entry1-2-3 -- Red Light!" about how to even the playing field so all students within a school equally benefit from using the technology tools available -- namely, Web 2.0 tools. She nails it by mentioning the value of curriculum and instruction. When instructional technologists and library media specialists collaborate with teachers to develop curriculum, design instruction, and create assessments, technology and information-literacy skills can become a regular part of doing business in the classroom.

When collaborating on curriculum, it's helpful to designate teachers as leaders to plan and manage the meetings. The role of leader at the elementary school and middle school levels could be assigned to a teacher at each grade level for reading, writing, social studies, and so on. In high schools, department chairs would serve as curriculum leaders. This partnership and development model naturally leads to the seamless integration of technology and information-literacy standards with the skills teachers use to teach the units. The point of using the embedded technology and information-literacy skills in the classroom is then supported by lead teachers. blogger Jim Moulton's point regarding the importance of an administration's support of teachers as they move forward with technology (or any other agreed-on school initiative) also caught my attention. His post "Pressure as Support for Change" reminds us that even though we are all accountable, it is often the administrators who need to get out of their comfort zone and firmly apply pressure to move the effort along.

There are a couple of ways to do this using a soft-touch approach. The first goes back to the curriculum-development and instruction-development process. As the leaders of our schools, administrators should be part of the curriculum-development teams. Once a unit is completed, the teaching teams (including the administrator) in all K-12 schools should take time to reflect on what went well and what needed improvement while teaching it. Doing so allows the administrator to lightly provide pressure regarding the use of technology and information-literacy skills built into the unit plan.

Second, after assessing student work, the administrator can ask questions and make comments that guide teachers to review their use of integrated technology or information-literacy skills, or both. Teachers can make changes to the unit and set personal goals for the following year. Administrators validate the creativity, collaboration, and follow-through of a curriculum, and their very presence can make a world of difference.

This ties in with Moulton's point from his post titled "One-to-One Leadership -- Brick, or Life Preserver?" Though he focuses on one-to-one computing, I think the development of a leadership team for curriculum and instruction is just as valuable. The key is ownership by all team members that leads to advanced planning, collaboration, and the important follow-through once the units roll out. Administrators cannot monitor all aspects of the classrooms, but teacher leaders can provide their teams with much-needed support and an ongoing, formative assessment of how units are being taught.

Many technology commentators and readers of these blogs point to the value of professional development to help teachers increase their knowledge about and confidence in the use of technology tools. We read about just-in-time support as well as meaningful and practical learning for teachers within the context of their curriculum. I can say this definitely makes sense and does work in the real-world classroom.

The one-on-one time I spend collaborating with teachers allows me to better understand the content and skills the teacher is teaching as well as provide the technology skills necessary to enhance the lesson. When we instruct a class together, the teacher gets practical experience with the technology and information research tools, further empowering him or her to try new instructional strategies in the classroom.

The instructional technologist is another important part of implementing technology in the classroom. At your school, the person in this position may be called the technology-integration specialist or the education technologist; regardless of the title, this person, with teaching experience and training in curriculum and instructional design, will bridge the gap between technology and the teachers. The instructional technologist participates in curriculum development and provides yearlong support and professional-development coaching.

The ideas I've discussed can also be found in books, blogs, and conference presentations. There are many other ideas out there, but what I can say, based on my daily classroom experience, is that the ones I've mentioned here form the foundation for moving a learning community forward in the use of technology and information-literacy skills. And did you notice these components are people and process based, without any mention of hardware or software?

Please send your thoughts and comments. I'm interested in what you have to say.

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