Sunday, March 22, 2009

Effective Integration of Technology in the Classroom

Photographer: Motorpsykhos

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that a district can't just throw money at this type of initiative to make it work. A lab full of the latest technology, internet access, and bandwidth will not automatically create ideal conditions for successful integration of technology in classrooms. What about 1:1 laptops you ask? Sorry to be a party-pooper. No.

There is a growing number of educators and specialists that are in fact, arguing the opposite. That technology integration has the potential to be harmful for our students. Chris Y has written a very thought-provoking post on potential side effects of having our students sit, for hours on end working one on one with computers. Chris states that, "instead of improving teaching and learning, greater emphasis on computer technology and Internet use often has the result of weakening students’ social skills and eroding opportunities for the elements of learning some have called the 'hidden curriculum'". Well, that is certainly the opposite effect that we, as educators would hope to have on our students. It is so important to see that other side of the issue. The fact is that if funds do just get thrown at an initiative such as this one, this is a real danger. So, as concerned educators, what can we do about it?

Matt T. states that there are "essential qualities of knowledge required by teachers for technology integration in their teaching." He also goes on to propose a framework for integrating technology successfully, he's coined it, "TPACK". (Image source: TPACK)

In a nutshell, educators need to have knowledge of :
1. The technology.
2. Curriculum content.
3. Knowledge of the pedagogy of teaching AND teaching with technology.
When all of these components are in place, successful integration of technology is an expected outcome.

"OK", your saying. "That's all fine and dandy, I need you to show me what this all means". Fair enough. Here's how one school is successfully integrating technology in the classroom with the support of a technology specialist.

Wow! Exciting things. Teachers are feeling supported, are taking part in co-teaching, and are recieving adequate training. It reminds me of the old "I do, we do, you do" gradual release of responsibility of teaching that I studied way back in my teacher training! Here is how another school is successfully integrating technology into their classrooms. You will notice that each video highlights the importance of having a framework for the technology integration to help ensure it's success.

Ready to Start, But Nowhere to Go?

Both of those videos outline different frameworks for integrating technology sucessfully; but, what if you don't have that "go to" teacher? There are many resources out there for educators that are looking to slowly incorporate technology into their classroom. A favourite author/educator of mine calls it, "toe dipping". Rebecca Mullen and Linda Wedwick wrote an article titled, Avoiding the Digital Abyss, which outlines uses for YouTube, Digital Stories, and Blogs in the classroom. Also, Wang et al outlines ways to integrate technology in a primary classroom using digital cameras, digital microscopes, and interactive whiteboards, in the article, Meaningful Techonology Integration in Early Learning Environments. Both of these articles illustrate examples of successful integration of technology without students sitting for hours staring at a computer monitor, moving further and further away from meaningful student-to-student interaction.

Questions to Keep in Mind to Keep You (and me!) on Track in Our Classrooms

* Is the technology that I am using supporting constructivist learning theories?
* Are my students engaged?
* Are my students interacting, collaborating, and learning WITH one another while using technology?
* Are my students using critical thinking skills?
* Are my students learning new skills that will prepare them for the future?
* Are my students working towards a deeper, more meaningful understanding of the curriculum content?
* Are the activities moving beyond the use of technology as a substitute for a chalkboard or notebook?

1 comment:

Rhonda said...

Wow - A wonderful post reminding us the important things to keep in mind when integrating technology. I love the questions you ask at the end!