Archive for March, 2010

Technology Integration: It’s a Science!

Posted on March 23, 2010. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Jeff McCoy

Technology Integration is one of those things that come naturally to some, while others have to work at it. I’d liken it much to those who are inclined artistically or musically. I appreciate art and love browsing galleries, finding new artists and expanding my experiences when it comes to new art. As much as I can appreciate fine art, there’s always been that part of me that would love to actually create art. Unfortunately, the art gene definitely passed me up!! My students always loved it when I drew illustrations on the board, for them, it was a little like a game of Pictionary!

Coming out of college, I was not really tech savvy. My college program did not prepare me to integrate technology into the classroom. However, I found that technology is something that came fairly easy to me and it was something that I quickly became passionate about. I made many mistakes my first years of teaching, but got better at it each time. I truly believe that true technology integration comes naturally to some teachers, while others really have to work at it. I still walk into classrooms to observe and evaluate throughout the year. I find the wheels of my mind start turning immediately as to how technology could be integrated into the lesson!

There are many processes out there that guide technology integration. I find that processes are good even to keep teachers who are good at technology integration focused on what is important. Technology integration for the sake of just doing it is not a good reason or within best practice. Integration should be seamless, part of the curriculum if you will that the line is blurred between technology and just good teaching strategies. 

There are a few questions that you can ask yourself to help guide the integration process, especially when it comes to technology rich projects. These type of projects do take time and cannot be done every day or even every unit. Hopefully, technology is a strategy used in your classroom on a very regular basis, but technology rich projects take on a different look and feel in the classroom. Done right, they can leave a lasting impression of the content covered. My students often remembered the technology projects we did in class, even years later as they moved on into higher education. My technology rich projects were problem based. They were hard and at times frustrating to my students because it made them reach outside of the boundaries of what they were used to doing in class.  In short, they had to think! Sometime there was no “right” outcome, and that was hard for my students to grasp. The value was the process. They had to evaluate, create, analyze and apply. There isn’t always a specific right answer to a problem, a lesson that all our students need to learn.

Below are some guiding questions when it comes to designing a unit that is technology rich. In an age of accountability, we have to get as much “bang for our buck” as possible. 

Determine the Advantage

EQ: Does the time spent on the project justify the curriculum goals and the material that will be learned?

Is the project you are about to embark on a good investment of your time? To put it in business terms, what is the return on investment? If the standards you are addressing are minor standards and the project is going to take several weeks, the return on investment may actually be very low due to the fact that those standards are not tested as heavily or maybe they are not key standards. Students will hopefully learn, but the time spent learning those standards may cause you to have to skimp when it comes to other major standards. What are the big standards in your subject area? Which ones are hard to teach? These are the questions that can help guide where your major technology-rich projects will take priority. Whenever I needed my students to know something critical, something that was a must for them to be successful, I always tried to infuse a technology-rich project. These projects made them think and it also made them “do”. Anytime a child is “doing” or “creating”, they are using the highest levels of the thinking process.

Determining the Key Elements: Objectives and Assessments

EQ: How will I know that my students have learned and met the objectives of the lesson?

Again, standards are important. They drive everything we do. Determining the objectives a project or unit based off the curriculum standards is key if you are to know where you are going to go. Objectives should drive the learning process and your students should be aware of the objectives and understand the expectations. Many times, objectives are expressed in the form of essential questions which are easier for students to understand and search for an answer.

Of course, no project would be complete without some sort of an assessment. You have to know whether or not your students have learned. Where the objectives of the lesson met? A good assessment will give you that data. Assessments of course do not always have to take the form of a test or quiz. Projects and non-traditional assignments can give you just as much good information.

Designing the Lesson and Integration Strategies and identify Appropriate Technology

EQ: What strategies and lesson activities will best meet the needs of the students

Student needs vary from student to student and even from year to year depending on the make-up of the students in the class. Identifying which strategies work best with your students will help them be successful in the lesson, project or unit. Once you determine the strategies, you can begin to decide which technology will best support your objectives and strategies. Are your students pairing up for group work? Would a wiki help support their work by giving creating a common sharing place?

When determining what technology to use, make sure you consider the time it will take to teach students to use that technology. If too much time is spent teaching how to use the technology that it eats up the content of the lesson or unit, then you may have to re-think. Some technology can be introduced to students slowly over a period of time so that you don’t have to spend days teaching a technology. Look for the technology that is easy to use and will not take up much time to teach. Content is the focus! Never lose focus of that!

Prepare the Instructional Environment

EQ: Is everything in place that is needed to support the project and the technology needed in the project?

Part of the ISTE standards contains Essential Conditions. These are the conditions that are necessary in order for technology integration to be successful. For example, if you are using laptops in the classroom, do you have enough power outlets for students to plug them into if they start dying? Is a wireless overlay in place so you can access the Internet (if necessary).  Identifying what you need will cut back on the frustration of trying to troubleshoot when the students are in front of you. Something will always go wrong with technology, that’s inevitable. The good thing is that you have 30 warm bodies in the classroom who are quite adept at technology and can probably fix whatever is wrong. Don’t overlook the resources you have right in front of you.

Be sure you have your procedures outlined for students when using technology. If using laptops, have each student assigned a laptop number so you know who has what computer. Make sure you have procedures for getting the laptops out of the cart and putting them back. You must protect the equipment you are using and discipline in the classroom using technology is different due to the element it adds.

Reflect and Revise!!!

EQ: What worked well and what needs to be changed?

 A good teacher always reflects! You have to know what worked and what didn’t. Your assessment will give you valuable information when it comes to what your students learned. But there are many other areas to assess. You may need to change the technology due to some glitches or something that didn’t work. Maybe some instructional strategies need to be changed. What about student input? I always gave my students a survey to assess the unit and how they liked it. They told me what they liked and what they didn’t like. This gave me valuable feedback and many times it was the basis for changing some of the assignments. Reflection is important to continue to improve as a teacher!

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    The School District of Greenville County – Instructional Technology Department


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