Saturday, February 18, 2012

It Is Not About the Gadgets - Why Every Teacher Should Have to Integrate Tech Into Their Classroom

Image from here 

I once sat on an interview committee in which the candidate p[proudly proclaimed that to integrate technology her students would use word processors and publish their work in a monthly book.  My toes instantly curled.  It wasn't so much that she had used the words "word processor" but rather that she thought tech integration meant to have students type on a computer and then publish their work, that that would make them ready for this century of jobs.  So a couple of things come to mind whenever we discuss tech integration in schools.
  • Students have often more seamlessly integrated technology into their lives than their teachers and didn't even need to take a class on it.  
  • We chalk this up to them being digital natives or because they have an interest in it.  Yet not all children are digital natives and most of them have had role models that show how to use the technology.  They also know that tech is valuable and can add to their lives rather than detract from something else.  
  • Some teachers assume that clicking on a SmartBoard or having students type their papers mean that they are "integrating" tech.  This is one very limited usage of tech, in fact, it doesn't really count as integration.  True integration is when a student decides to film a video to show whet they have learned rather than create a poster.  True integration is when students have ideas and fearlessness to use technology to show their learning as a natural extension of the classroom.  Not to type a paper.  
  • There seems to be no urgency when it comes to actual technology integration into the classroom, but more of an urgency on how to buy the flashiest gadgets and then offer limited training or support.  How often do we hear about a district that has spent too much money on 30 SmartBoards, 100 iPads and how they will be placed in the hands of the students to enhance their learning?  How often do we then hear about the support they will offer their teachers or how those products will actually be used to enhance learning?  There seems to be an assumption that if you give they will use it effectively, which we all know is not true.  Some teachers might, but most will use it superficially and after a while the product will languish, unused, outdated, and just another relic of someone's hastily thought out idea.
  • Some teachers feel that integrating technology is optional.  Integrating technology is no more optional than teaching how to use a pencil.  And while many may find that extreme, we cannot equip our students with the skills they need to be successful learners and teachers without teaching them to use technology properly.  Many schools see typing as a necessity but then cannot bring that view into how to stay safe on the internet, how to search properly on a computer and myriads of other things that technology can offer us.  How to use computers effectively is now a life-skill and as teachers it is our job to equip students with these.
  • Teachers who have been labeled "techie" teachers are sometimes viewed as a one-trick pony, that is all they are passionate about and therefore they cannot possibly have an effective classroom.  I certainly am one of the techie-teachers in my classroom but many are surprised at how little we use tech on a day to day basis.  That is not to say we don't use it, because we do, but we also do many other things.  In fact, using a tech tool is just one option my students have to show their learning.  What I do practice is fearlessness in tech usage and that I pass on to my students.  Not that they always need to use some sort of tool, we use our pencils more than a computer, but that they can effectively use whatever whenever they need to.
  • Teachers think they have a choice in their classroom.  I am sorry but the choice should not be teachers' anymore; every school should have an effective technology integration curriculum to offer students the skills they need.  We do not have a choice in teaching literacy or math and should not be given one when it comes to technology.  This is not about what WE want the kids to know but what the KIDS need to know.
And I am sure I could continue the list, however, these are my main concerns.  We cannot afford to not focus on proper technology integration in our schools.  It is not about the gadgets, it is not about the typing, it is how to use technology tools fearlessly, respectfully, and effectively.  All things every teachers should be teaching, no excuses.

29 comments:

Tom Panarese said...

I think that part of the problem is that technology is often used in turn with "student engagement." In other words, they're just entertainment devices, ways to present the same information always presented.

When I have to sit through the umpteenth demo of some new gadget that another department is going to monopolize anyway, I sit and wonder if it's truly making it easier or more flashy.

Ironically, this year I have a group of advanced students and whenever we read novels, they run the class discussions (literally--I'm in the back of the room taking notes). I told them that they can present and discuss in any format and use any tech they want as long as they fill 30-35 minutes. So far, only one has used anything tech. The ones that haven't have given us some great discussions.

Rachel Ash said...

I am really glad you bring up the point about districts using tech as a quick-fix without properly training faculty to use the technology effectively. Districts are always quick to jump on the next big thing--whether it's Marzano's latest book or iPads--without any meaningful follow-through.

I also think technology integration is a requirement and want to see it enter more classrooms in a way that is more relevant than "I use powerpoints and smartboards."

Sam Fancera said...

Great post! I am in complete agreement. Technology should be the vehicle to improve student learning, not about the fancy gadgets. I wrote about this recently, as well:
http://samfancera.blogspot.com/2012/01/educational-discourse-in-2012.html?m=1
It seems we're on the same page!

Jonah Salsich said...

While I agree that tech integration shouldn't be about gadgets or flashier ways to do the same old thing, I think one of the biggest hurdles is that it is optional in most classrooms and districts. It doesn't really matter if we "techie" teachers believe it shouldn't be optional - it is.

Many (most?) teachers simply teach what they are accountable for. Since they aren't accountable for tech integration (it's not tested, there is no prescribed "curriculum" for it, no one quantifies and analyzes their students' tech skills, etc.) they don't have to incorporate it. A responsible teacher would of course integrate tech because it is what the students need, but an accountable teacher doesn't have to. (Pasi Sahlberg, education ambassador from Finland, said, "Accountability is something that is left when responsibility has been subtracted.")

(I recently posted about this same topic here: Actually, teachers DON'T have to learn technology)

So, while I agree that every teacher should have to integrate tech into their classroom, unfortunately they don't have to.

Lisa M said...

I agree Matt! It's not going to happen, but I agree. Many teachers approach me and say, "Lisa, I used the SMARTboard today, I am using technology! It's not their fault, someone needs to teach them. You're right, It's not about the gadgets, it's what you do with them.

Lisa M said...

Sorry about calling you Matt. Saw Matt's tweet and just assumed it was his blog! I apologize.:)

Frugalteacher said...

Good Post! I am one of a few teachers in my school using technology on a regular basis. I made it a goal at the beginning of the year and set to work making it happen. Part of the reluctance I see from other teachers is that they are not comfortable with the equipment, applications, and other aspects of using tech in the classroom. Districts want us to use tech but don't always provide the training and support needed. Not everyone is willing to dig in and figure it out for themselves. Tomorrow I am doing a presentation on how I went from using an overhead projector to using technology daily and seamlessly in my classroom: https://docs.google.com/present/view?id=dvchjv2_1d3vgj4ds (I still don't know how to make an html link on a blog post though ;-)

Mrs Ripp aka @pernilleripp said...

Thank you all for reading and commenting, I was out of town this weekend and thus slow on responding to comments. So many valid points have been made here to the districts not just buying more gadgets to making sure that teachers realize that technology integration should be part of their curriculum and not just fluff they add. If you have a moment I highly recommend reading the post links left here, all of them made my wheels turn just a little bit more.

Janet Abercrombie said...

Yes, there is a lack of teacher education.

Yes, many teachers have not been exposed to all the integration possibilities.

I think one of the biggest obstacles is teacher fear. I'm in a 1:1 school - some teachers use tech more than others. I've heard the following expressed:

- "I need to learn all the tech things before the students use them."
- "I don't know how to manage student behavior - how can I 'catch' them if they're doing the wrong thing?"

My students have made movies for three years. I made my first one 6 months ago. My job is to make sure students use the technology to demonstrate content learning. The kids will figure out the tech stuff.

Some specific classroom management techniques can significantly reduce the 'computer-as-toy' issue at school. See http://wp.me/p1Dq2f-oE

Janet | expateducator.com

Janet Abercrombie said...

Yes, there is a lack of teacher education.

Yes, many teachers have not been exposed to all the integration possibilities.

I think one of the biggest obstacles is teacher fear. I'm in a 1:1 school - some teachers use tech more than others. I've heard the following expressed:

- "I need to learn all the tech things before the students use them."
- "I don't know how to manage student behavior - how can I 'catch' them if they're doing the wrong thing?"

My students have made movies for three years. I made my first one 6 months ago. My job is to make sure students use the technology to demonstrate content learning. The kids will figure out the tech stuff. But, I could tell students whether or not their movies demonstrated the required objectives.

Some specific classroom management techniques can significantly reduce the 'computer-as-toy' issue at school. See http://wp.me/p1Dq2f-oE

Janet | expateducator.com

Janet Abercrombie said...

Yes, there is a lack of teacher education.

Yes, many teachers have not been exposed to all the integration possibilities.

I think one of the biggest obstacles is teacher fear. I'm in a 1:1 school - some teachers use tech more than others. I've heard the following expressed:

- "I need to learn all the tech things before the students use them."
- "I don't know how to manage student behavior - how can I 'catch' them if they're doing the wrong thing?"

My students have made movies for three years. I made my first one 6 months ago. My job is to make sure students use the technology to demonstrate content learning. The kids will figure out the tech stuff.

Some specific classroom management techniques can significantly reduce the 'computer-as-toy' issue at school. See http://wp.me/p1Dq2f-oE

Janet | expateducator.com

Janet Abercrombie said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Sean Nash said...

I get what you're saying here. I am completely in agreement on one level. There is no longer an excuse for a teacher to not be a leader with technology... just as they are in matters of content, and pedagogy.

The only thing I have a problem with is the... 'every teacher should have to." Surely you've seem some pretty serious "just because you can, doesn't mean you should have" -examples. Yes?

I think we owe it to push our school systems for appropriate levels of professional development. I also think that it's OK to put a little pressure, of some sort, on our fellow educators to dig in a pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. As Will Richardson often says, “When introduced to a new technology, I've never heard a kid ask, When's the workshop?”

I agree that teachers should be leaders in the application of information and communications technologies in and out of the classroom. I also agree that we need to be spending a far greater percentage of our dollars on smart, purposeful uses of technology can can transform learning toward a more student-empowered end.

I just worry about rushing to "you must" for all teachers. Pushing them too quickly out of their zone of proximal development is as risky with adults as it is with children.

I just can't look forward to seeing more "digital posters," if you know what I mean.

PS- I'm happy to have found your blog. Some really well-considered posts here. Pleased to "meet" you.

Sean

Mrs Ripp aka @pernilleripp said...

Sean, Excellent point! By me using the "you must..." I am more in danger of pushing teachers further away from technology than toward it. I do think there needs to be more pressure though simply because the "you should" process has not been entirely successful. Yet I agree, there needs to be a balance.

ekeley said...

I don't think the use of technology in the classroom should be required, simply because teachers don't respond well to mandates. However, I agree that technology integration should be seamless and that it should be a way for students to demonstrate what they have learned. Unfortunately, until we no longer use standardized tests as the measure of success for our students and teachers, I think the use of technology in the classroom will continue to meet with resistance. This is sad, especially to those of us who see students becoming much more motivated and actively engaged in the learning process when they are allowed to make their own choices.

As a teacher educator, I see so much potential in our new teachers. They are so excited about how students can use technology in the classroom. I can only hope that as they become new teachers and move into their own classroom, they will become the standard bearers, and not become content in maintaining the status quo.

Anonymous said...

Great post! I loved the bullet about teachers thinking that integrating technology is optional. Thanks for sharing.

Lee Kolbert said...

I'd like to respectfully disagree with our comment about true integration. I think if students are going to film a video instead of writing a report and the result of both are to repeat back what the students have learned (and it serves no "real world" purpose), then the video really wasn't necessary at all and was just fun. Nothing wrong with a little fun, but I believe true integration occurs when the product could not have been created without the use of technology. So, perhaps the students are analyzing data and therefore use Excel or maybe the students are creating a video for the purpose of creating an online Public Service Announcement (real-world purpose). Either way, the product would tie back to the goal of the lesson and if the product could be accomplished without the use of technology, then it's not integration; it's (like you said) using Word or PPT instead of paper. Thanks for a very thought-provoking post.

Mrs Ripp aka @pernilleripp said...

Lee, I am not sure I agree with your idea of true integration because let's face it we all use tech in ways where the thing could have been accomplished without the use of tech but it was easier not to. In my room whenever we do make videos it is to show others what we have been learning as well as a different way to present the research or project they have created, of course, this could be shown in a different way but students choose this medium to showcase their work so I am not sure if you would consider that "true" tech integration.

Bill Horniak said...

Janet,
I think fear is accurate yet also the unwillingness to change from doing the things they have always been doing and it was the way they learned! My thoughts turn especially to vet teachers who have been in their clasrooms a long time. I am not sure if it is fear, reluctance but I'd like to believe it is not unwillingness. jmho

Dana Huff said...

I think you are spot on. I do think we need to demonstrate how and why integration is important because teachers can be skeptical and will not use it if we can't demonstrate the value. Professional development is key. Too many schools roll out or mandate tech without supporting the faculty at all, and worse, administrators adopt a "do as I say not as I do" attitude and don't use the tech themselves.

Nancy @TheTeacherGeek said...

How do we reach the fabulous teachers that are just inherently uncomfortable with technology? It's not just more training - it's better training that's needed. A few of my colleagues have made comments that trainers often go to fast, or assume that everyone in the room is moving at the same speed, which is frustrating to them. Just as we need to differentiate for our students, the staff developers and tech teachers need to make sure that the training they give can reach all of their adult learners, too.

Keith Schoch said...

One misconception I often heard was that the new, young teachers coming out of college were going to leave the rest of us "old folks" in the dust with their knowledge of technology. That hasn't happened. There is an art and a science to teaching which technology can enhance, but not replace. Furthermore, tech should not be seen as a "fix" for ineffective teachers (of any age).

Mrs Ripp aka @pernilleripp said...

Nancy and Keith, both great things to bring up. I also laugh at the notion that all of the new teachers coming out of college are comfortable with technology when it couldn't be further from the truth. Sure, some are but most are just as intimidated by it as older teachers. In fact, I know more veteran teachers that know how to integrate tech well rather than new ones. Nancy, great question! We need better training, more reason for why this is important and worthwhile tech investments (both financially and time wise). we have to have time share and collaborate as well.

Private Schools Victoria said...

Work focuses on understanding the relationship between teaching and student learning and thinking.

Franklin Newsletter said...

It is better to a teacher to use new technology in order for the students to learn a lot and also gained more knowledge and information. I really like the article.

Srta. Graham said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Srta. Graham said...

My favorite thing that you said it that you possess fearlessness in using tech and you pass that on to your students. That is what I think is true integration. I agree that people think that tech people use the tech all the time. It is ironic that with my discover of Pinterest and my access to computers at school, the low tech activities have been able to take center stage in a different way.

As far as tech-fearful teachers, I really think they need to be trained in a different way that helps them out of their defensiveness and fear of looking stupid and opens the door for their discovery of technology that they may love and would never have discovered had they kept their guard up because of fear of being judged or marked down on evaluations for not using technology a certain way.

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Melanie Broxterman said...

Wow, I really enjoyed this post and couldn't have said it better. The true understanding of the why and how of using tech is so difficult to "teach" to those who see "tech" as a typing a sentence in Word or using a laptop to compete a "drill and kill" website.

Understanding the changing components of education is where teachers need to become self learners. Districts needs to focus less on the device and more on teaching understanding of how the technology, content, and knowledge WILL change the classroom culture (pedagogy).... This is where many are leery!

Thanks again for a great post!

 

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