It Takes a Village: Full Tech Integration Plan

Jennifer Anderson’s blog post was a great overview. I liked the analogy she created between IT and the way sea life can use camouflage. In class, people should not notice whether a presentation was created in PowerPoint, Google Docs, or Prezi if learning takes place. If that is the goal, how is it attainable?

We have all come to agree that it is the responsibility of everyone in the school community, teachers, technology and media staff, administrators, and heads of department, to teach to NETs or other appropriate standards. We cannot rely on a technology or computer applications teacher to prepare students to use software or online applications. Just as appropriate moral values or academic standards are taught and modeled by everyone, teaching technology belongs to all of us. So the question is how to ensure that the standards are being met with cohesion? By cohesion, I mean that it becomes so integrated and unified with the original school structure as to appear camouflaged.

While everyone has a role, each position has a different role and is in a unique position to support student learning and classroom instruction. I am interested in how this would work in a school with 600 students (K-12) in which faculty and administrators have the advantage of innovating quickly but may already be serving in several roles. These are the ways in which I envision each person applying their potential strengths in order to fully integrate technology into learning.

Technology Integration Specialist (TIS)-based approach was novel and should be incorporated. Tom Johnson’s blog made a good case for why this person should be on staff and how they could both lead and support faculty and administrators in integrating technology. This was thought-provoking because I would have first thought of this person as being the Head of Media Technologies or belonging to that office. This model appears more flexible. This person, or persons, could be related to the office or, perhaps more appropriately, be a teacher who also fills this role. A teacher would maintain the daily experience of teaching and innovating with technologies available and might be easier meet with if the TIS were also part of a department, like Social Studies or Science.

A Head of Department (HOD) could might make a good candidate for ITS. They are experts in the content area, are familiar with the visions and values of the school community and would recognize when integration would clash with a school value, as Nick Bilton suggests, with time for reflection, prayer, and mediation. HODs also could coach teachers in how to rethink teaching methods and potential outcomes with 1:1, Project-Based or Challenge-Based Learning, and other innovations. Since HODs work daily with teachers in their departments, it could also be a person that teachers respect and are willing to share stories of successes and failures along the way.

Teachers, working within the school-based team, will be able to bring useful technologies into the classroom in several ways. For example, the Edutopia article came to the real value of technology integration, “…effectively integrated into subject areas, teachers grow into roles of adviser, content expert, and coach.” This is where educators can serve. Lecturing has some benefits for some students, but those students will ask for explanations when they are ready. The myriad approaches to the Flipped Classroom philosophy supply examples of how teachers can teach effectively this way.

However, not all technologies fit the model. Too often, Smartboards and their cousins are used as a new kind of lecture tool, involving only the teacher or perhaps one student at a time. The Student Response Systems referred to in the Wikipedia article on technology integration also sound limited in how much decision making is in the hands of students. E-portfolios are a step closer, if the content and skills were student-driven. Teachers will need to work with the ITS, other teachers, HODs, and the IT department in order to evaluate technologies before and after adoption to see how they fit the SAMR model.

For teachers, the guiding philosophy is primarily to add resources previously unavailable to most classrooms. In my case, that might be access to archives, original documents as in the FSA project, or historians and scholars through Skype or email. The technology available becomes the way that teachers and students can access these resources, analyze the materials, and display and publish results.

Teachers will want to explore online content to possibly modify and adopt for their own students. I was impressed with Prof. Edward L. Ayers’ course The Rise and Fall of the Slave South  at the University of VirginiaLooking through his materials, it was clear to see how the SMAR + TPCK model could be applied to teaching a unit in high school history that would create an opportunity to do the work of historians using online and print primary and secondary resources. This was a good site for understanding sources both tools for students and teachers to use and the accompanying interviews with scholars, unique in history teacher resources.

I found the SAMR to be a useful guide to thinking about which projects begin to reach the event horizon of technology integration, after which you teach in a true student-centered, project-based learning environment without wanting to go back to teacher-centeredness. I will be using SMAR with this technology matrix as a guide for planning upcoming units. Like good Understanding by Design, it is helpful to ask yourself questions as you go along in the planning and revising stages of units.

Ultimately, it is not the technology that teaches. We teach by knowing what the grade-approprite content and skills are for our students. We read journals in order to remain current with the content of our courses. We should also be exposed to, and be experimenting with, new applications like infographics, CIS applications, and video, for instance, in order to better see how each can support student learning.

Students can offer their assessments of how technology integration is going. We often speak of the students, but may not speak often enough to the students for insightful feedback that informs planning and implementation.

Administrators and principals are visionaries and managers. They see the whole student as part of the whole school and his or her own family. With this position, they can liase with parents and faculty. Principals and heads of schools generally know a school community well and understand its values. They would be the ones to help ensure that the technologies and methodologies that are adapted continue to generally fit the spirit and values of the school. This is very important. These are the team members who support the school’s founding vision and values in the long term.

Vertical team building is an element that Jeff Utecht highlighted in Evaluating Technology Use in the Classroom, he offers clear guidelines that administrators and Heads of Department can use to critically evaluate how technologies are being used. This style of vertical team building is important step for success. There are activities which may appear cutting edge, which, when evaluated correctly, are old things in new ways. Teachers who create projects which are new things in new ways, the ultimate goal, might not be noticed because what they are presenting does not have something eye-catching, like a Vimeo link. This criteria guide would help administrators and Heads of Department see past surface appearances to recognize what is being accomplished and then evaluate on merits. It would also give feedback to teachers in order to better help them to see when their projects or activities are making the most of the resources available

Technology in the classroom should be like windows: we see past the media to the information and gain better understanding of the concepts. Just as children ask for books but what they want is a story. Lessons in class can be optimized by merging the right technologies and activities.

Garry Leroy Baker

2 thoughts on “It Takes a Village: Full Tech Integration Plan

  1. Pingback: Technology integration and me | Chie Mizukoshi

  2. Love your final paragraph:

    Technology in the classroom should be like windows: we see past the media to the information and gain better understanding of the concepts. Just as children ask for books but what they want is a story. Lessons in class can be optimized by merging the right technologies and activities.

    This is a point I often try to make with teachers that struggle with the concept. Story is what we’re aiming for, it doesn’t always matter how we get there, and we should be willing to re-evaluate that process to better meet the needs of our students. Well said!

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