As our COETAIL course continues and my awareness and technology skills set expands, I have begun to believe that I am actually integrating technology into the classroom more. That may very well be so, but after much that I have recently read on technology integration, what I am doing is only the tip of the iceberg. Technology integration is all the new buzz; but what is it and how does it best occur? The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) have not only developed technology standards for students, teachers and administrators in K-12 classrooms, but have also shared one definition of technology integration:
“Curriculum integration with the use of technology involves the infusion of technology as a tool to enhance the learning in a content area or multidisciplinary setting… Effective integration of technology is achieved when students are able to select technology tools to help them obtain information in a timely manner, analyze and synthesize the information, and present it professionally. The technology should become an integral part of how the classroom functions — as accessible as all other classroom tools. The focus in each lesson or unit is the curriculum outcome, not the technology.”
Well said. So where am I according to the well-respected ISTE guidelines on technology integration? Yes I am utilizing more technology into my classroom everyday, but is it “infused”, is it seamless? Of course not. Teaching at a one to one school already incorporates tech into the classroom. It would be simply absurd to continue teaching by way of white board lectures and problems out of the textbook. Instead of overhead transparencies, we all use documents such as Powerpoints, Prezi’s and Keynote presentations projected onto a screen. Further still, most teachers, myself included, have a website that students go to first thing on entering my class to see what is new to do. In class work in my English Skills class including journaling, vocabulary assignments, Daily Oral Language, and essay writing activities are all posted and/or embedded into my Google site from Google Documents. I am beginning to use a Mimio in my Math Skills class. But is this true technology integration, or am I simply doing an old activity in the same ole’ way with more advanced technology, only improving convenience?
According to the above quote from ISTE, students should have the opportunity to select from a variety of technology tools to gather information, understand the information, and then present it in a professional manner. Again, being in a one to one school, students are constantly using their laptops to find information on the web, then using tools on the web to better understand the information, and finally producing incredibly professional final products with programs on their laptops. They are able to do this easily and seamlessly, with the emphasis on the curriculum outcome and not the technology. If anything, it is much easier for our students who have always grown up as “digital natives” to learn new technology tools. They simply play with the tools until they get it, unlike myself. But tech tolerance is another topic altogether and I digress. Even with all of this external seamless tech integration, I think we are missing the point. I don’t believe what I am doing is enough, and this is why.
It is no longer enough to simply utilize new technology within the classroom to make our, and our students lives more convenient. Now that I am using Google documents with my students, I will never go back. My students can write and continuously edit their college essays for example and I can look at what they have done and when they have last made a correction at anytime. I am no longer bogged down my multiple e-mails in my inbox or receiving paper copies and killing trees. I am from Oregon after all and take that kind of thing seriously (the killing trees thing). What is enough then, and how to do we know when we get there? That is the real debate going around these days. I am sure that I do not know the answer and I am fairly confident that there really isn’t an ideal one yet. It is a burgeoning field right now and we are in the midst of it. One article that has really helped me assess my own level of tech integration in the classroom comes from Marc Prensky’s article Shaping Tech for the Classroom on Edutopia’s blog. He has taken a very complex idea and simplified it into four stages of attainment. These are:
- Dabbling with technology
- Doing old things in old ways
- Doing old things in new ways
- Doing new things in new ways
Dabbling with technology is self-explanatory, and my classroom has easily surpassed this stage. The difference between doing old things in old ways, and old things in new ways is where I am floundering. Even though my use of my Google sites and Google documents within the classroom is fully integrated, I am still just presenting information in the same old way, or storing information in the same old way. Sure it is easier to access and is quicker, but is it really new? Instead of handwriting a paper, students are putting it on their Google document. It saves time, but it isn’t truly a new way of doing things? The more I reflect on what it is to do old things in new ways, the more I realize that this isn’t necessarily happening in my classroom. It is more difficult to do than you may think. I believe that I am just now beginning to attempt to reach the stage of doing old things in new ways by asking my students to write blogs and engage in their personal learning networks. Projects have become more collaborative in nature with technology, though this could still be tettering on the “old way” side. If teachers like myself, who are consciously taking the time to commit to an ongoing course on educational technology are still struggling between stage 2 and 3, where are the majority of other teachers? How are we going to get the educators in our current educational system to do new things in new ways?
This will take a paradigm shift, and unfortunately, large institutions such as school systems are notorious for progressing slowly. I believe that we don’t have time to wait.