The opposite of integration? Segregation. Thinking about what technology in the class SHOULDN’T be (namely, separate from everything else) really helped solidify what my idea of a truly integrated classroom is… one in which technology is seamlessly woven in as an essential tool, a classroom where students understand the power that technology holds and how to harness that power for their own learning.
My first year of teaching, there was segregation. The students went to computer class once every six days. Our use of technology in the classroom was limited to our SMARTboard (which I primarily used as a projector that first year), and using laptops to publish final drafts of writing, along with limited research. When I look back to that time, four years ago, it’s pretty clear that I’ve made some progress!
My second and third years I will call the implementation years. We had a lot more access to the laptop carts and computer lab. I began teaching web research evaluative skills, started using laptops during the entire writing process (and loving Google Docs for peer revision) and developed a few projects centered in technology. One example, in which I asked my students to research one of the thirteen original colonies and create a simple webpage for it, can be found here. (I’m not very proud of it now, and I obviously didn’t stress proofreading enough, but it was a stretch for me at the time!) Of course, my third year is also the year I began the CoETaIL program and my eyes really began to open to the incredible richness and essential skills the use of technology can provide for my learners! I spent the last couple months of the year, my mind filled with neat tools and fantastic ideas, dreaming about the coming school year, when all of my students would have laptops.
Whether we call it integration, embedding, grafting, or something entirely different (I appreciated this post… thanks, Jeff!), effective use of technology in the classroom absolutely depends on a willingness of the teacher to learn to teach differently and appropriate support for them as they do so. (See Laura Arleth’s great post for more on this). I find that my fifth graders readily view their laptops as just another tool they use to learn, but that some teachers still see them either as a novelty (which they aren’t, especially for the children we teach) or as intimidating. We need to think more like our students, who have never known a world where immediate access to information wasn’t at their fingertips.
Now, in my fourth year of teaching, I use the laptops most days. In the beginnings of the integration stage, I’m beginning to really discern between doing old things in new ways and doing new things in new ways. My students are developing a healthy relationship with the technology at their disposal. We use Google Docs and individual blogs to share writing, read and comment on one another’s work, and reflect. Research involves a balance of book sources and online resources. Several more technology-based authentic projects are in the works, but, more than that, the computers have become part of the everyday environment in my classroom. Slowly but surely, my curriculum is growing and changing around the technology we’re using.