Integrating Tech, How We Do It Right
Technology — it’s all around us. But what do we mean when we say we want to integrate technology into the classroom? Unfortunately, there is no straightforward answer to that question. But here we will discuss simple and transformative ways to start integrating tech into your classroom. The role of educational technology is to promote, assist, and support you as a teacher as well as engage your students. Keep these ideas in mind, and you can make technology work for you and your students.
Think beyond the computer.
Computers are great technology tools, but does every student have access to one? Most aren’t lucky enough to be in a school with a 1-to-1 program, so how do you ensure that all students benefit from the integration of tech? There are other options, many of which are economical to purchase or may already exist in your school, such as mobile devices, student-polling devices (clickers), digital/flip cameras, interactive whiteboards, projectors, document cameras, or televisions with DVD and/or video-streaming capabilities.
We’ve all been wowed by the latest tech toy displayed at last year’s conference. But what tech is right for you and your students? First, take a look at what you already have; are you using it to its full advantage? If you have a Learning Management System, capabilities such as journaling, blogging, or flipping the classroom may already be available to you. Do you have computers, interactive whiteboards, tablets, or video-conferencing equipment sitting around collecting dust? Start by integrating these tools into your teaching plans. Start small; even little changes can make a big difference.
Do your research.
Once you’ve taken stock, ask yourself if you’re comfortable using these tools. Will you need to help your students learn to use them? If you’re not comfortable using the technology, don’t use it in the classroom. A lack of confidence often means that the tech may be little more than a distraction. The reality in most schools is that you will have to train yourself to use the technology. But don’t be afraid to reach out to colleagues or search for support on the Internet. Many products have useful websites that can help.
Use technology to your advantage.
Collaborate with others using Google. Utilize websites, conferences, workshops, and your peers to exchange ideas and share stories about what has and has not worked. Resources include:
- Microsoft Educator Community — includes training, discounts, and real-world examples
- Google for Education — includes teacher training, classroom apps, and collaboration tools
- International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) — an organization with many resources for K-12 students and teachers
- Discovery Education — includes multimodal content, professional development, and collaboration opportunities
- Tech4Learning — includes interactive software and professional development opportunities
- TeacherTube — upload and share digital content; video library includes tips and best practices
Involve the students.
Don’t be afraid to involve your students. Have them research different technology-based projects or present a topic using tech tools such as SchoolTube, Prezi, or VoiceThread. You may be surprised at how creative your students are. Some may have less experience or less access to technology — be prepared to spend time with these students. You may be able to team them with students who are more tech savvy. However you support these students, it’s important that they do not become anxious about using technology.
Recognize when it’s not the best solution.
Say what? Isn’t this about how to integrate tech? Yes. But to have the greatest impact, tech should be used appropriately, not simply because it exists. Take into account the desired learning outcomes and recognize which technology will work best for each situation. Sometimes simpler is better. You are still the teacher. If using sticky notes for brainstorming is a better solution for your students than an online tool, then use sticky notes.
Do not stop teaching.
Technology does not make you irrelevant. Technology does not replace the teacher; it simply gives you more options (email, web conferencing, blogs, etc.) to facilitate the learning process. Be specific when you give tasks, and include detailed instructions and timelines.
So now what?
To effectively integrate tech in the classroom, you must be an active facilitator, be explicit with expectations, and foster interaction and communication. If technology is to have a positive impact on your students’ learning, it can’t be an afterthought — it must be integrated with the understanding that it’s a part of your teaching plan, not an add-on. Over the next few weeks, think of ways you can use technology in your classroom. Start with a single project. You may be surprised how easy it is once you’ve done a little planning.
Special thanks for contributions provided by Jo Kenney of A Pass Educational Group.