I am shocked to find that September is nearing its end. It appears that my internal clock decided to take a vacation while the controlled chaos of new students and trainings and coaching meetings washed me into and nearly out of the warm fall days of September. I'm positive that this is a common ailment in our field.
In the past month I have been fortunate enough to work with a wide range of teachers regarding technology integration. And while the beginning of the school year is usually a time of renewal and energy, for many teachers, incorporating technology is still easier said than done. It is often assumed that reluctance to integrate is linked directly to age or lack of experience. But that turns out not to be the case.
I have witnessed a younger teacher blanch at the idea of accepting papers digitally while an older teacher leapt headfirst into creating a paperless environment with a new LMS. I have seen a preservice teacher implode when asked to learn a new app while a veteran teacher changed gears mid-stream in class to try a creative app activity suggested by a student.
So it’s not about age or experience or background knowledge. It’s about vision.
Successful, satisfying technology integration has to be meaningful. It’s not enough to just plop a YouTube video into a lesson plan or ask students to fill out a worksheet in an app instead of on paper. Those might be places to start, but they will never be fully satisfying to either teacher or students.
Teachers who succeed at integrating technology understand that it is simply one tool of many in their kit. Including it has to be part of an overall pedagogical vision for creating a quality learning experience for students. So what does that look like?
--Chemistry students creating and sharing detailed video journals of their experiments, including hypothesis, process, data, results, and conclusions.
--English students practicing grammar through NoRedInk, an interactive online program designed to help each student learn at their own pace while also providing ongoing data to the teacher about progress.
--World language students practicing their conversation skills by talking with students from other countries through Voxer or Skype.
--High school biology students collaborating by Skype and email with kindergarten students from another school to jointly create a book about local animals.
--Social science students using social media tools to design and gather data on social experiments.
--Social justice students developing non-profit organizations with websites and social media accounts
Meaningful technology integration does not mean using technology for everything. It does mean using technology to:
Expand the boundaries of the classroom past the physical walls
Expose students to real-world learning experiences
Enhance equity by offering students more ways to learn and show what they know
Encourage students to dig deeper and think more critically about content
Streamline workflow and communication within a class
Connect students with each other and others outside their class
Engage students in learning to keep them coming back for more
And, most importantly, engaging the teacher as a learner too.
So, what is your vision? How will you make your technology use meaningful this year?