Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Technology Integration in Schools: The Good, The Bad, and The Boring

The scene: A classroom
The players: A teacher and technology
The question: Why (and how) should these two become acquainted with each other?
It's no question that in our age, technology has earned as vital a place in the classroom as reading comprehension or multiplication. The question on educators' minds now is what to do with it?


Integrating technology in the classroom is more than simply installing a shiny new piece of equipment or organizing lecture notes into a PowerPoint. I (unfortunately) have had teachers who thought the repository of technological teaching tools existed only to support their lectures, and I know that these methods do nothing but give students another thing to ignore before returning to their smartphones. My high school, like many others throughout the country, had fallen into a trap described by English department head and edtech integrator Ammar Elhassan ElMerhbi in his blog Edutechalogy; that is, it focused more on having the technology present than it did on requiring the teachers to use it in an effective way.

Part of the problem was that the teachers were digital immigrants (people who have had to adapt to technology) trying to instruct digital natives by using new technology to support antiquated methods.  While I don't agree with every aspect of Marc Prensky's "digital native" concept, I do agree with the idea that "today's students think and process information fundamentally differently from their predecessors" (Source). To integrate technology effectively, teachers must recognize their students' learning styles and adjust their approach accordingly. However, teachers must not commit any of the mistakes detailed in history teacher Shawn McCusker's blog, because while technology in schools can be helpful, it should not come before or overshadow content.

When done correctly, technology integration in the classroom can result in wikis like this one created by sophomore students at Beaver Country Day. After reading Harriet Jacobs’ “Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl”, English teacher Robin Neal and his students used Google docs and wikis to create a project that eventually included other classes both at the school and around the world. What I find personally impressive about the project was how neatly it fulfilled both the NETS-S and NETS-T standards while still engaging the students and creating a digital artifact that can be useful to others on the Internet. Speaking of engaging, check out this video showing the versatility of Google docs:

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