jill's room

...a place to explore the use of technology in education...

26 September 2005

Integrating Technology into the Classroom

There are many ways that technology can be integrated into meaningful learning experiences. Effective integration of technology into the classroom is best assessed by how it contributed to the learning environment. Did the technology get in the way of learning? Did the use of technology increase the success of the lesson? Did it make any difference? Would the students have learned just as much if a computer was not used? Asking such questions before implementation of technology can troubleshoot any concerns and help to inform the lesson or unit planning.
In order to integrate technology into a given lesson or unit, it is important that using the technology itself is not the only reason an activity is being conducted. Linking the means to the product and connecting the use of a computer to other elements of student learning will improve how effective an assignment will be. An example of such a situation could be to combine social studies, health and wellness and math into a research project for science on the use of pesticides. The project could be focused upon the use of a specific pesticide (eg.DDT) and the differences in usage across North and South America. Students could look into the effects of the pesticide on people and wildlife by doing Internet research as well as use mapping and graphing tools to show their results. Having an entire unit based on a research project could enable the successful integration of the Web, word processing, as well as different data analysis tools.
Integration could also occur on a smaller scale and involve only one or two forms of technology. For instance, a journal response to a novel being read could have to be typed and printed or emailed to a friend for comments. In this instance the integration is subtle and highlights the daily utility of technology in our lives. The research project, on the other hand, could be presented to the students as an alternative or complementary tool to traditional library research. If so, it could be beneficial to have students reflect upon the challenges and successes that they had in using the different forms of technology.
Less successful technology integration would be when the means detracts from the learning process. Using problematic software or not providing clear expectations can really inhibit the usefulness of technology. For example, giving the assignment to a social studies class to look up Sir Winston Churchill on the Internet would be enough to get the students on a computer, but not necessarily teach them anything. Quite possibly, unless the teacher is vigilant, three minutes later the students would be all over the Web and not necessarily on task. Plus, general unguided searching can be extremely time consuming and not result in anything useful.
Another poor way to integrate technology would be to ask the students to use a computer to do something that they can do just as easily on their own. Students can add 2+2 just as fast (if not faster) in their heads as they can type the numbers into a spreadsheet or calculator. Making work does not make learning. Instead, why not show the students how a computer can help you use that simple mathematical function and apply it to a large data set? Why not challenge the students to come up with a scenario themselves in which using a computer would be more effective and efficient than trying to do something without one?

Effective integration involves critical thinking and responsible use of the variety of technological tools available. Part of the traditional barrier to integration of technology has come from a short-sighted view of the applicability of technology. Add in administrative resistance, low budgets, and lack of teacher comfort with technology and it is easy to see how full integration in the classroom has been a long-term project for most schools. There has been a chronological shift, however, to introducing the importance of technology in teacher education programs and offering more professional development opportunities to practicing teachers. Combined, these factors have worked in conjunction with changes in the curriculum to establish the importance of technological integration.


At 26 September, 2005 17:16, Blogger PokerGirl said...

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