being a teacher, reflection, Student-centered, technology, Uncategorized

It Is Not About the Gadgets – Why Every Teacher Should Have to Integrate Tech Into Their Classroom

image from icanread

When I moved my blog from Blogger to WordPress last summer I mistakenly assumed that all posts would seamlessly transfer.  I have since found the error in my thinking and have decided to re-post some of my more discussed posts.  This post first appeared in February of 2012 but still rings true to me. 

I once sat on an interview committee in which the candidate proudly proclaimed that to integrate technology her students would use word processors and publish their work in a monthly book.  My toes instantly curled.  It wasn’t so much that she had used the words “word processor” but rather that she thought tech integration meant to have students type on a computer and then publish their work, that that would make them ready for this century of jobs.  So a couple of things come to mind whenever we discuss tech integration in schools.

Students have often more seamlessly integrated technology into their lives than their teachers and didn’t even need to take a class on it.  We chalk this up to them being digital natives or because they have an interest in it.  Yet not all children are digital natives and most of them have had role models that show how to use the technology.  They also know that tech is valuable and can add to their lives rather than detract from something else.  And then there is the fearlessness, many students are simply not afraid to mess around with tech, but many adults are.  It is time for us to be role models in our own fearlessness.

Some teachers assume that clicking on a SmartBoard or having students type their papers mean that they are “integrating” tech.  This is one very limited usage of tech, in fact, it doesn’t really count as integration.  Better integration is when a student decides to film a video to show off learning rather than create a poster.  True integration is when students have ideas and fearlessness to use technology to show their learning as a natural extension of the classroom.  Not to type a paper.

There seems to be no urgency when it comes to actual technology integration into the classroom, but more of an urgency on how to buy the flashiest gadgets and then offer limited training or support.  How often do we hear about a district that has spent too much money on 30 SmartBoards, 100 iPads and how they will be placed in the hands of the students to enhance their learning?  How often do we then hear about the support they will offer their teachers or how those products will actually be used to enhance learning?  There seems to be an assumption that if you give it to teachers  they will use it effectively, which we all know is not true.  Some teachers might, but most will use it superficially and after a while the product will languish, unused, outdated, and just another relic of someone’s hastily thought out idea.

Some teachers feel that integrating technology is optional.  Integrating technology is no more optional than teaching how to use a pencil.  And while many may find that extreme, we cannot equip our students with the skills they need to be successful learners and teachers without teaching them to use technology properly.  Many schools see typing as a necessity but then cannot bring that view into how to stay safe on the internet, how to search properly on a computer, and myriads of other things that technology can offer us.  How to use computers effectively is now a life-skill and as teachers it is our job to equip students with these.

Teachers who have been labeled “techie” teachers are sometimes viewed as a one-trick pony, that is all they are passionate about and therefore they cannot possibly have an effective classroom.  I certainly am one of the techie-teachers in my district but many are surprised at how little we use tech on a day to day basis.  That is not to say we don’t use it, because we do, but we also do many other things.  In fact, using a tech tool is just one option my students have to show their learning.  What I do practice is fearlessness in tech usage and that I pass on to my students.  Not that they always need to use some sort of tool, we use our pencils more than a computer, but that they can effectively use whatever whenever they need to.

Teachers think they have a choice in their classroom.  I am sorry but the choice should not be teachers’ anymore; every school should have an effective technology integration curriculum to offer students the skills they need.  We do not have a choice in teaching literacy or math and should not be given one when it comes to technology.  This is not about what WE want the kids to know but what the KIDS need to know.


And I am sure I could continue the list, however, these are my main concerns.  We cannot afford to not focus on proper technology integration in our schools.  It is not about the gadgets, it is not about the typing, it is how to use technology tools fearlessly, respectfully, and effectively.  All things every teachers should be teaching, no excuses.

23 thoughts on “It Is Not About the Gadgets – Why Every Teacher Should Have to Integrate Tech Into Their Classroom”

  1. I agree with everything you said. I agreed with all of this 10-15 years ago, when terms like edtech and technology integration were already part of the vernacular and ACOT research was already widely known. Computer technology has been widespread in schools for 30 years!
    It’s rather sad that we are still talking about this – and it’s painfully obvious that many school structures remain unchanged, serving as barriers for doing more interesting things in the classroom, and that effective school leadership – instructional leadership – is still lacking.

  2. You are spot on Pernille. Technology in the curriculum can no longer be an option. I know teachers who say they will not learn to use tech because they are retiring soon. I think that should be sooner rather than later, as their students are the ones who miss out. I look forward to the day when we no longer say things like “ed tech” and “tech integration”. It should just be a given when we talk teaching.

  3. Hi Pernille – A couple of thoughts. Teacher interns I’ve had from the local university in even the last few years tell me they are required to integrate technology in every lesson they do. Great right!? Except using a laser pointer counts – even if that’s the only tech they use. As does a filmstrip, any type music player, an overhead projector … you get the point. URG!

    On the other hand, I work with teachers now that are often running scared – very scared at times. They are blocked from using much technology, teachers that use drill and skills based software are praised, those that ask about doing anything online are scoffed at … they have to go out of their way and jump through 5 hoops all the time knowing that if things aren’t 100% smooth they will be questioned about safety, educational value, whether they have their students best interest and safety in mind and on and on. They are told (in error) that they will lose the district their e-Rate funding by having student work online or even have students working online … COPA laws will be broken, … in some schools and districts its not about making teachers integrate technology, its making administration, politicians and others see it as having value and creating an environment where it is at least OK and at best encouraged and supported. I never thought I would write such a comment, but believe me it is very ugly in places … I support 6 school districts, about 100,000 students and 8-10,000 teachers … some districts and some schools are very open and supportive of tech integration, others are extremely scared of all the things that they’ve heard of, more so than I would have thought. Good news is we are starting to make real progress … much too slowly, but progress.

    Yes, tech integration should not be an option, but there are still many places where it is not an option really. That’s the thinking we still need to overcome.

    1. This is so true. I work for a private, for-profit school that is so worried about being sued that they hardly let anything happen, especially not creating any type of online account. It is also a Montessori school and the teachers are very “set in their ways” and don’t see the necessity of adding it to their classroom, but it is just my job as the tech teacher to do it all. It is very frustrating indeed.

  4. You certainly make a very good point about just jumping on a tech bandwagon, using it superficially with students, and then jumping to the next fad tech when it arrives. Happens all too often. However, with teachers who DO integrate technology effectively, I hear, almost always, the comment that it is about BOTH the tech and the learning… each influences the other and they find it hard to separate them. The choice of technology will influence the kind and quality of learning expected to arise from the task… and the kind of learning involved in the task will affect the choice of technology to use. I see good technology integration happening when teachers see themselves as designers of learning tasks. Ideas like TPACK and SAMR make perfect sense to them. I guess one of the main issues is that technologies often change at a rate faster than the time it takes to progress along an average learning curve for many teachers… and perhaps one driver of that change is the school or board (in an effort to keep up-to-date) always ordering the next and newest educational technology. Thanks again for your post – great message!

  5. I agree with your blog post for the most part. But this post still failed to fill in the “why” in the question of “why is technology necessary”? It is vital for learning, but how can we further communicate that to non-believers?

    1. I think the why is either self-explanatory or too lengthy to put in here. Plus many people have written better about the “why” then I ever will. Yet to briefly answer your question, the why is because we (here in America) live in a world surrounded by technology. Even if children do not have access to it at home, they do in schools, work places etc. If we are not preparing them for a world that is technology driven then we are not doing our jobs. However, we have to do it right, thus the post on what not to do/what to do, rather than why to do it.

    1. Interesting that you found it to be a rant, rather than a discussion starter. Do we really need lengthy blog posts filled with explanations when we all already know the why? isn’t it more important to get to the point of saying that it is not optional anymore? Especially since if you poked around on my blog some more you would discover two things: 1. that I am a female teacher, and 2. many posts that explain the benefits of tech integration and how I do it in my 5th grade classroom.

  6. I agree with you but technology is only an option in classrooms because teachers are not given enough access to it. I’m teaching at a school that gives me access to an interactive board and a bank of 32 iPads for one hour a week. Being a ‘techie’ teacher I steal other peoples time because they can’t be bothered using them. I’ve argued that we need more access to technology but was told desktops and laptops are on the way out. Don’t get me wrong iPads are great but I could do so much with just three desktops in my room! I have to have access to technology to be able to integrate it into my teaching.

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