Thoughts on Tech Integration

I believe our focus should always be on what teachers are doing in the classroom.  That said, technology can be used to support effective teaching strategies.  However, these supports will not be made if technology is not easily accessible in the school.  Furthermore, if technology is not ubiquitous in the school, teachers will spend precious teaching time focused on helping students learn the technology rather than helping students learn and reflect deeply on content.  For this reason, putting high quality computing devices in the hands of each student is of value.  These devices might be ipod touches, iPads, or even laptop computers.

By providing students with computing devices, they will have access to resources beyond the classroom walls, they will be able to communicate with others outside traditional school walls and traditional school times.  While teachers provide important support for student learning, teachers need no longer serve as information distributors.  Instead, teachers can take their rightful place as experts in learning – providing students with strategies, direction, and scaffolding.

While computing devices do not on their own change teaching practices, the presence of these new devices makes more concrete the way in which our world has and continues to change.  Furthermore, these new devices may act as a catalyst for teacher improvement.  When teachers consider how they might make use of these new tools, they are in a place of cognitive dissonance, a necessary condition for learning.  During this cognitive dissonance, targeted professional development can help shift school culture from a place of compliance to deep learning and thinking.

While little research directly supports this vision, places like projectred.org are investing resources toward this end (however, i have some serious reservations about their work).  Larry Cuban has studied technology use in schools over the last 100 years and acknowledges that technology alone does little to change schools and that teachers make use of technology in ways predictable from their pre-technology teaching.  This highlights the need for prolonged and targeted professional development.  Importantly, this PD should not be simply directed on “how to use the tech”.  Instead, this PD is an opportunity to use the new technologies to re-evaluation our pedogogical assumptions.  Research makes clear that the teacher is the most important influence in a classroom.  New tools can help teachers reclaim that place as our implementation of these tools will be highly influential on student learning.

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9 Responses to Thoughts on Tech Integration

  1. Well said Jerrid. I share your views of tech integration, especially the need for ubiquitous skills to maximize the positive influence of tech on pedagogy. I’m trying to figure out how to get phd’s in the hands of our students… the more I involve my students with tech, the more they want to use it,and they are figuring it out real fast. Ironic to me that kids are seamlessly finding their own ways to make tech useful to their personal learning, and we’re still teaching pre-service teachers how to “teach” tech in ridiculous undergrad tech curriculum and instruction classes.
    Cheers,
    Sean

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    • jerridkruse says:

      Ha, I teach one of those classes. :) However, I don’t focus really at all on how to teach the tech to kids, but rather how we can have students using the tech to promote the goals we have for kids.

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  2. Pam Moran says:

    Jerrid, after years of “chicken before or after egg”conversations re: teachers using new technologies in powerful, learning-transformative ways, I am convinced that the process of learning to use technologies as learning tools depends mostly upon either shifting the teacher’s pedagogical and content orientation simultaneously with tech capacity-building or providing teacher already using the needed content-pedagogical orientation with coaching to learn how to use and integrate. Both demand a continuum of development options that are centered in job-embedded PD. From my observations, new tech access alone has little impact on needed pedagogical shifts. At the same time, I wonder if the shift from content-centered teaching to trans-disciplinary learning might not be the most challenging change of all. To use tech as a learning accelerator, not just a substitute for prior technologies, demands the deep change that Tyack and Cuban reference in Tinkering Towards Utopia. To date,deep change still feels far away from reality for most classrooms, despite pockets of excellence. I, for one, like the USDOE National Ed Tech Plan because it speaks to a full picture of the shifts needed in every aspect of our profession as well as structures, processes, and resources. It’s a blueprint that needs more support. I think the plan makes the point you do- tech access alone changes little – tech access +cogent curricula, meaningful assessment, and competent pedagogy changes the game for all learners.

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  3. Jared I see a bit of a contradiction in what you are saying. First you mention:

    “if technology is not ubiquitous in the school, teachers will spend precious teaching time focused on helping students learn the technology rather than helping students learn and reflect deeply on content.”

    Leading me to believe that you think teachers should not have to spend time learning how to use the tools, as it could take away time form their other goals and content, but then you said:

    “these new devices may act as a catalyst for teacher improvement. When teachers consider how they might make use of these new tools, they are in a place of cognitive dissonance, a necessary condition for learning. ”

    I think you are correct with your second assertion. My favorite part about using technology is realizing that there is no one way to do anything and that there is always a workaround or way to solve a problem.The trick for myself and what I try to teach kids is first think about what you want to do, what do you want to create, how to you want to connect. How will you shape the world, then find out how technology can help you do that.

    Technology will never be seamless and smooth, it is the obstacle and roadblocks that fine tune our critical thinking skills and force us to roll up our sleeves ad figure it out with our students. I love the idea as technology as catalyst for cognitive dissonance. Tech doesn’t always make our lives easier it can make life more complex, there in lies its power.

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  4. johntspencer says:

    I have similar thoughts on technology and professional development.

    In fact, my Capstone Project for my masters involved PD and tech-integration. Here were the things I found:

    1. Even among the most extreme anti-change teachers, the motivation to use technology was really high.
    2. The bigger issue was self-efficacy. One thing that helped was to enlist the service of each teacher in their strength (teaching strategies, assessment, etc.) so that the process was horizontal.
    3. By combining collaboration (a common unit, for example) with the PD, there was a sense of urgency and relevancy that allowed it to succeed. By structuring reflection in it, there was a sense of long-term sustainability.
    4. It worked well to vary the time and the grouping so that there were moments of one-on-one tutoring as well as whole-group instruction in the PD.
    5. It was hard to motivate teachers to analyze the connection between theory and practice in technology. They simply wanted to know the strategies and the technology. So, we really had to focus on keeping the “theory” discussions to a practical level.To me, this is where the big changes occurred.

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  5. Rachel says:

    Nicely put. I would like to see just what the professional development would look like. There is never enough money for schools and the PD should take place during the summer, so teachers can use the time to prepare for the coming school year; however, budgets are being slashed everywhere and so, once again, it will fall to teachers to figure things out on their own.

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  6. Dr. Sanford Aranoff says:

    What do teachers do in the classroom? Teachers must discuss the basic principles of the subject, logical consequences, and the various empirical verification. We must know how students think and build from there using these principles. We cannot start beyond what they know. We have to be rational. See “Teaching and Helping Students Think and Do Better”. Check it out on amazon. Another book is “Rational Thinking, Government Policies, Science, and Living.”

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  7. Pingback: Technology With a Purpose

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