Integrating Technology Effectively

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I have a confession to make: I am a perfectionist. No matter what I do, I strive to make sure that every minute detail has been addressed. For example, a few weeks ago I was hanging  pictures on a wall and in true perfectionist form, I sketched out how I wanted my pictures to be arranged, practiced hanging them on the wall, and ultimately used a wall leveler to make sure that each picture was aligned with the others. My tedious work was proving successful until I was ready to hang the last picture. No matter how my sketched look, or how many times I used the leveler to check my alignment, one picture did not blend in with the rest and it stood out among the others: my wall was lacking balance.

The analogy of a misaligned picture is an excellent example of why effective technology integration in classrooms is critical for creating an environment where technology aids student-centered learning. Technology usage should be interwoven into the culture of the classroom to the point where its use is second nature, or as an Edutopia article examining what successful integration looks like, states that technology integration is most effective when students and teachers are using technology without thinking about it; its usage is seamless. In a class that meets for one semester, 90 minutes a day, five times a week, time is precious.  Teachers do not have time to sacrifice to using technology in a way that will take away from coverage of content knowledge or time that students could spend investigating how the content plays out in the real-world.

So what does effective technology integration look like in the classroom? Once again, Edutopia provides us with a look in the video below:

Effective technology integration in todays classroom uses technology as means of accessing content knowledge and as mentioned in the video, students using technology to create and take ownership of learning. Tools such as podcasts and video-editing tools are being used to create and share with real-world audiences. These tools are allowing students to share what they know in ways that are relevant to them using formats that mirror the actual ways we share information outside of the school context. Additionally, as we talk about differentiated learning and authentic contexts in the classroom for our students and how to address these concepts in instruction, effective technology integration (such as in the classroom used in the video) shows us that in the effectively integrated classroom rich with various tools, these questions almost answer themselves (in addition to teacher support and students own exploration of tech-tools).

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Of the two models discussed in class this week, I prefer the TPACK model. In many classrooms, teachers are well-intentioned in their desire to use technology in the classroom, they want to engage their students and allow them to be creative in completing assignments but all too often, content knowledge is sacrificed in the name of bringing technology into the classroom. I like the TPACK model because it examines the intersection of content knowledge, general teaching knowledge, and technology skills that will be needed to be productive learners in the 21st century. Bob Wise in his post for a U.S. News blog provides three tips for technology integration that align with the ideals of TPACK: plan ahead, be adventurous, and start thinking about creating tools versus being consumers of tools. Finally, Dave Guymon provides five steps for teachers to follow regarding integration of technology tools (these also serve as excellent questions for personal reflection).

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In my own educational experiences, I have not had a teacher that truly integrated technology effectively in the classroom environment. Most of my K-12 educational experiences used technology to replace the role played by other tools, such as overhead projectors replacing chalk/dry erase boards, LCD screens replacing overhead projectors, and word-processing/presentation software replacing hand-written assignments and poster projects. Most of my experiences reflected the Substitution component of the SAMR model. This, along with losing time on task, and de-emphasizing course content occur when technology integration is not effective. Technology must be the means to the product demonstrating student learning, not the product itself.

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