I have a feeling the words “Technology Integration” are a lot like the word “God”.
Into the hearts of some, hearing these words strike fear; Others joy and elation; And for some its a mix of both while others experience ambivalence. But like “God”, I’m sure it means different things to different people. And some believe there is only one right way and others believe there are many paths. But since the fate of our souls is not dependent on the solution to this argument, as a technology coordinator trying to spread the “word”, I say, I’ll take what I can get. Don’t be misled, I do have a Nirvana of tech integration clearly defined in my head (definition to come) but if a teacher is using technology to enhancs the lives of his/her students on ANY level in ANY way, I say applaud their efforts loudly and quietly nudge them further down the path. So I have found there to be 3 basic milestones in the road to Technology Integration Nirvana, not that everyone stops at each one or arrives in the same order, but teachers are currently using technologies to replace the pencil, communicate, collaborate and those that don’t stop there are using technology to have students communicate, collaborate and think with real world purpose.
Replacing the pencil, using a computer to do something that could be done just as well with traditional paper pencil method, should not be looked at, necessarily, as a bad thing. It’s not a total waste of time. Teachers and students who are in an uncomfortably new environment (ie. The computer lab) sometimes need to do what is familiar first before they try any fancy new tricks. This might look like the following:
using the internet to download worksheets, printing out their emails, having students simply type out stories to print them out, letting the kids play any game in the computer lab so you can grade papers, having kids practice using tools in a drawing program by making shapes.
Now I hear some people saying, “well I do that, there’s nothing wrong with that.” And you’re right, there is nothing inherently wrong with this, but it’s like using your legs for walking ALONE. There is a whole world of running, jumping and skipping out there. It’s good to walk too, but not all the time. So beware, for some stay far too long in this stage.
How to move beyond this stage might be easier than you think. Ask yourself, is doing X with a computer any better than doing it the traditional paper/pencil way. The answer might be yes or no.
If you are using the internet to download worksheets, I might say no: it might be cheaper than purchasing a workbook, but not better because its still random drill and kill. If you are using the internet to download worksheets that another teacher created specifically to enhance your program and that are not available elsewhere, I might say yes this is better than paper and pencil. I would definitely say yes, if this resulted in a dialogue between two collegues, esp. if it resulted in both teachers sharing and posting their work.
If you are printing out your email, I might say no. Actually I can’t think of why I would ever say yes!:)
If you are having students just type out their stories, I might say no. If students type their stories in word processing to help them edit (those red and green lines are great!), I might say yes, this is utilizing an advantage not available with traditional paper/pencil method. If you are having students type their story and then email it to a peer or older buddy who highlights areas to be changed or makes notes on the side (in Word try Insert-Comment), I would definitely say yes.
If you are having students play random internet games in the lab, I would definitely say no. This might be more dangerous than a paper/pencil method. If students are playing carefully selected standard appropriate games, I might say yes. If the games are differentiated for the students (based on content or skill level), I would definitely say yes.
If the teacher monitors their progress by wandering around the room and asking students to identify and communicate what they are doing and learning, I would say Hallelujah! If students are involved in the process of choosing the games or even creating games themselves to share with other students, I believe the heavens would part to shine a ray of sunlight while angels sing in chorus.
The point is that using technology to its fullest potential doesn’t mean doing crazy fancy stuff. It’s a matter of taking your lesson just a baby step farther. Taking a walk and lifting the knees higher until you find yourself skipping. By focusing on using technology to give the teachers and students opportunities that don’t exist with paper and pencil alone, by taking advantage of the communicative and collaborative properties of many technologies, you move yourself farther down the path.
Can I get an AMEN!