During a recent meeting discussing the disruption of new laptop carts in my high school I made a statement that warranted a reaction that totally surprised me. I simply stated that technology integration should not be forced and technology should not be used for technology sake. The teachers around the meeting table talked about their relief in hearing me say this and talked about their perceptions of an expectation of being forced to integrate.

This conversation reminded me of a quote from an influential principal that supports educational reform through the integration of technology. Chris Lehmann states,

Technology must be like oxygen: ubiquitous, necessary, and invisible”.

Providing more access to computers is a great start. It prepares us for the fact that our students are bringing their devices to school (now taking advantage of the school’s wifi) and for the potential of being a 1-to-1 school.

It is not about the tool, but what pedagogy that is behind it. Great instruction can only become better with the proper integration of technology. When thinking of where technology fits into your instruction consider this;

What lessons/Units can benefit being enhanced?

Can you help your students understand how to improve their writing by providing comments on a collaborative document shared in Google Drive? This online tool gives the students access to your comments on one live document. Google Drive allows for an easy way for peer review and collaboration.

What lessons/Units can be extended out of the classroom?

Can you use a Discussion Board in Schoology to continue the classroom conversation from home? Online discussions give the teacher the ability to keep the dialogue going while measuring the understanding of their class and getting the chance to hear from everyone in the class including the reluctant learner or the learner that needs more time to formulate their responses.

What lessons can allow for student’s to choose the way they are summatively assessed?

Can technology help provide authentic assessments by allowing students to use digital tools to express their understanding? Students can utilize many free online tools to demonstrate what they have learned without having to always take a multiple choice/essay test.

What lessons/units could lend themselves to be more creative if time allowed?

 Providing students with computer access to plan and get an early start on a project could help students use their in-class time more effectively. Also, allowing students to choose their digital tool will make the assignment more engaging and relevant.

What lessons encourage inquiry?

Can the nature of the inquiry reach out beyond the walls of the classroom with use of the Internet? Allowing students to think outside the box and seek out their own information to guide their learning.

Although much of what we do in our classrooms without technology is great, it may not be meeting the needs of our students. They live in a digital world with information at their finger tips, communication tools that allow them to converse with anyone, and free resources that they can use to creatively express themselves. If some of what we do in our class room is not infused  with technology, we run the risk of not being relevant.

I have focused on helping teachers integrate technology into their instruction for 15 years and I have failed and succeeded along the way. I feel I have failed when I am focused on the tool and not the instruction. Yes it is important to know how to use certain software and hardware. However this professional development must be focused on instructional benefits and gains. This is is when we will all find success.

A blogger and associate professor, Scott Mcleod recently wrote a blog post (What are educators’ professional obligations to learn from social media channels?) that hinted to the raised expectations of using/understanding technology in the classroom, and for social learning. It was a great post, but the best part was the reaction in the comments. Many educators felt attacked and defended the ‘analog teacher’ that does not use technology, yet is an effective teacher. I count myself extremely lucky to work in school district that makes instructional technology a priority and work with teachers that are open minded.

The conversation started on June 21st, but is still being shared on Twitter. Scott’s last tweet about this post in reaction to a tweet from @gillytoon

Scott McLeod shares the entire interaction on his latest blog post – The ups and downs of educational technology advocacy


Resources to extend learning:

7 Ways to Transform Your Classroom via Connected Principals by David Truss

More Mindset Than Skill Set via Connected Principals by George Couros

Three simple steps to technology integration by Richard Byrne