Recently I wrote a post in reaction to a conversation I had about technology integration. On my post I suggested that instruction should come first when integrating technology. I surmised that a teacher should look at their instruction and find ways to use technology to enhance and extend. When sharing my thoughts with several of my colleagues, I was reminded while this may be a great approach for the teacher that has a harder time with the merits of technology in the classroom, the majority of the teachers are READY for the tools. Tools that push them to extend and enhance what they already do in their classroom.
I am reminded of two events that have happened this year at my school that could support that technology comes first. We began the new school year with a new LMS (our third in the last four years). Although this new tool was easy to promote and exponentially better than our last system, teachers are now realizing the potentials of communication, collaboration and online blended learning. For many of my colleagues, the tool had to come first in order for them to be exposed to this awesome potential. With only TWO months into implementation, many teachers are surpassing the bare minimum requirements and using this tool in ways they could not have accomplished, so easily, in the past. Even now that we have access to an incredibly easy tool, I will still need to have a few “instruction first” conversations with teachers to help them find ways of integrating this technology into their instruction.
Another example of a tool first situation allowed me to have an incredible conversation about the need for an iPad. Our principal has offered an iPad to all the instructional leaders (department and curriculum leaders). One of the teachers turned down the device. Instead of accepting this and issuing it to someone else, I decided to find out why. The teacher welcomed the conversation and immediately asked me to explain to him why he would need one. Although I don’t recall the entire conversation, I do remember trying to help him realize the ipad’s potential to be a consumption device to help him organize all the news, blogs and academic information he reads in one place, via RSS. With the iPad he could then store and curate information to access later, via diigo bookmarking, instapaper, and evernote. I finally shared how I felt the iPad was an incredible tool to promote social learning. The teacher already had a page on facebook (for a select audience), but now could easily share to other social learning sites like Twitter. Sharing in this manner could help reach a larger audience. I went on to describe the difference of doing this on his desktop OR laptop. I also explained that the ipad allows you to change your learning posture to a more flexible, comfortable one. Many of us still only use a computer while sitting at a desk, even if we have a laptop. The ipad has allowed us to take our learning anywhere. Now we can easily browse, read, store and share information sitting comfortably on the couch or in locations without a desk. This conversation could not have happened if we didn’t have the opportunity to focus on the tool first.
So, what comes first, technology or instruction? The answer is simple, yes….
I feel that in order to really support successful technology integration in schools, you need to know the readiness of your colleagues and respect the fact that some need more time. It is also vital to recognize that some device or resource might be the transformational ticket our colleagues need to see the value of digital learning. Some teachers are ready for the tools first and others need the extra conversation on how it fits into their instruction. That is okay!