Before I can even begin to discuss my personal thoughts and beliefs about tech integration, I must first define it. When researching and reading this week, this definition by Mary Beth Means in the article What Does “Technology Integration” Mean? really resonated with me.
“…the term means that technology is not taught as a separate class, but integrated into the classroom. It also means that students use technology to learn content and show their understanding of content, not just their expertise with a tool.”
In other words, tech integration is using technology to enhance learning in the classroom throughout all content areas.
The beginning of my teaching career started with absolutely no tech integration at all. This was the result of the times as well as my lack of knowledge in this area. It was the time of the computer lab where we had a once a week ‘technology special’ class. Other than that 40 minute time each week, there was really no tech available for me to use within the classroom.
As my time as a teacher and the technology available progressed, so did my integration. I’d like to name this period of time of my tech integration as the ‘Era of the SMART Board.’ During this time I would use my SMART Board mostly for myself to teach lessons, but with time I began to also use it for substitution of tasks for my students complete as well.
A little later the idea of tech integration began to gain in prevalence, but there was still a little disconnect from it being completely integrated in my classroom. I then was at a school that had 1:1 iPads in the classroom, while still having a technology special class once a week in a computer lab. At this time I really started using technology at the augmentation level of SAMR through the use of educational game apps or to slightly upgrade pencil and paper tasks by doing them on through Pages, Keynote, etc. on the iPad instead. I also began to flirt with deeper use of tech by having my students publish writing using Google Docs and do some editing and sharing with each other at the modification level as well.
Where I Am Now
This brings me to my current teaching experience. I can say that my school takes the integration of technology very seriously. As such they have a wide range of tech tools available to us at any time and they have created a school culture that encourages and supports all levels of technology use in the classroom. This can be a good thing and a challenge at the same time. A good thing because teachers have options for what to use in their rooms and basically any tool is available to be used at any time. A challenge because there is so much tech that it can be overwhelming at times to think about what we have and how it could be used it in the classroom. There is also the risk that all of the tech can sometimes lead to tech integration for tech’s sake, not because it would truly change the learning that takes place in the classroom.
I personally feel like being in this school environment of rich technology resources has really pushed and encouraged me to be a risk-taker and try to things in regards to using tech in my classroom. When I first started working here I was definitely just using tech because we had it available. But, now that I have more knowledge and understanding of what good integration looks like, I feel I have developed a very balanced perspective in regards to tech integration in my room. I am more intentional now to search for ways the technology will help me enhance the lesson to the redefinition of task level of the SAMR model. Instead of simply using tech to replace things we could do on paper and pencil, in my room I use it for my students to learn in ways they have never learned before; inquiring into their personal wonderings, sharing with others, and online collaboration within the classroom and globally as well.
That being said, tech integration for the sake of using tech was clearly not just a waste of my time. I had to start somewhere! My willingness just to try out using tech in my classroom may have started out to be just for tech’s sake, but because of that initial willingness to jump in head first, it has caused me to feel more comfortable with it and find better ways I can use it in my room to enhance learning organically. It has now lead to higher student engagement and enabled me to spark the curiosity and interests that lead to deeper student driven inquiries and understandings. So are substitution and augmentation bad to do? Not in my mind. But, the key is to be really intentional about constantly pushing yourself to go further.
The Best Approach
There really is no one size fits all to tech integration because of the variables at play; what tech is available to use, the willingness of the teacher to try new things, the support from the school, and the individual needs of each student in the classroom. In light of this, I feel the best approach is one in which the teacher is flexible and willing to use the resources and tools available to them to facilitate learning in the classroom. The key is to ensure that there is a balance of the time spent integrating technology across all levels of the SAMR model. As technology and education are always changing, we must never be stagnant and instead be willing to adapt and learn more to be better at teaching with it daily. Even if you have to fake it till you make it redefined like I did, by all means take the plunge and do it. You will surely be glad you did.