5 Questions to Ask Yourself When Integrating Technology
Post in News by Adam Herman on 27th August 2019
Integrating technology into your classroom can be a bit like walking a tightrope. Introducing too much new tech too fast can be overwhelming and frustrating for both teachers and students. On the other hand, without being challenged, students won’t be pushed to grow and expand their comfort zones. How do we find a good middle ground? Take a look at our five questions below to help scaffold the process.
1. What kind of strategies are most effective within your classroom?
The first thing to understand about introducing technology to the classroom is that it provides new means to an end — it is not an end unto itself. Every teacher has preferences in how they construct their pedagogy that make them most effective as an educator. Therefore when considering what technologies to incorporate, take stock in what these strategies are.
If you are a more lecture-oriented teacher who loves their presentations, consider programs like Pear Deck, the SMART Learning Suite, and the Q&A feature of Google Slides to generate more opportunities for student engagement in lessons. If you function more as a facilitator of student learning and prefer students to complete independent work, explore options like Padlet, Popplet, and Wakelet to help students better organize and collaborate. You know best what works for you, and the world of edtech is so large I can guarantee you there are resources that play to your strengths.
2. What student outcomes are you working towards?
A component of highly successful teaching is building your lessons and units around targeted student outcomes. These outcomes can be related to content knowledge as well as learning skills, such as document analysis. When considering if a technology can and should be integrated into lessons, ask yourself if the technology in question would help students achieve these goals.
For example, if as a staff you are working towards developing greater citation skills in students, incorporating the Explore Tool in Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides would be a great way to streamline that process. If you want students to have a good source of content knowledge to build on, encouraging them to create question sets in Quizlet would be beneficial. Technology should help students work towards outcomes. Technology used only as a tool for engaging student interest is a temporary benefit at best, and a distraction at worst.
3. How do you already use technology in the classroom?
There are parts of edtech that many teachers are not even aware that they are utilizing. Word processing programs like Microsoft Word and Google Docs are both edtech when used for educational purposes. Almost every teacher uses some kind of gradebook program to keep information organized and manage data. Many teachers also encourage their students to use search engines and databases to collect information for various projects. A teacher looking to expand their range of technology can use these base competencies as natural starting off points.
If you are a teacher that values the writing process and has students write several Google Docs, a great next step would be to have students share documents with one another for easy peer editing. Teachers that give websites as readings to students can use Chrome plug-ins like Just Read or the Reader View on Safari to streamline articles and remove unnecessary clutter. A teacher that has students complete independent research could invite the school media specialist to teach the students about digital literacy and citizenship to ensure better finished products. Integrating technology within already-existing routines, and leveraging general familiarity, are great ways to manage student behavior.
4. What resources do you have?
There are some incredible edtech resources out there, but many of them would be impractical if a school does not have 1:1 devices. For example, Google Classroom is an incredible tool for classroom organization and management, but could be difficult to fully implement if students do not have a way to frequently access and submit work through the platform. Do not be discouraged if you are in a school with a laptop cart or computer lab — there are still many tools and strategies that allow for the integration of technology. Many teachers use Class Dojo as a tool to manage classroom behaviors and contact with parents. When I was a teacher, I loved the tiered readings offered by Newsela, but could only rarely get access to laptops due to them being earmarked for the science teachers. To get around this, I printed out readings according to their reading groups and handed them out at the beginning of lessons.
Lack of access to 1:1 technology can be one concern, but what about the opposite: access to technology that you’re not even aware of? For example, many teachers have SMART Boards that they use daily as a projector, but do not fully utilize the interactive features of the board. If you are interested in learning more about tools on the SMART Board and SMART Notebook, I would recommend looking at the Teq blog for tips and tricks like the top seven tools, and more. Don’t worry, you don’t have to bring all of these strategies into class tomorrow, or even this year, but sometimes just being aware of these tools makes you more likely to use them.
5. What other competencies must my students have to use this technology?
Students need to have certain skills and competencies if they are going to benefit from a lesson. Even for something as meat and potatoes as a teacher-led discussion, a student without active listening skills is going to struggle to engage. The same is true for introducing new technology. While it is true that many of our students are more comfortable with these technologies than their teachers, this doesn’t necessarily mean that they know how to use these tools for a learning outcome. For example, a teacher looking to use the G Suite for Education or the Learning Suite by Microsoft should teach students how to properly name and organize documents so that they are easily locatable.
Thankfully, many of these essential competencies and systems were strategies teachers used long before technology was introduced to the classroom. As a high school teacher, I always felt a little goofy making my students have assigned tasks during group work for the first few months of the year. I felt they were a little too old to need that level of scaffolding. However, this simple strategy saved an immense amount of time and stress as it allowed students to transition immediately into a collaborative workflow without having to define their own roles and responsibilities.
I hope these five questions gave you some helpful ways to approach technology integration in your classroom this year. If you would like further information on successful integration and implementation of technology, I would highly recommend researching the SAMR Model and TPACK. Both are useful frameworks for thinking about how technology fits in the context of learning, and are a great place to start.