There is no question that “integrating technology into the curriculum is a priority in most schools today” (Starr, 2009). For many teachers the system itself is mandating change by making use of new software for electronic attendance and report cards. Although some teachers may be uncomfortable with technology, I strongly agree that “educators must rise to the challenge of closing the digital divide in education” by teaching students how to “manipulate various forms of new media with a high level of comfort and skill” (Mullen, 2008). This can be a huge challenge for some teachers who lack the experience or skills to use new technology themselves. In addition, many teachers can attest that they feel they are inundated with too many daily demands placed on them by their students, parents, administrators and departmental colleagues, as illustrated in the video below:
This humorous “rant” reminded me of and article titled "All Aboard!" which stated that implementing 21st century skills instruction will be successful "only when those skills are seen as relevant to the pressing agendas that coexist in schools" (Carpenter & Carpenter, 2009). For teachers who have been around for a long time, and seen many different agendas and trends in education come and go it's easy to understand their reluctance to embrace something new. So “how can [technology] be seen as part of the solution instead of another nagging problem?” (Carpenter & Carpenter, 2009). Quite simply, teachers need to see how technology and new tools can “help make teaching and learning more meaningful and fun” as well as more effective and easier, instead of being just "one more thing" that is expected of them from administration? (George Lucas, 2010).
“Most educational experts agree that technology should be integrated, not as a separate subject or as a once-in-a-while project, but as a tool to promote and extend student learning on a daily basis” (Starr, 2009). For effective technology integration to be achieved its use should support curricular goals as well as the four key components of learning: active engagement, participation in groups, frequent interaction and feedback, and connection to real-world experts (George Lucas, 2010). Teachers should also recognize that it is still crucial to focus on the curriculum and pedagogy, not the computer skill or technological tools being used (Norris, n.d.).
Teachers need to continue to focus on designing authentic learning tasks and guided inquiry projects that meet curricular goals, but also extend the learning outside the classroom with the use of new technology. Teachers should focus on creating assignments and projects that (Johnson, 2004):
-are relevant to the student's life
-answer real questions
-allow the learner to reflect, revisit, revise and improve
-are authentically assessed, and
-are shared with people who care and respond.
There are a multitude of new Web 2.0 tools that can help achieve these authentic learning experiences in all subjects and grade levels. They are relatively easy to learn and lots of fun to use! Some of my favourites that are now a part of my daily routine are:
1. Google Earth and Google Maps – As a science teacher, the applications to Google Earth, such as Google Earthquake which show real-time data is indispensable!
2. YouTube & School Tube – There are a multitude of video clips that can quickly and easily enhance ANY lesson.
3. Google Docs – Easily allow students to collaborate and share material as they are working on group projects.
4. Google Reader (RSS)- Helps students to not only create their own, specialized ‘virtual’ newspaper of sites and blogs that they like to read daily, but can also be used to search for information 24/7 and organize a multitude of information.
5. Del.icio.us & Diigo – Are excellent social bookmarking sites that can help both students and teachers find the information they are looking for, but also share pertinent sites quickly.
6. Wikispaces & Pbworks – Are wiki sites that are easy to set up and can be used for online collaboration projects with students.
7. Flickr – An amazing photo sharing site that makes it fun to take class photos of the activities we are working on. Many of the images that are available to students are a part of the Creative Commons and can also be used in student projects.
Teachers also need to take the pressure off themselves to be the ‘expert’ in the classroom and accept that it is ok, and even encouraged, that they “own their own learning first [and] that they see themselves as learners in the classroom alongside of their students”, particularly when it come to learning new technology and information literacy skills (Johnson, 2010). When students are in the computer lab, teachers should support them with content area and facilitate students working together in a collaborative fashion to help each other with the technology (Norris, n.d.). It will become obvious fairly quickly which students are experts and can assist their classmates (and teachers!) with the hardware and software they are learning (Norris, n.d.).
“Who dares to teach must never cease to learn”
- John Cotton Dana
Carpenter, David. Carpenter, Margaret. (Dec/Jan 2008-09). All Aboard! Learning & Leading with Technology. p. 18-21.
George Lucas Educational Foundation. (2010). Core Concepts: Technology Integration. Edutopia.org. Retrieved from: http://www.edutopia.org/tech-integration
Johnson, Doug. (March 30, 2010). Connected Teaching. Weblogg-ed. Retrieved from: http://weblogg-ed.com/
Johnson, Doug. (March 2004). Plagarism- Proofing Assignments. Doug Johnson. Retrieved from: http://www.doug-johnson.com/dougwri/plagarism-proofing-assignments.html
Mullen, Rebecca. (Nov/Dec 2008). Avoiding the Digital Abyss: Getting Started in the Classroom with YouTube, Digital Stories, and Blogs. The Clearing House (82) 2. p. 66-69.
Starr, Linda. (August 11, 2009). Technology Integration Made Easy. Education World. Retrieved from: http://www.educationworld.com/a_tech/tech/tech146.shtml