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As educators examine ways to successfully support all learners, we are reminded that technology can, and should, play a significant role within those landscapes in that it can provide tools that allow students to inquire deeply, access experts easily and collaborate authentically. According to Edutopia’s Intro to Technology Integration, technology can be the transforming factor. The short video defines technology integration as “using whatever resources you have to the best of your abilities,” which means that as educators, we must be cognizant of tools that we are selecting and importantly, we must be able to articulate how those specific tools will support student learning. According to the information presented in the video, there are powerful benefits to the appropriate integration of technology in the learning experience. One such benefit is that it supports mastery of content through the means of differentiation and personal inquiry. Further, with the teacher as facilitator, students become creators of their own content. This, of course, is empowering as students consider audience, purpose and personal responsibility to provide quality information.
As technology integration becomes more prevalent in our classrooms, we are reminded of the obligation to re-examine successful strategies, specifically those outlined by Robert J. Marzano and John Hattie, through the lens of technology. In other words, we must re-define what these strategies look like when technology is involved.
- Goals: The teacher must present a clear purpose for how why students will be using specific technology tools. With devices that have multiple capabilities, it can be very easy for students to become distracted; therefore, in the same way that the goal of a lesson is articulated, the use of the technology tools should be as well.
- Instruction: Since instruction is a key to learning, it is important to teach students how to select and use the appropriate tools to support their inquires. When I first began my exploration of selecting and integrating technology tools, my first lesson was that I needed to provide more instruction. For example, I realized that I expected students to know how to use the Internet to find credible information online without ever having taught them how to do so. It made me reexamine my plans and identify places where I needed to instruct through direct teaching and modeling.
- Engagement: Technology tools can be powerful methods of engagement, as well as distraction. As such, it is important to realize the difference between the two. When students are engaged in their learning, they become immersed, creative and self-directed. Within the context of using technology tools, it is important to be sure that the tool does not get in the way of positive engagement, but that it fully supports it.
- Feedback: Since authentic and timely feedback is crucial to the learning process, it is important that students receive feedback to incorporate into their learning process. This feedback can come in many forms, but tools like Google Classroom and commenting features are allowing for real time communication between peers, as well as teacher and students.
- Exposure: Since it is important that students have multiple opportunities to explore, practice and revisit what they learn, they may use technology to reach out to multiple sources through various and repeated means. Certainly, technology integration can support exposure, but it can also help deepen as it reinforces.
- Application: Learning is truly solidified when students are able to apply what they know or what they are able to do in a new context. Technology tools can certainly widen the possibilities–from supporting the creation of videos and audios to fusing images to create visual representations.
- Collaboration: Collaborative experiences can be powerful tools in supporting student learning; however, careful considerations need to be made when designing such experiences. The teacher should consider how groups will be created and how they will function. As technology is playing an increasingly large role in collaboration, it is important to teach students what it should look like in digital form. Some topics for discussion might include what rights they release when sharing their work and what they are maintaining, as well as the levels of privacy that come with each sharing.
- Self-Efficacy: It is clear that confidence in one’s ability to do something plays a large role in his or her success. Therefore, as educators, we must help our students see their use of technology as rich opportunities to extend their personal learning. Even when they are not in the classroom, each blog post or tweet they read, should contribute to this sense of themselves as learners.
As I continue to think about integrating technology into my designs, I consider my students’ needs, as well as our infrastructure and available tools. Those considerations allow me to design plans that either incorporate previously applied tools or include time to teach new ones. In one particular plan, Visual Imagery and Tone In Shakespeare’s ROMEO AND JULIET, I chose to use a familiar tool–a share Google Document–to support collaboration. Students also applied their knowledge of using digital images responsibly. I felt comfortable with their capacity to do this successfully because it is an established practice in our classroom. Finally, we utilized Google Classroom as a shared learning space where they can provide feedback and extend their own learning.
As is the nature of technology, old tools will fade away and new one will take their places. Therefore, it is always essential to focus more on desired outcomes in the learning process and less on the technology tool itself. In fact, I would say that we know that our selection of a technology tool is perfectly when we forget that we are using technology to learn.