Thursday, November 17, 2011

Technology in the Classroom: Do you get the Picture?

Hello WSFCS.  My name is Marty Creech and I have been given the opportunity to guest blog on the InTouch blog.  Thanks to the WSFCS DIT for allowing me to share my perspective on what technology integration looks like in the classroom and in schools.  I currently teach 6th grade science and social studies.

(Photo by Intul using Wikimedia Commons License)
The old adage of a picture being worth a million words could never be truer in the case of technology integration in the classroom.  As you read through this entry notice the pictures of the technologies being used in schools around the world.  Each picture is very different as should be the case with technology integration.  

(photo by Carla of OPLC using Wikmedia Commons license)
In an attempt to promote technology integration, my school district installed a SmartBoard in every classroom.  Did it provide publicity and initiate the rhetoric of technology integration in our county? Yes.  Were teachers excited about this new technology? Yes.  Was this the best technology investment for each classroom? Maybe.  See, when we discuss what technology in the classroom looks like there is no one size fits all technologies out there.  The K-12 curriculum spans from learning the alphabet to advanced Calculus and so on.  The teacher in each of these classrooms would give you a completely different answer on technologies that were needed in their classrooms. The curriculum and student needs should drive what technologies are used in each classroom.

When I first set out on my journey of incorporating technology I wanted anything and everything.  My kids were exposed to podcasts, wikis, blogs, Skype, Quest Atlantis, webquests, and many interactive games.  My students were learning a lot of different technologies.  They were learning many different skills that will indeed help them in their future.  I was doing all these things with no regard to the curriculum I was hired to teach.  Technology guided my curriculum.  My practice was wrong.  I was wrong.  With this realization of my mistakes and their acceptance, I could now grow as a professional.    
(photo by Lft using Wikimedia Commons License)

So, if that isn’t what technology integration looks like in a 6th grade classroom then what does it look like.  First and foremost, my curriculum drives my instruction, my students drive my methods.  Technology enhances and supplements my instruction and helps me meet the diversity of student needs.  My students are all signed up on Edmodo the first week of school.  We use Edmodo as a collaboration tool.  When my students are researching they use it to share resources and ask questions.  This enables my students to learn on their own and learn from others.  It is a line of communication that we can have once our hour of class time is up.  We can continue our discussions and share our knowledge using Edmodo.  Students without internet access are paired up with a buddy they can call to post their questions or comments.  In a dream world I would love for each of my students to have an internet capable device.  With budgets and finances currently this is not possible.  I would love however to have an internet capable device at each of my lab tables.  This would enable students to blog with their groups daily, record in real time data that can be analyzed easily, create back channel discussions with other groups, and would allow us to have a deeper discussion when challenging questions arise and the internet is needed.  This is what some of technology integration would look like in my room.  A whole new picture of technology integration would be painted if you walked in to a math class or a music class.  What does technology integration look like in your classroom?  Is it identical, similar or completely different?
                                          (photo by: Terrance T.S. Tam through Creative Commons License)

I could continue to list off technology after technology but true technology integration is having teachers that are 1) knowledgeable about the technologies available and 2) have the confidence to give them a try.  If each teacher in a school possessed these two skills then technology would be integrated innately and with purpose.  These skills don’t come easy.  It should be a goal of administrators and central office staff to groom teachers to the possibilities of technology integration.

Then when asked to describe technology integration in a school of 30 classrooms it would take 30 million words.  Personally, I prefer the pictures.

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