What is technology integration?
Technology integration is about weaving technology into your classroom practice in as sensible and seamless a way as possible to enhance core elements of learning like communication, collaboration and the construction of understanding. It is about using technology to help you meet your purpose in different activities and learning engagements.
It is Monday morning and Mrs Jones is about to begin a maths lesson on a new topic with her students. Mrs Jones always does a quick formative assessment quiz when she starts a new topic, or wants to check on her students' progress, using "hinge-point questions". Mrs Jones has spent considerable time coming up with this diagnostic question with four answers to a single question for this lesson - which answer the students choose tells her something important about their misconceptions, gaps and level of understanding. She shows the class the question and uses a tool called Plickers to very rapidly gather student responses A - D. In the past, she did this on paper but she found that gathering them in, checking them, and sorting them into groups meant that she wasn't able to use the results from the quiz until the next lesson. Finger voting also worked but didn't give her the exact data she wanted, only a general impression of the results. Now, she can immediately see what proportion of the students gave each answer, which gives her valuable information for grouping the students for this lesson and to inform her future planning in a much more immediate way. She can also spend the time that she would have spent going through slips of paper working on the next clever formative assessment question she will ask.
When teachers and leaders are asked to quantify what the aim of integrating technology into the classroom is, quite often the answer that is given is "it allows you to do something that you could not do in any other way". Sometimes that is true, but sometimes technology simply allows you to do something you do all the time more effectively, and that is also of great benefit to you and your students.
One model of technology teaching that many educators have heard of is the SAMR model. In SAMR substitution and augmentation are shown as being the lower-end of a continuum of technology integration and there is an implied judgement and argument that enhancement is less valuable than transformation. The more fundamentally the technology influences the task, the better. Certainly, sometimes technology integration will allow you to do previously unthinkable things, and when those opportunities come up it is truly exciting, but in the day-to-day of teaching, not everything technology will do can or should be transformative. If we value only those rare instances were technology is completely redefining classroom learning we are going to miss out on the vast majority of opportunities technology will give us to enhance what we are doing for the benefit of our students.
For me, the path to meaningful technology integration means asking yourself the question "How would I do this if all barriers were removed for me and my students - what would be the ideal?", and then seeing if technology can help you to get closer to that ideal.
Sometimes, what we really want is to be able to have one-to-one contact with every single student, perhaps by conferencing with them, or hearing them read. Using traditional classroom approaches that is very difficult to achieve in a way that means all the other students in the class are a) on task, b) adequately supported and c) not interrupting your 1-2-1 student time, but technology integration can get you much closer to that ideal scenario. By using tools like Seesaw to have students record themselves reading, do video reflections, respond to prompts or activities individually or communicate task instructions to small groups, you can enhance the communication in your classroom.
Padlet can let your novel study groups, maths groups or project groups record their ideas, collaborate from different locations and share what is happening with you in real time in a way that a paper notebook simply will not allow. Students with learning difficulties or language needs can engage with and participate in learning through translation tools and the ability to communicate their learning and understanding in different ways than would be possible through traditional oral presentations and written tasks, for example through animations, or multimedia presentations.
Technology integration doesn't have to be flashy, revolutionary or overly transformational every single day to be truly meaningful and effective. What is can do is remove barriers for students, and enhance practice for teachers when it is deliberately and purposefully planned for and implemented.