Technology integration not as difficult as you may think. I think technology integration seems difficult because we don’t get enough information, support, or time to try it.
Integrating technology into your classroom and curriculum can be simple and seamless. That’s probably not the impression you get when they are sitting in a professional development meeting, and someone is spewing out information about the newest and greatest technology advancement ever.
Of course, when is this meeting? Probably in the few days before school starts when you would much rather be in your classroom preparing for the 25 little people showing up in your room on Monday! So, you’re not listening because you are focusing on other more immediate things, you leave and the time just spent on technology has been wiped completely from your mind.
During the school year, you try to integrate more technology. Polls show more than half of educators use technology in their classrooms, but only as replacements for the tools they already use in their curriculum. We are using the digital versions of the typical pencil-paper tasks we’ve been doing for 100 years.
Here to Stay
Computers and tablets are becoming much more common in classrooms across the country and even around the world. These devices are only one part of the 21st century educational puzzle. (For more information about 21st-century skills, read How to Create a 21st-century Classroom) Unfortunately, you probably don’t have much influence over when your school is ready to implement. When you get the tech and the network is up and running, you probably wonder, “What now?” You remember a few bits and pieces from the in-service day at the beginning of the year, but not enough to help now.
When you first begin to create lessons with technology integration, it can seem overwhelming. And sometimes, that feeling chips away at the technology until it is just a small part of your everyday teaching. It’s just easier to eliminate it. You tell yourself there’s just not enough time in a day for it. Many of us tend to bristle when someone informs us we have something new to cram into an overly stuffed school day. Our inner-self yells, “I have too much to do already.” A lot of the time it’s the technology that gets put off.
That’s why I’m here. My goals are to give you ready made, easily implemented technology integration ideas that fit seamlessly into your curriculum and standards.
Where are you now?
Where are you in your adoption of technology integration in your classroom? If you are near the left side of this continuum, you should challenge yourself to try more technology and increase your comfort level. If you are all the way on the right, can you direct me to your blog? Then we can learn from you! LOL!
I imagine most teachers fall near the middle of this chart. Hopefully the simple tips we will share with each other will help us all grow in our understanding of and attitude toward the classroom technology that is here to stay.
I have five core beliefs to help you set a good foundation for using these ideas in your real classroom with your very real students.
1. Use to learn, not learn to use
Of course, there will need to be a time when your students are just getting to know their new device. If they used it in the grade level before yours, you probably have a good head start. If not, you will need to schedule time (preferably not as part of an official assignment) to teach them how to use and take care of the device.
Get your students familiar with the device they will be using, and then it’s time to switch the majority of instructional time to learning using the technology. My suggestion is to let the kids watch while you demonstrate on the interactive whiteboard. Then give the kids a how-to sheet explaining how to complete the task on the device and let them go to town.
I used to waste a lot of time waiting for all of the kids to get to the same place before I moved on to the next step of the instructions. If one child was stuck, it caused behavior problems with the other students while they sat and waited with nothing to do.
Remember, this is simple and seamless. I have student-friendly how-to sheets for many apps, websites, and programs. Oh, I have some for you too! These how-to sheets will free up more of your time to work directly with the kids on the content or task. Especially if you are using a new app for you, it will cut the prep time down because the how-to sheet can help you get through and avoid any mistakes I made with it.
Once the kids have the basics, they can usually handle the programs pretty well on their own. For good or bad, the kids are just as proficient with the technology as you are. If not better! They feel good about themselves when they can solve a problem a classmate is having. I always enjoyed watching a student jump up when they discovered someone was stuck and they knew how to fix it.
2. Spend Time Perfecting Routines
To make technology integration seamless, the kids need regular routines in place and clear expectations given. My kids’ routine had them getting their Chromebooks as soon as they walked in the room in the morning. We did grammar and spelling first, so the kids checked the “Morning Must Do” on the SmartBoard and immediately begin working on it.
Another routine I had was using a paper traffic light on my board. It signaled how the Chromebooks were supposed to look like at that time. If the red light was showing, the kids had the computer closed. A yellow light meant they could close their machines to a 45-degree angle. This way they don’t need to sign in again, but they were not able to do anything. When I changed it to green, they were allowed to have it all the way up and working. Of course, you will want to develop routines that work for you and your students. Whatever they are, you need to get them in place early.
If you want to use technological bell-ringer as one of your routines, I have some simple and short activities your students can complete quickly and then have the tech out and ready to go when you begin your lesson.
If you want more ideas for routines, check out this post from Angela Watson. She always has amazing, common sense ideas.
3. Don’t just replace it, improve it with technology
A higher percentage of teachers are using technology in their classrooms than ever before. Unfortunately, they are using it in rather simple ways, just replacing the things they’ve always done with a technological version of the same thing.
Think about some of the things you assign to your class. The students need to be creating projects, collaborating with peers or the teacher, and thinking critically. If not, you and your students are missing out. SAMR is a way to consciously assure that you are not under-utilizing your classroom technology. For more information about SAMR, click here.
Improving our lessons to utilize the full potential of the technology is where it gets tough. Devising quality lessons that incorporate technology requires time. A common theme from teachers is insufficient time to work on this integration.
I want to protect your precious time! I develop lessons that have the technology and competencies already woven in and make these available to you. They require small amounts of prep time on your part, making them ready to implement right away. It’s important to think critically about your lessons, then incorporate technology and integrate the 21st-century skills.
4. Make technology integration planned and purposeful
If you want to make technology integration simple and seamless, make it planned and purposeful. You shouldn’t add the tech as an afterthought for the sole purpose of just saying it’s there. You also don’t want to look at a particular tool you’ve heard about and design a lesson around it. Focus on your curriculum.
First, you need to determine your objective for the lesson. What do you want to teach? As teachers, we do this naturally. Take notice how I didn’t suggest choosing a technology first? The most important thing is the content of the lesson. What do you want to accomplish with your learners?
Next, you want to look at some 21st-century skills and higher level thinking skills. What does this lesson easily lend itself to? Collaboration? Communication? Creativity?
Finally, look at the available programs, websites, or other forms of technology integration. Which ones will help you achieve your goals for your students? Don’t forget about the assessment piece. You should assess the objectives, not the tech. It’s about the learning and not the tool.
I designed this planner to help teachers consciously integrate technology into their lessons.
5. Engage with content for better understanding
While technology gives us another way to deliver content to an entire class, it’s also easier for kids to interact with the content independently. As you choose technology for your classroom, remember the difference between active and passive technology. Passive technology has no expectation of engagement with the information. When kids watch a video, they are just watching and (hopefully) absorbing the information. Active technology requires them to interact in some way with the content.
One of my favorite tools is EdPuzzle. Since I did differentiated grammar lessons with my class, I used this often to teach a concept to different kids. With EdPuzzle, they watch the video and stop to answer questions along the way. They have to interact with the video to complete the assignment. We all know active learning is much more effective than passive.
How can teachers blend active learning strategies with using devices in the classroom? We will list different ways to take current active learning strategies and do similar things using the technology.
Where are you on the technology integration continuum we looked at earlier? I hope the information and activities on this website will help you move a little further up the continuum. Just take baby steps. You will begin to see both your comfort level with technology and your lessons using it improving.
If you want to keep up on the activities, then sign up for my email newsletter list. As a special bonus, I’ll even throw in a template for lessons that help you plan for activities to simply and seamlessly integrate technology just for signing up.