I am currently reading ‘Never Send a Human to Do a Machine’s Job‘ by Yong Zhao. The book discusses the difficulties associated with technology integration and examines what we should be trying to achieve in education. It asks the compelling question:
“How can teachers and technology work together to create a sustainable learning environment?”
The book explains how schools and teachers should allow technology to do what it is effective at doing (Zhao states these niches as ‘Mechanical repetitive tasks, creative ways of presentation and interaction, and opportunities to promote learning’). This can then free up the human teacher to focus on what they are most effective at (Zhao highlights ‘critical thinking, social and emotional interaction’). The central strand running through the text is described below:
“The ultimate goal is to tap the advantage of both human beings and technology and therefore provide an optimal learning environment for learners.”
This book has helped me to broaden my view as an educator and to consider how I can be more effective in the classroom, whilst utilizing technology to its full effect. This, to me, should be the aim for all educators.
My Definition of Technology Integration
Technology integration is interpreted in many different ways. The word integration implies that technology is combined or melded onto education. However, I feel that technology is intrinsically a part of everything I do. Even if I am not using technology in a particular lesson, I have planned and researched the lesson online, and probably tweeted or blogged about it. Technology doesn’t feel like something that is ‘combined’ with our learning- it is intrinsically a part of our learning environment. It is ubiquitous and we are immersed in it.
Technology in my Classroom
After viewing the TPACK model I tried to relate this to my classroom. The authors of the TPACK model, Punya Mishra and Matthew Koehler, explain why this may not be easy:
We understand that, in some ways, the separation of teaching into content, pedagogy, and technology is not necessarily straightforward, or even something that good teachers do consciously.
Watching this Common Sense Media video helped to clarify my thoughts.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TjQNUhTJsTw (video no longer available)
There are wonderful moments when I feel that I am in the magical spot of TPACK, but this is certainly not always the case, and isn’t always the aim. My technological, pedagogical and content knowledge are always improving, and always should be. In a Grade 5 PYP classroom independent inquiry is actively encouraged. Students are always excited to point out new technological features to me and each other, and we may be finding out new content knowledge together.
Today’s Lessons Plotted on the TPACK Model
I have attempted to plot my teaching day on the TPACK model to give a snapshot analysis of technology use in my classroom. Today I taught four one hour lessons so have placed a star on the TPACK model to indicate where I think each lesson could be positioned.
On reflection I think this is a fairly typical day. However it doesn’t really demonstrate how much I feel that I am not doing. Just because I am using technology, does not mean that there is a not room for improvement.
I am fortunate to work in a forward thinking PYP school, where all primary students have their own iPad. This has enabled me to experiment with technology and use it when it is relevant. Students are also now increasingly selecting a range of technology tools for their needs when it is required. Mary Beth Hertz identifies this level of integration as ‘seamless’.
Seamless: Students employ technology daily in the classroom using a variety of tools to complete assignments and create projects that show a deep understanding of content.
Mary Beth Hertz, ‘What Does “Technology Integration” Mean?‘, Edutopia
At school we have a whole school technology integrator to coach and advise teachers, and a primary technology integrator to co-teach and support teachers. This model, along with small class sizes and a good internet connection, means that we are in a strong position to use technology in a beneficial way.
I am pleased with the progress of technology immersion in my classroom but there are still many new initiatives I wish to pursue in my teaching. I am also actively creating my own content now as an educator, this includes shared content on YouTube and Flickr. I am also increasingly a teacher that enjoys discussing technology with colleagues. After reading Kim Cofino’s blog on ‘Creating a Culture of Collaboration Through Technology Integration‘ I now recognize the informal mentor role that can exist within the working environment.
This is an exciting time to be in education. Technology is enabling us to extend the possibilities in our classrooms and help our students to create and collaborate like never before. As educators if we share, collaborate, learn, initiate and create, together we can continue to utilize technology for the optimal learning environment that Yong Zhao suggests. We need to remember that to be truly effective, technology and pedagogical practices need to be intertwined and the focus should be on the learning first, rather than the technology.