For several years now, teachers have been told to integrate technology into their classroom. They’ve been told it enhances student achievement. They’ve been told it encourages more student engagement. They’ve been told technology is a miracle worker that will make all their students meet the standards. But it’s not true! So, stop integrating technology in your classroom!
Well…. at least stop doing it the way you’re doing it now. They told you to integrate technology, but chances are that no one ever taught you how to integrate technology in a way that does everything they said it would do.
How Do Teachers Currently Integrate Technology?
Peter McDurmott and Kathleen A. Gormley published a case study in which they observed the way teachers integrate technology. Their study involved students in K through 6th grade and lasted for a year. They observed teachers who were known to integrate technology the most and the best. They found that there was 5 different ways that these teachers integrated technology.
- Display Content: Teachers used technology, such as SmartBoards to display necessary content like vocabulary words or important phrases. Occasionally this might include video or sound.
- Physical Movement: This was used much more in the lower grades than the upper grades. Some teachers used a technology device like a SmartBoard to allow students to come move graphics around to answer questions.
- Navigation: While students were working, some teachers used a technology display to show instructions of what students should be working on or where certain groups of students should be in the classroom.
- Shared Reading: The display devices, such as SmartBoards, served as a way to display one text so that the entire class could see and read chorally.
- Individual Use of Desktop Computers and Laptops: A few teachers used laptops in small reading groups to display PowerPoint style presentations of content; however, these were mostly used by individual students in centers to complete comprehension question style activities.
What’s Wrong With The Way Teachers Are Currently Integrating Technology?
1. Teachers are still doing the exact same things they’ve been doing for years.
All of the methods that were used in the study were the exact same things teachers have always done. Instead of using a chart tablet to write vocabulary words, they now display them on the SmartBoard. Instead of using index cards in a pocket chart, students can now move graphics in the Smart Notebook software. Instead of printing student instructions on a chart tablet, they are now displayed on the SmartBoard. Instead of everyone looking at their own text for choral reading, everyone can see the same text on the projector. Instead of doing worksheets o
f comprehension questions, students click the correct answer on desktop and laptop computers. For the most part, even teachers who do try to integrate technology have not changed the way they are teaching. As a matter of fact, when you think about it like this, it seems pointless to spend the huge amounts of money that are being spent on technology devices, just to have electronic worksheets and chart tablets.
2. The current methods of technology integration do not encourage higher-level thinking skills.
A teacher at Sewickley Academy Private School created a whole blog post to give ideas of how to use technology to teach math. This blog post is a good example of ideas that are frequently suggested as great ways to integrate technology. The author of this post mentions Bloom’s Taxonomy and higher order thinking skills early in the post; however, the suggested ideas do not encourage higher order thinking skills.
The first ideas are to have students use the SmartBoard to work problems and move digital manipulatives on the screen. This is supposed to create more of an excitement for learning for the students. It may or it may not. The problem is that nothing has changed. It does not encourage higher-level thinking skills.
This teacher describes a lesson on money where coins are hyperlinked to websites that tell about the president that is on that coin. Sure, this provides additional information, but it is nothing new. Students could have used old encyclopedias to research the same information. Nothing has changed about the way students are being taught. No higher-level thinking skills are being used.
There was one idea that might encourage higher-level thinking skills. The teacher describes how the students use the ELMO projector to show and describe how they arrived at their answers for math questions. Whether this encourages higher-level thinking depends on exactly how it is conducted. If a student simply explains their answer and how they arrived at that answer, this is still only the second level of Bloom’s Taxonomy (Comprehension). Perhaps the students participate in a debate in which they have to prove or disprove whether the steps to the solution were correct. If so, then, yes, this would be the sixth level of Bloom’s Taxonomy (Evaluation); however, the blog post does not seem to imply that this is the case.
Even ideas that are being touted as good ideas for technology integration are not changing the way students are being taught. They are not encouraging higher-order thinking skills. And to be honest, all of the ideas could be done without the use of technology — it just wouldn’t be as flashy.
3. Teachers are using technology for the sake of saying they are using technology.
In most instances, teachers aren’t using technology because it’s the best solution. They are using technology because they are expected to include some aspect of technology into their lessons. Larry Cuban warns about the ineffectiveness of using technology for the sake of using technology. Technology should be used to do things that cannot be done without the use of technology. This is not true with the examples from the case study or the blog post. When we use technology to teach in the exact same ways we taught without technology, it may be even less effective than not using technology at all.
So, how SHOULD we be using technology?
1. Make sure technology encourages higher-level thinking skills.
Find yourself a good chart of Bloom’s Taxonomy and use it! Look at your lesson plan and deliberately make sure you include every level of Bloom’s Taxonomy. This isn’t the time to cheat. Don’t look at what’s already in your plan and tell yourself, “oh! I could let this part of my lesson pass for this level of Bloom’s Taxonomy”. Make changes. Find ways that technology can be used to make sure you get every level of Bloom’s in your lesson.
2. Don’t do the same things that you can do without technology.
Why are we spending the big bucks for technology devices, if we’re still going to do the exact same things we could do without them? Before you use technology, think to yourself, “Is there a way I can do this without technology?” If there is, then do it and find some better way to integrate technology into your lesson.
3. If you aren’t the official computer teacher for your school, don’t plan a lesson around technology.
If you think of a technology you want to use and then try to plan an lesson, you’re doing it backwards. Go ahead and plan your lesson. Write your objective. Start going through Bloom’s Taxonomy. Now that you already know your direction, it’s time to start brainstorming ways that technology could be used to enhance what you are doing.
More Specific Ideas to Come
Keep watching for my next post where I’ll talk about some specific ways you can integrate technology in the way it should be done. In the meantime, let me know in the comments what you already do with technology. Are you using it in new and different ways that promote higher-level thinking skills? Or, have you realized that you are just adding technology to say you have technology in your lessons?
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