Why Integrate Technology into the Curriculum?

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An Introduction to Technology Integration

Technology is ubiquitous, touching almost every part of our lives, our communities, our homes. Yet most schools lag far behind when it comes to integrating technology into classroom learning. Many are just beginning to explore the true potential tech offers for teaching and learning. Properly used, technology will help students acquire the skills they need to survive in a complex, highly technological knowledge-based economy.

Integrating technology into classroom instruction means more than teaching basic computer skills and software programs in a separate computer class. Effective tech integration must happen across the curriculum in ways that research shows deepen and enhance the learning process. In particular, it must support four key components of learning: active engagement, participation in groups, frequent interaction and feedback, and connection to real-world experts. Effective technology integration is achieved when the use of technology is routine and transparent and when technology supports curricular goals.

Many people believe that technology-enabled project learning is the ne plus ultra of classroom instruction. Learning through projects while equipped with technology tools allows students to be intellectually challenged while providing them with a realistic snapshot of what the modern office looks like. Through projects, students acquire and refine their analysis and problem-solving skills as they work individually and in teams to find, process, and synthesize information they’ve found online.

The myriad resources of the online world also provide each classroom with more interesting, diverse, and current learning materials. The Web connects students to experts in the real world and provides numerous opportunities for expressing understanding through images, sound, and text.

New tech tools for visualizing and modeling, especially in the sciences, offer students ways to experiment and observe phenomenon and to view results in graphic ways that aid in understanding. And, as an added benefit, with technology tools and a project-learning approach, students are more likely to stay engaged and on task, reducing behavioral problems in the classroom.

Technology also changes the way teachers teach, offering educators effective ways to reach different types of learners and assess student understanding through multiple means. It also enhances the relationship between teacher and student. When technology is effectively integrated into subject areas, teachers grow into roles of adviser, content expert, and coach. Technology helps make teaching and learning more meaningful and fun. Return to our Technology Integration page to learn more.

Your thoughts?

An in-depth video about technology integration at Harrison Central High School

This video is available for download FREE on iTunes U: Download video

Edutopia Staff (2008). Why integrate technology into the curriculum?: The reasons are many Retrieved September 30, 2009, from http://www.edutopia.org/technology-integration-introduction.

Sir Ken Robinson on Creativity and Education

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In this video from 2007 Sir Ken Robinson relates his views and the research that has been done on human intelligence, creativity, and how education impacts the human condition.

Why Windows?

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One of the significant changes that will be coming to the Project SMaRT program this year is the introduction of the Windows operating system and the suite of digital design tools from Adobe Systems known as the Digital School Collection. There’s a simple reason why this is being done–to expand the reach of the program by making digital design software available to a larger group of teachers in our district.

Understandably, there’s been some worry on the part of program participants that we’ll be moving away from the Apple platform and the iLife series of products that you’ve learned to use over the past few years. While there will be additional opportunities to learn new software, it is not our intent to stop supporting Apple in any way. In fact, another component of what this project will be doing this year is increasing and expanding the support for Apple computers by fully incorporating them into our IT infrastructure.

Still, the fact remains that the standard desktop computer that all teachers have access to is a Dell computer running Windows, and that won’t be changing soon.

One of the tenets of the stimulus funds being offered this year is to make bold, strategic, system-wide changes that support the goal of preparing students for the modern workforce. Our district is embracing this goal through your participation in Project SMaRT in a number of ways. A key component of the work we need to equip you to do is to reach out to more teachers and share with them the skills and pedagogical underpinnings of the kinds of hands-on, digital projects that you’ve learned to employ in this project.

From the two charts below you see the effect that expansion to the Windows platform will have on the access that teachers have to these kinds of tools. While the 500 or so teachers involved in NCLB: EETT projects have had a significant impact on literally thousands of students, the total percentage of teachers who are using these kinds of tools remains low. By expanding to the Windows platform the program will be able to reach even more students and teachers as we go forward. (You can also see that we still have a long ways to go.)

In the ongoing discussion that SMaRT Ambassadors are having with members of the Educational Technology team we’re mapping out how things will progress this year with two big goals:

  • Continue to build individual capacity by training teachers on how digital design software can be used to support student learning
  • Build school-based capacity by developing a cadre of mentors and trainers who will work with their fellow teachers.

To achieve these goals we’ll need you to continue your own professional development and to begin thinking about ways you can share with your colleagues on your campus the great things you’ve been doing. By adding Windows and a standard package of digital design tools we hope to significantly expand the reach of the program and address the goals of the NCLB grant by making access to these kinds of tools widespread throughout our District.



What Does Effective Classroom Technology Look Like?

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The use of technology Digital Communicationin the classroom to engage and motivate students is hardly a new concept. The question that both teachers and policy-makers have been asking themselves almost from the moment that the first computer landed in a classroom is a simple one: “Which kinds of programs work?”

In 1998 the Milliken Family Foundation released a study that identified 7 dimensions of effective technology integration. Even though this report was released over 10 years ago, the focus and dimensions that were identified are hardly dated. In fact, 10 years of experience in the classroom and the release of standards such as those created by ISTE for both teachers and students have validated the domains of learning that lead to effective technology integration. (You can download and read the full report here in PDF format.)

Here’s a brief recap of the identified dimensions of technology integration that we’ll be using in Project SMaRt as we examine our program:

1. Learners: Are learners using the technology in ways that deepen their understanding of the content in the academic standards and, at the same time, advance their knowledge of the world around them? Does the student use contemporary technology, communication networks, and associated learning contexts to engage in relevant, real-life applications of academic concepts?

2. Learning Environments: Is the learning environment designed to achieve high academic performance by students through the alignment of standards, research-proven learning practices, and contemporary teaching methods? Does the school culture enable teachers to individually and collectively improve the learning and teaching process through the use of technology? Is there sufficient access to technology tools, data, and the means to examine and manipulate them?

3. Professional Competency: Are educators fluent with technology and do they use technology tools to impact student achievement? Do teachers provide learning contexts that require students to take on more independent roles in their own learning?

4. System Capacity: Is the education system re-engineering itself to systematically meet emerging needs of a changing global workforce and new educational objectives? Is there a system to build human capacity through training and mentoring?

5. Community Connections: Are key community and school stakeholders committed and involved in the planning, funding, implementing, and evaluating the system’s use of technology? Is their clear articulation of roles, expectations, implementation, time lines, and accountability?

6. Technology Capacity: Are there adequate technology, networks, electronic resources and support to meet the goals of the system? Is capacity evenly distributed? Do all students and teachers have equal opportunities?

7. Accountability: Is there agreement on what success with the successful use of technology looks like? Are there measures in place to track progress, report results, and change as needed?

While there may be individual points to argue in this study, there is much to be gained by asking these questions. As you examine your own priorities and the priorities of your school, how would you answer? What changes do you feel need to be made in the approach you are taking with technology integration? And where do you feel changes are needed?

Feel free to comment here, or save your questions for our face-to-face workshops where questions like these will be examined in more detail.

Clarification on Training Dates

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Hi everyone–

My apologies for any confusion this has caused, but the memo that went out from Gary Weidenhamer to Project SMaRT participants had a date listed incorrectly. Here is the iron-clad definitive word on training dates:

SMaRT Ambassadors meet on Saturday, August 29th, 2009 at 9:00 am. Location: Lantana Middle School.

ALL Project SMaRT participants (LEAD teachers and SMaRT Ambassadors) meet on Saturday, September 26th, 2009 at 9:00 am. Location: Lantana Middle School.

Please review the Calendar of Events page for the trainings that have been scheduled through June 2010. Times, dates, and location are correct as posted.

We Will Now Take Your Questions…

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Have a question about the program? This is the place to ask away. While not every question can be answered at this time we’re happy to share with you the direction that the program is taking and some of the plans that we have in store.

Fire away!

Greetings! And Welcome Back!

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Greetings all!

First of all, let me say how excited I am to be working with such a dynamic group of teachers! I’ve gotten to know many of you over the years as we’ve all worked in the educational technology field, and I look forward to making lots of new connections this year.

If you haven’t already done so, please review the letter sent on August 21st by Gary Weidenhamer, Director of Educational Technology. You can find a copy at the link above, or look through your e-mail. Either way, there is an August 26th, 2009 deadline to indicate your intention of remaining in the program by way of a simple online form. Or,  go to the “Intent to Participate” form here and indicate your intention to remain with the program.

We have an exciting year ahead of us with lots of terrific new opportunities! If you have comments you can post them here. For program questions please post to the “Questions and Answers” blog posting immediately below this one. Thanks!

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