For quite a few years now, I have seen this image do its rounds in social media. Although simple in presentation, it conveys a powerful message about technology integration in the classroom: digital tools are there to help with the learning process, but they are not the learning goal in itself. They are a means to an end.
With the power of social media, word of new edtech apps and sites spreads quite rapidly (e.g. who hasn’t heard of #FlipgridFever?). Now, more than ever, educators have an array of teaching and learning tools at their disposal just a click away.
So, two questions come to mind:
Should all teachers incorporate technology into their teaching?
How do teachers effectively integrate technology into their classroom?
Schools as a reflection of society
Our aim as educators is to equip students with the skills and knowledge they will need to successfully join the adult world. We are living in a time where technology has permeated all layers of society, changing in its wake the way the world works. In order to prepare well our students, there is a strong case for integrating technology across all disciplines, as this is what the actual world is like. However, with this I am not implying that every single learning activity should include a digital tool, as I will explain next.
As teachers, whenever we are making any classroom decisions, we must ask ourselves, how does this help my students achieve their learning goals? Decisions about technology integration should be no different. In this way, the TPACK framework addresses the nature of knowledge that teachers need to effectively integrate technology. According to this framework, effective integration takes into account the interplay of content knowledge, pedagogy and technology. This video briefly explains the TPACK framework:
In other words, when planning our lessons, after considering our students’ needs, their learning goals and the most suitable instructional strategies, we can make a decision about which digital tools to use, or perhaps not use any at all. This might look simple in writing, but is quite complex in reality. Many teachers might be very good at the P and the CK part of the equation, but might not have had lots of experience with the T. Therefore, making decisions about the best or more appropriate technology to use more difficult. In cases such as this one, it is likely that the technology integration will be at the substitution level in the SAMR model.
Higher knowledge of technology will allow teachers to consider more possibilities of technology integration going all the way to redefinition. Again, I am not stating here that the goal is for every learning activity to be at the level of redefinition, but if we are only using technology for substitution, our students will only be experiencing a limited aspect of it. This is why the role of Technology Integration Coaches is crucial, and so is the opportunity for teachers to have dedicated time in school to skill-share.
We have a tremendous responsibility towards our students for providing them with learning experiences that will build up their skills repertoire and their knowledge, giving them a solid foundation to access the workforce when their time comes. Purposeful technology integration across all disciplines will play an essential role in achieving this.