Technology here and technology there – today, there are so many choices for teachers to choose from. However, it does not have to be this hard. Research tells us that when it comes to integrating technology in the classroom, it is a matter of exploiting our own sense of familiarity with technologies that is common among young people.
It also highlights that this process is all about exploiting the here and now of the available technologies in the classroom and not be concerned with looking for the next big technological development to solve your problem of integrating technology in your teaching and learning. Integrating technology in the classroom is not a straightforward process. So let me explain this to you in a way that is practical and immediately actionable.
One of the most important notes to remember when deciding to use technology in the classroom is that just by exposing your students to technology will not enable them to completely develop their ICT capability. As a common misconception amongst many educators, this has had negative implications on the learning of students. Providing a laptop or iPad or desktop computer to students to use by themselves is therefore not an ideal environment for learning. They need structure, stimulation and scaffolding for effective learning in ICT capability and not ICT skills. As a teacher, you require effective teaching strategies in order for you to increase the chances of enhanced learning.
What ICT tools and resources should you use in the classroom?
A common question asked by many teachers, the choice of technology in the classroom varies on a teacher’s plans and purpose for it. For example, you first need to decide whether you just want the students to use it in order to support subject learning, to develop their ICT capability or both. In my opinion, the best option is both because this is entirely possible and it is the ultimate aim of using it in the classroom. To remain completely transparent in the background whilst supporting the subject. On the other hand, you may just wish to use it support to support subject learning such as literacy and numeracy, but I will discuss pros and cons of this later.
The reason why I believe teachers should choose the third option is to do with the following circumstances. ICT capability is amongst the seven 21st century skills or general capabilities in the Australian Curriculum. It also has a strong emphasis in the UK ICT Curriculum. However, my expertise only allows me to discuss that of the Australian Curriculum. As a general capability it is embedded throughout all Learning Areas especially Technologies (Digital Technology and D & T). In this instance, I mainly am speaking about other subject areas and the integration of technology throughout them. Choosing the right ICT tools and resources should then have a lot to do with your intentions as a teacher to meet the curriculum requirements.
The Need for Digital Technology in Classrooms
The digital technology in class that we emphasise is important has to do with the fact that they are:
- Content-free and generic;
- They develop student ICT capabilities;
- Challange students intellectually;
- Enable a high level of decision-making on behalf of the students.
Below I have outlined the other reasons why we should use technology in the classroom.
- E-learning or Online Learning: The presence of ICT in education allows for new ways of learning for students and teachers. E-learning or online learning is becoming increasingly popular and with various unprecedented events taking place in our lives, this does not only open opportunities for schools to ensure that students have access to curriculum materials whilst in the classroom but also allows them to ensure students outside the classroom such as at home or even in hospitals can learn.
- ICT brings inclusion: The benefits of ICT in education is of such that students in the classroom can all learn from the curriculum material. Students with special needs are no longer at a disadvantage as they have access to essential material and special ICT tools can be used by students to make use of ICT for their own educational needs. Despite this, it opens up new issues related to the 'digital divide' and providing access to ICT tools and resources for those who are less fortunate.
- ICT promotes higher-order thinking skills: One of the key skills for the 21st century which includes evaluating, planning, monitoring, and reflecting to name a few. The effective use of ICT in education demands skills such as explaining and justifying the use of ICT in producing solutions to problems. Students need to discuss, test, and conjecture the various strategies that they will use.
- ICT enhances subject learning: It is well known these days that the use of ICT in education adds a lot of value to key learning areas like literacy and numeracy.
- ICT use develops ICT literacy and ICT Capability: Both are 21st-century skills that are best developed whilst ICT remains transparent in the background of subject learning. The best way to develop ICT capability is to provide them with meaningful activities, embedded in purposeful subject-related contexts.
- ICT use encourages collaboration: You just have to put a laptop, iPad or computer in the classroom to understand how this works. ICT naturally brings children together where they can talk and discuss what they are doing for their work and this in turn, opens up avenues for communication thus leading to language development.
- ICT use motivates learning: Society's demands for new technology has not left out children and their needs. Children are fascinated with technology and it encourages and motivates them to learn in the classroom.
- ICT in education improves engagement and knowledge retention: When ICT is integrated into lessons, students become more engaged in their work. This is because technology provides different opportunities to make it more fun and enjoyable in terms of teaching the same things in different ways. As a consequence of this increased engagement, it is said that they will be able to retain knowledge more effectively and efficiently.
- ICT use allows for effective Differentiation Instruction with technology in the classroom: We all learn differently at different rates and styles and technology provide opportunities for this to occur.
- ICT integration is a key part of the national curriculum: The integration of digital technologies or ICT is a significant part of the Australian Curriculum for example, and this is a trend that many global governments are taking up as they begin to see the significance of ICT in education.
- We live in a “knowledge economy": This is an economy where it is vital to have the ability to produce and use information effectively (Weert, 2005). It is a time when ICT is pervasive and permeates throughout all industries in the economy whether it may be health, education, environment or manufacturing (Moon, Feb/Mar 2007). The significance of ICT in the Australian economy was emphasised in the recent article by Alan Patterson, CEO of the Australian Computer Society, in his statement that the “ICT industry now rivals mining in terms of the contribution to the economy” (Patterson, Jan/Feb 2013, p. 8).
Effective technology to use in the classroom
Digital technology in the classroom in a world that is dominated by technology is essential and with global events such as pandemics, acquiring digital capabilities is a must for the 21st-century student of today and workforce of tomorrow. Choosing the right technology is essential which is why the above reasons stand above what others might think are inconsequential to a student's learning.
The integration of digital technology in the classroom begins with the here and now of the available technology in the classroom. Why wait for the next big technological development to come around. Imagine the potential of the digital technology for learning within the context that it will be taught.
You can begin to use digital technology in the classroom such as:
- digital cameras and video recorders
- Desktop computers
However, digital technology is also about software too, and there lots to choose from.
- Word processors
- Desktop publishers
- Graphics programs (drawing and painting software)
- Spreadsheets and databases
- Web creation and development programs
- And the list can go on!
So make sure that you don't try to outshine your colleagues too early and quick with a fancy piece of software. You can lead by example using the available technology in the classroom as this will also let administration and senior management know that their current investments in technology are being optimised already and maybe just encourage them to invest in more updated versions of what you have got.
The above digital technologies in the classroom represent your best chance as a teacher to ensure that student ICT capability is developed alongside meaningful context-driven learning activities in key learning areas today. By making sound instructional decisions, you will be able to employ evidence based ICT teaching methods that will increase the attainment level in ICT capability and ICT literacy in your school in weeks to come.
Defining Successful Tech Integration
There are many benefits to integrating technology in the classroom. Yet, if you are to seamlessly allow students to develop ICT capability in subject learning then it is important that you ensure that technology use in the classroom is transparent, accessible and supportive of the curriculum learning goals.
Simple exposure to any kind of technology in the classroom is not sufficient today if you are to develop proficient users in ICT.
Defining Technology Integration
In my view, the ICT pedagogy that you use as the teacher should make the technology transparent in its use to the extent that the students hardly notice they are using it to achieve the learning outcomes that you have set for them. Successful technology integration is also not only about using technology in the classroom daily, but also having access to a variety of ICT tools used in classroom teaching that match the task at hand and provide them the opportunity to build a deeper understanding of content.
Studies have found that integrating technology in the classroom in a successful manner can be achieved even if you have just one computer, laptop, tablet computer or any other ICT tool or resource.
When effectively integrated into key learning areas of the curriculum, technology in the classroom can extend learning in powerful ways such as:
- Access to up-to-date material
- Methods of collecting data and recording data.
- Ways to collaborate with students, teachers, and experts around the world.
- Learning that is relevant and assessment that is authentic.
Different Types of Digital Tech
As mentioned earlier, there are many different types of digital technologies in the classroom. Despite this, you must always remember that integrating digital technology in the classroom is not about waiting for the next big technological development. It is, however, about imagining the potential for learning with the ‘here and now’ of the available digital technologies in the classroom.
They must give students full control over it in order to be able to used seamlessly in the lesson learning outcomes.
So what is available?
Tablet Computers such as iPads.
- Desk top Computers
- Smartphones used appropriately by teachers and students.
- Virtual Learning Environments
Try integrating this type of technology in the classroom today. Learn how to by visiting this online workshop for teachers now.