By Michael Hilkemeijer
How do you integrate technology in teaching and learning?
There is a difference between just using and/or exposing technology in the classroom and technology integration in the classroom. Anyone can use technology in the classroom but if it is not used in a meaningful context, it is not really deemed as what is known as technology integration.
On the other hand, for it to be truly called technology integration then it is important that the technology is ‘transparent’ being that the children are so focused on using ICT as a tool to achieve other outcomes that they hardly notice that they are using technology itself.
This is the ultimate aim in developing ICT capability and is about equipping children with sufficient experiences to enable them to use ICT without having to stop and think. You have enabled them to develop a range of ‘transparent’ routines and ICT techniques that are part of their unconscious action.
As a primary school teacher, it should be your ultimate aim to enable the children to reach the stage where the technology becomes sufficiently ‘transparent’. But what are examples of strategies for integrating technology in the classroom that truly uses technology in a ‘transparent’ manner?
Choosing applications that are Transparent
If technology is to be transparent then it is also important that the ICT capability and not the ICT skills that the students learn is ‘transferrable’ from one context to the next. This must be a key feature of your technology integration in the classroom.
It is why I always encourage teachers in my online workshops to be very knowledgeable about one program that their students will use than to have an acquaintance with a large number. So that students will get to work with a small number of versatile programs in such a way that will enable them to progressively develop their ICT capabilities and confidence in carefully structured activities as opposed to learning how to use a large number superficially.
It is vital that the ICT tools for teaching and learning have the quality of ‘transparency’ so when choosing applications that are transparent ensure that it can be used across the curriculum. For example, Integrated Learning Systems such as Numeracy learning software and Literacy learning software cannot be integrated across various contexts successfully. Yet, programs such as spreadsheets and word processors can be used to learn numeracy and literacy with the best practices to do so.
The best programs that you can use are the ones that give the student almost complete control over the computer itself – like content-free and generic application software. This is otherwise known as tool software and it can be used in many different ways. Such programs provide a high level of control for students and this also includes their decision-making too.
Finally, every program needs to provide opportunities for students to be intellectually challenged.
The Best Practices for integrating Technology in the Classroom
Throughout my studies of research about technology integration, I have learned a lot about what you can do. Here is what I learned.
All of this has implications for you as a teacher in your planning work and organising of activities.
For technology integration to be transparent and for ICT capability to be developed it needs to occur in meaningful activities that are embedded in purposeful, subject-related contexts. Rather than just teaching children how to use a database, it can be taught through using a database to help children learn something useful about a subject.
Another key principle in planning is that the level of demand of most ICT activities can be adjusted to meet the needs of the children. For example, if the learning outcome of a science activity is to label a picture of a plant then by taking into account the current level of ICT capability of the children you can have the ones with little experience of ICT to drag and drop labels from one part of the screen to another.
For those with more experience they can extract labels from a word bank and then for those who are more confident can even type the names in. The most advanced group of children in terms of their ICT capability can go further and locate a suitable image from the Internet or use a paint program to draw their own image.
Another point to remember in your planning is to ensure that students have the support that needs for developing their ICT capability while providing them with the contexts which stimulate learning in the subject as well.
Questions such as the ones here need to be considered:
- What is the educational purpose of the activity – to develop ICT capability, to support learning in another subject, or both?
- Will the children need to be monitored to identify opportune moments for you to intervene to enhance their skills?
- Does it provide the children with experience of using ICT as a tool?
- Are there opportunities for you to assess student ICT capabilities?
- Will the children work co-operatively or collaboratively? How will this be introduced and supported?
If your children are to have rich and stimulating experiences, the learning environment should be well-planned and well-organized. All ICT objects, activities, and programs that you will provide need to be planned with sensitivity and understanding.
Furthermore, if you analyse your classroom situation of technological affordances, social affordances, problem contexts, and student ICT capabilities then this can help you to plan for technology integration in the classroom. Your role is to manipulate the contexts and affordances in relation to students existing abilities to facilitate learning. However, if there is little to no gap between the abilities and the affordances involved in the application of the software, then only learning in that subject will be enhanced.
This can be changed if there is a manageable gap between the affordances and abilities in areas of ICT techniques and processes. In this instance, learning occurs in both the subject area and ICT capability.
Consider how ICT can be used effectively in the planning process and what factors you need to consider to ensure it is integrated effectively in the classroom.
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