DA op-ed: 3 smart (simple) steps to technology integration
When it comes to technology integration, we are often encouraged to transform education and revolutionize the learning process. While well-meaning, it can sometimes overwhelm us to the point that we don’t do anything.
A better approach is to embrace the “Keep it simple, stupid” philosophy.
Keep it simple
When it comes to technology integration, we do want to aim higher. We need to teach our students the skills they need for the future, including the 4C’s (critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity), International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) standards, and higher levels of SAMR (Substitution, Augmentation, Modification and Redefinition).
Yes, we need to have high goals, but we can’t reach them in one giant leap. Often, the best way to meet our goals is to take small steps toward them. We need to balance best practices and practicality.
Rather than creating some massive, multitech lesson, we can simply take a previous lesson and tweak it. Find a way to use technology and improve the old lesson. Maybe you can check off one of the 4C’s. Perhaps you can bump up one step in the SAMR model.
As always, the learning needs to drive the technology—not the other way around.
When integrating technology, there are three good reasons to take small steps and keep it simple:
- Repetition: Let’s say you do go all out and create the “technology lesson to end all lessons.” It uses five different technology tools, spans several weeks, and checks off all of the ISTE standards. When the project ends and the dust settles, you will pat yourself on the back, but then proclaim: “I am never going to do that again!” It’s just not realistic. If integrating technology is that much work, you may do it once for a graduate school class requirement, but you can’t do the same thing week after week. Instead, if you make a small but meaningful change with technology, you will be more likely to try it again with a future lesson. Steps, not leaps, in the right direction can be repeated, and you will want to repeat them and build on them.
- Replication: Your colleagues will be inspired to replicate your use of technology as well—unless the lesson is too big. If you do complete that massive technology integration project, other teachers in your school may be impressed, but they will not be encouraged. They might think it works because you are a tech guru or have the newest devices. Instead, if you show your co-workers a neat one-period activity, a cool way that students use a web app, or a way you can tweak an old lesson to let kids collaborate, they will say, “Cool; I can do that. That looks easy.”
- Reinforcement. Finally, when we take small steps with technology, we tend to focus on the real point of technology: a support for teaching and learning. However, if your goal is to make a technology-rich lesson, you may focus more on the technology than the learning. As always, the learning needs to drive the technology—not the other way around.
When properly integrated, technology becomes invisible. Sure, it is there, but it is there to support student learning: encouraging collaboration and communication, fostering creativity, and sparking critical thinking. When we keep it simple, we focus on learning and find ways for technology to improve learning.
As you look for ways to use technology in your classroom, remember to keep it simple. Yes, you need to aim higher, strive to transform learning and make plans to change to the world, but just do it one step at a time.
Eric Curts serves as a technology integration specialist in Ohio, and will be a featured speaker at DA’s Future of Education Technology Conference®. As a Google for Education trainer and innovator, he provides training to schools, organizations and conferences across the country—both in person and through his blog at controlaltachieve.com.
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