It’s Not About the Tech… It’s about the Planning

EQ: How can we effectively, practically and authentically embed technology within our curricular areas?

Anne Karakash’s article 5 Steps for Planning Lessons Around Technology states that the steps for planning effective technology integration are:

  1. Plan – consider the content then pick the technology
  2. Research – take the time to explore the technology fully
  3. Engage – think about the interaction that the students will have with the technology
  4. Explore – expand the project beyond the initial task
  5. Synthesis – bring it all together

I agree with Anne in many ways. I often find that teachers contact me about using technology without having considered these steps. They contact me as an integrationist and expect me to come into their class and teach a lesson without them having gone through the steps above to consider how the technology will integrate.

Teachers often ask me teach something with tech by saying “I want you to come in and teach ____ app.” When I ask what they want to accomplish with that app they generally tell me. “Oh, I want them to know how to use it because I want them to make a ___ at the end of this unit.” My next question is always what will you require them to have in their final element? They then give me a list.

This is usually the point where I have to make them back track for one of two reasons. One they haven’t’ given the students anywhere close to enough time to accomplish this or two they have a very narrow goal for the technology. These two problems are mostly because they haven’t taken the time to become familiar with the technology for themselves.

Then they are surprised when I make them pause and reexamine the plan for the lesson. They don’t like when they are told that one lesson will not be long enough or detailed enough to accomplish what they want.

This is why planning with teachers from the beginning of a unit is essential. If I am there at the beginning of the unit planning I can help a teacher better gauge the student’s understanding of the technology along with the needs of the teachers and students. I can help the teachers plan how to more effectively use technology throughout a unit not just slap some in at the end. It also allows me to help teachers manage spreading out the learning of a new technology throughout a unit instead of trying to cram it all in before the project they want to complete.

Spreading the technology lessons out over the course of a unit, allows students to begin to synthesize their knowledge and understandings all of the way through the unit instead of waiting until the end. This gives them time to explore both what the technology can do as well as go deeper into their knowledge. By synthesizing along the way they see the holes and gaps in their research and are able to take the time to go back and fill those in.

It was pointed out to me recently that the way integrationists work is Design Thinking in action. Once we realized this we realized that one of the best ways to help our teachers is to help them use Design Thinking when they are planning for the use of technology within their lessons.

This leads me to the second article that I read. 16 Modern Realities Schools (and Parents) Need to Accept. Now. I think that teaching teachers how to think in a Design mindset will help them teach students how to think in a design mindset which would address many of the 16 realities mentioned in this article.

Ever Changing Technology

When I went home this March I took my mom a laptop with Windows 7 on it.  After a day or so of working on it she began to complain about “why do they always change everything.”  I reminder her that change has always been happening and that when she was younger she worked on one of the first computers in Memphis.  She worked on it because all of the older ladies in the office wouldn’t work on “that new fangaled thing.”  She relented and said that’s right.

She did have a bit of an argument though.  While change IS always happening and will always happen, what is new is the speed of that change.  Moore’s Law states that the number of transistors and circuits in a computer doubles every two years.  This means the speed of change with technology is doubled every two years because the speed of the ability of the technology to process information doubles.  This is what my mom was struggling with.  Because during her generation things improved and changed at a slower rate.  She didn’t realise how far behind she had gotten in her tech skills because she didn’t realise how fast and dramatically things were changing.  This is why I upgraded her equipment.

The speed with which technology is changing is only going to get faster.  We have to keep up by doing what we can to teach ourselves about the changes.  As teachers we have to be ready and willing to grow and change.  Our students are using technologies that are sometimes 2 or 3 years ahead of what we ourselves use.  If we allow ourselves to fall behind then we will loose a link to a major part of our students lives.

I moved to an iPhone only 2 years ago, but that simple move allowed me to be able to learn the ins and outs of the Apple IOS system, before I received my iPad.  Doing that made the move to an iPad easier because I knew some of what to expect.  That being said, I know nothing about the android market because I own no android devices.

Keeping on top of the latest technologies can be difficult but even if you choose one and keep that updated, then you will be able to more easily move between devices. Find a way to stay on top of things, a blog you like, a twitter feed, a teacher friend, a techy friend, or a student any one of these can be a good source of tech support. But whatever you do find a way, standing still is no longer an option.

Thank you Suzanne McCluskey for the idea for this post.