The National Educational Technology Plan (2010) outlines a very specific path for supporting teachers in the difficult process of integrating technology into their practice. I especially like the visual to the right. This nice graphic from the Teaching: Prepare and Connect section of the plan demonstrates the complexity of just this aspect of the process. I’d like to briefly address each part of the graphic, examining each role with respect to technology integration.
The teacher must see the need. Without a sense of responsibility for providing students with rich experiences using technology to learn, a teacher will not move forward with his or her own development and learning to integrate technology into their curriculum. It cannot be sold simply as a way to make their job easier. Teachers must believe that students need to use technology in the learning process. Also, teachers who lack confidence in learning new technologies must be adequately supported. This delicate situation must be handled carefully, always showing great respect for others and the challenges they face learning something so difficult for them.
All levels of administrators must set the agenda. Superintendents must speak to the need. Principals must set the expectations. District and school based technology experts must provide resources, information, and hands-on support on a daily basis. Department leaders and teacher leaders must demonstrate their successes. Time for structured conversations must be made. A virtual onslaught of expectations and information will help prepare teachers to clearly see the need and develop the confidence needed to learn something new.
Colleagues are truly the single most important force in pushing along the process of technology integration. Teachers love to talk and share and will do this no matter what. To take advantage of this happy situation, leaders must structure even more opportunity for teachers to share with teachers.
Here’s a simple list of ideas: Common Planning (report the conversations back to an administrator); “Tech Tuesdays” or “Tech Thursdays” (informal share time after school for 30 minutes to an hour – I do know of schools that make this formal providing PD credit, with different teachers leading each session and announcing the tool/technology to be presented to generate interest each week); Lunch Meetings; Create a group blog or wiki to share; Open House or Technology Showcase for parents or community or just each other
Let’s face it. Sometimes students know more than we do about certain technologies. USE their expertise. There’s no better way to engage students in the learning process than to relinquish some of the responsibility for success to them. Be sure to prepare them ahead of this. They should have a quick lesson in working with other students. Also, make your expectations for them very clear. Don’t just turn them loose. Be very explicit with what you want. Also, take time to talk to students about technology and tools they are using in their lives. You may get some great ideas for you using those tools in your instruction.
Try creating a Tech Team (SWAT (students willing to assist w/ technology). Have a group of Tech Tutors to farm out to teachers just beginning to use technology as student assistants. Have share sessions with Tech Teams or Student Advisory groups. (Our use the school’s SGA or other organization to connect with them if you aren’t ready for a tech team.) It’s important to learn from them – wherever they are.
Parents in every school are willing to share – they just need to be asked. Sometimes teachers aren’t sure about what to ask of parents. (Sometimes we don’t exactly know what we need) In the case of technology integration, you might simply need for parents to comment on student work posted online. Maybe you need a guest speaker willing to skype with your class. Or maybe you need a parent to help build a website for your class. The list is endless. You may be surprised how many would love to help!
Newsletters, email, and other formal communications can be utilized to get your parents involved. But don’t forget to talk to them in Wal-Mart or the grocery store about what you need as well. Those less formal requests are personal and meaningful. There are loads of parents ready to be that involved in your child’s class if you’d ask.
Youth Development Workers
There are advocates for our children throughout our society. These youth development workers share in the responsibility of students and want to be connected and involved. Using technology can make this happen seamlessly. To identify who the specific youth development workers might be, talk with your school counselor. He or she can point to groups and individuals with special interest and capabilities for serving certain students. (Some examples are government social service organizations, churches and religious groups, retired educators and other retired groups, non-profit service groups, literacy organizations, and much more.)
Invite these individuals to be a part of your class, especially virtually. Invite them to visit in person and allow the students to teach them how to be connected using technology.
Data is your most dependable resource for identifying the needs of your students. Using technology to organize data to more clearly understand your students’ needs is happening more and more throughout the country. Identifying the methods that technology can help you meet student needs can be a little bit more difficult. Teams of teachers and administrators must address these issues together.
Frequent discussion of student data is necessary to create an authentic learning plan for each learner. Data discussions should become an integral part of every meeting.
Personal Learning Networks
Early in my learning, the teachers in my school provided the most significant nudge into true tech integration in my classroom. When I began to itch for more, I began building a wider network for learning. You can see my PLN here. Today, this network impacts my development in profound ways. I’ve grown and learned beyond my own intentions and expectations.
Connect with others in educational technology. I use Twitter. Participating in #edchat, #edtech and other such discussions has been phenomenal. I offer help and ask for help often on Twitter. Also, I read what influential ed tech folks write – both in blogs, books, and other articles. I use my RSS feed on iGoogle to keep up efficiently. Commenting on blogs and articles will help you develop a presence and a network. I use other social networks – Facebook and Ning – for connecting to educators. I use social bookmarking and participate in a variety of webinars and other discussions available to interested teachers for free. The more you begin to search, the more you find. Ask for help if you get stumped. It’s the point of developing a PLN.
In Alabama we have fantastic eLearning online courses, available several times during the year for free. These wonderful courses earn valuable CEUs and provide excellent training in dozens of areas of educational technology. I also love the free K-12 Online Conference. It’s an asynchronous conference allowing you to participate when you can. Another excellent opportunity for online learning is to look into Education Week’s webinars. These webinars are fantastic! (most recorded and available later)
The nuts and bolts of a new piece of equipment can frustrate even the best of us. Make certain the vendor of your technical devices provides training for using the equipment. If possible, give teachers enough information to get them started with the equipment and have them use it a bit before the training. You want them to ask the most sophisticated questions possible while you have experts on site. If you have one teacher that really goes that extra miles, see if your outside trainer will spend an extra half hour with that teacher, creating a “semi-expert” at your school site.
Negotiate this assistance as a part of your purchase. Always push for follow up training. If additional equipment is purchased, ask if the training for the new teachers can include some of the other teachers as well. Get as much as you can from this valuable training.
Providing simple tutorials for teachers is really very simple. Video tutorials already exist in abundance on a variety of websites. Short step-by-step written guides can be useful for teachers interested in learning to use new equipment or new web tools as well. These resources are also available on the web. Important Advice: Choose the tutorial and give it a trail run with a couple of teachers. Then ask for some feedback on the tutorial’s usefulness. Too much detail can scare teachers away and not enough detail might frustrate them so much that they give up.
Go to the websites of the vendors for the equipment purchased and search for video tutorials. PDFs may also be available. Use your Personal Learning Network to ask for other great tutorials. Many technology specialists have created some of these types of tutorials themselves and may be willing to share. Just ask!
Research the field of educational technology integration. You will find certain names and organizations appear over and over. Make it part of your week to read what they are writing and publishing. Don’t forget to subscribe to online periodicals, blogs, and other media sources by the leaders in the field. If you aren’t sure who you’d like to include in your “reading list” don’t worry. Find one organization or person and get started. They all seem to reference one another and soon you will be bouncing around reading what lots of different people are saying about how to effectively integrate technology.
Learn to use RSS feeds. A good place to start is with iGoogle, Google Reader, or Pageflakes. You can organize everything you’d like to read on one page and simply click to read the latest blog entry or article. Easy as pie!
Sometimes the content we teach can be the best source of inspiration for how we might use technology to teach it. Thousands of sites exist in every field on every grade level for actively engaging students with content.
If you’ve made it through all of the resources listed above, you’ve already found some amazing resources for integrating technology with your content standards. If you haven’t made it through all of the steps above, use your technology specialist to help you locate these resources. It’s his or her job to find them and assist you and your students with using the resources to make learning authentic. Enjoy!