OUT ON A LIM with Educational Technology

Reflections on Technology Integration

Journal of Adventist Education, written by Janine Lim

As I pack my sandwiches for lunch, I face another day in the classroom, an opportunity I appreciate, since I work at an educational service agency. The Berrien County Intermediate School District offers a unique professional development program to the local districts that we service. The Technology Integration Modeling Experience (TIME) (1) includes a pre-visit to plan a technology-integrated unit or lesson, a week-long visit to a school building where we model lessons in six to 10 classrooms, and a follow-up unit to discuss other possible applications of the unit and method.

Our TIME program provides professional development not only for our teachers, but also for me. The process of planning, implementing, and reflecting on the lessons we model helps refine my own definition of integration. (That is probably true for the teachers we work with, too.) Let me share some of the points that I've been thinking about recently.

Return on Investment

It concerns me when schools spend funds on multimedia, Internet-connected computers; and then use them only for typing and word processing. The technology purchased should match the needs and goals of the school. If teachers want to focus on writing skills and typing, then they can probably get by with older, slower computers that are not connected to the Internet. However, if the school wants students to create multimedia projects and presentations and do research using the Internet, then high-end multimedia-capable computers and Internet connections are essential to achieve those goals. But simply buying the technology is not enough. The teachers also need to understand how to use it and integrate it into the instructional process. This takes time and effort, as well as many opportunities for training: just-in-time learning, how-to classes, curriculum integration ideas and lesson plans, and team-teaching and modeling lessons. As the new Technology Standards for School Administrators indicate, principals must “provide for and ensure that faculty and staff take advantage of quality professional learning opportunities for improved learning and teaching with technology.” It takes more than 60 hours of training for teachers to feel comfortable using new methods of instruction that integrate technology.(2) TIME must be provided to make this happen!

Appropriateness of Lesson

Some lessons work well for integrating technology, while others are best taught in more traditional ways. Some units work great with one type of technology, but not with another. For example, we planned a unit on Michigan and the fur trade. The teacher hoped that we could find some pictures and information on the Internet, but little was available. However, we planned to have students label a map of Michigan in KidPix (the map is included on the CD), and this activity turned out well. Students labeled important forts, bodies of water, and La Salle 's fur trade route. (3) Planning a lesson and selecting activities, Web sites, or software can be a trial-and-error process. It takes time and investigation to see which units work best. Sometimes using an example unit from the Internet or one of the many technology-integration resources available from Teacher Created Materials (4) or another source will provide a basic idea, which can be adapted to the content and the teacher's style.

Teacher's Interest and Style

Starting with a favorite lesson can make early integration experiences easier and more fun. For example, we had a lesson about the Edmund Fitzgerald, the famous ship that sank in a gale in Lake Michigan in 1975 . This lesson fit into a larger unit about the history of shipwrecks in the state of Michigan . So when we took students to Web pages to choose pictures for a memorial plaque, looking at the pictures was a very meaningful activity. The activity fit well with the unit, and the teacher was pleased with the students' attention and learning.

Information Literacy Skills

Integrating the Internet in the curriculum means more than visiting a Web site now and then. According to a recent study, (5) students use the Internet in five main ways to enhance their learning:

• As a virtual textbook and reference library.

• As a virtual tutor and study shortcut.

• As a virtual study group.

• As a virtual guidance counselor.

• As a virtual locker, backpack, and notebook.

Students surveyed repeatedly said “they wanted to be assigned more—and more engaging—Internet activities that were relevant to their lives. Indeed, many asserted that this would significantly improve their attitude toward school and learning.” (6)

Students should also be taught information literacy along with Internet use. Integration doesn't just mean using the World Wide Web in the curriculum, but also teaching the correct and appropriate use of the technology. Each lesson should include one or more of these skills:

• Defining the task;

• Determining and evaluating information sources;

• Information-seeking strategies;

• Locating and accessing sources and information;

• Choosing and using the information;

• Organizing and presenting information;

• Evaluating the information. (7)

Over the course of the year, students should learn all of these skills at an age-appropriate level. For example, early elementary students may choose a picture from a teacher-selected list to include in a class slideshow or electronic book about animals. High school students can be asked to find the picture and accompanying information on their own.

Non-Technology Components

Finally, a good technology lesson includes other learning opportunities such as books and manipulatives. I'm not convinced that the term “hands-on” is the best one to describe computer-based learning. There's a big difference between counting real stones, beans, or balls and counting two-dimensional objects on a computer screen. Kinesthetic learners often do well on the computer. However, learning for all students should include real-world activities, movement, discovery, reading, and experiments. The technology component shouldn't overpower the rest of the lesson. A well-integrated lesson will combine many ways of learning and teaching.

Conclusion

There's no perfect formula for integrating technology into the curriculum. But the more I work with teachers to help them create successful learning experiences, the more I refine and clarify my own beliefs about effective technology integration. I hope the same is true for you, too!

_____________________________________

Janine Lim is an Instructional Technology Consultant at the Berrien County Intermediate School District in Berrien Springs, Michigan. She works with Adventist schools, as well as with other private and public schools.

Notes and References

1. See http://www.remc11.k12.mi.us/bcisd/classres/TIME.htm/.

2. See http://www.techtamers.com/followup/stages.htm/.

3. See an example at http://www.remc11.k12.mi.us/bcisd/classres/TIME3.htm/.

4. See http://www.teachercreated.com/ for Computer Activity Cards, ThemeWorks, and more.

5. Pew Internet and American Life Project. The Digital Disconnect: The Widening Gap Between Internet-Savvy Students and Their Schools. By Douglas Levin and Sousan Arafeh, American Institutes for Research. Published August 14, 2002 . Accessed at http://www.pewinternet.org/reports/toc.asp?Report=67, p. iii.

6. Ibid., p. 18.

7. See http://www.big6.com/overview.htm/ for a popular approach to information skills.

© 2003 Journal of Adventist Education


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