Monday, February 17, 2014

Degrees of Tech Use in Education

I've been working on this thought for awhile, but the missing piece came from a simply stated insight from Terry Heick in this short interview. He said his advice to teachers regarding tech integration would be:

"Think of it as a learning tool, not a teaching tool."

It's my job to help teachers infuse more technology into their instruction and that is too often hindered by a misunderstanding of terms. It is easy for some teachers to say they integrate technology because they use their interactive whiteboards and students play on Study Island in the lab.

But technology use in education has to be seen as a spectrum, not a yes-no question as to whether a computer is on in the classroom.  I'm sure some of the distinctions I make below would not matter in all schools, but here is the image and terminology I will begin using as I teach teachers.

Of course, my goal is to help every teacher to take the next step toward the innovation end of the spectrum. First, I want them to identify where their instruction would fall on the scale most days using this criteria:
  • Teacher use - The technology is in the teacher's hands and it is essential for her to do her job. Examples - Lesson in PowerPoint projected in front of the room, lesson plans done in a calendar shared with the principal, grading program
  • Student use - Students need to use technology to complete the lesson. Examples - Watch Khan Academy videos at home, find the assignment in Edmodo, read the article in Newsela
  • Integration - This is the important distinction for me because I am working toward integration of content objectives and technology skills. Here students can't complete the lesson without learning a new technology skill. Examples of this could look like student use above, but the difference is the teacher designed the learning so most or all students will use a new tool in a new way to learn a new skill. The step in tech skills has to be small enough that it enhances rather than distracts from the learning of the content.
  • Innovation - Here the teacher is using the technology to design learning experiences no one else has used before. This is exciting, but difficult work. It stems from a high degree of digital literacy in which the teacher thinks creatively with the technology, expressing herself through the blend of her unique personality and broad range of personal experiences.
Two thoughts:
  • Each level is a spectrum as well. There are levels of tech integration and levels of innovation. The idea of what counts as "new" can relate more or less to the teachers and students themselves, the district as a whole or possibly the world.
  • I will be thrilled to have all teachers at the Integration stage. Innovation is vital and I believe passionate teachers will automatically move in that direction. We need innovators leading the way, both in the world at large and within our districts. However, students acquiring appropriate tech skills within the context of content are a lessons is exciting.
If this becomes an effective tool in our district I will follow up with some examples.

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