How to develop effective edtech integration

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We are living in the era of innovation where innovative minds are the determinants of their nations’ futures. 21st century learners should acquire the needed skills for the projected innovation era that is emerging. Education nowadays is confronted, like never before, by the challenge that is how to prepare learners for a relatively unpredictable future. With the ubiquitous impact that technology has, educators hold hope that this impact will be the silver bullet for the aspired education reform. However, the integration of technology in learning is still undergoing a renovation process.

Technology is bringing a holistic, radical change to the new generations’ life. The learners that we currently have in schools are those who Snapchat their daily life experiences, YouTube their practices and share their voices by tweeting; they have the world at the tips of their fingers. In minutes, they can change a thought to a video, a live stream or a podcast that they can share globally.
The ultimate fear is that digital natives (the new generation) will start perceiving school as non-authentic and irrelevant to their lives. What adds more drama to this is the exponential evolution of technology. What can educators do about this complex situation? Is it enough that they bring the latest technology into classrooms, and go with one-to-one or BYOD to walk hand-in-hand with digital natives? If technology-enhanced learning is what satisfies digital natives, then does it guarantee better learning skills? Are the students really engaged when they are using different apps? Does genuine exploration happen when they tab on their tablets? How can technology enforce 21st century skills? What is effective technology integration after all?

The right questions to ask

An essential question to start with is “What is technology integration?

Technology integration is a process in which a teacher uses various technology tools to enhance instruction and evaluation, leading to a better learning experience. The process is based on the learning needs of the students, where instruction drives technology, and not the other way around. The design of integrating technology is made while planning lessons.

“What is the role of the teacher in technology integration?”

The teacher is the change agent in education; technology is not. A teacher who is pedagogically well-qualified can develop effective technology integration to enable student-centered instruction. S/he reflects on this integration to pledge that an improved learning experience is underway. In addition, s/he keeps in mind that the transformation technology will bring to learners’ skills is the essence of technology enhanced learning and not the use of technology by itself.

“What is the relationship between pedagogy and technology in learning?”

This analogy by Fletcher (1996) clarifies the real role of technology in learning:

“When you go to the hardware store to buy a drill, you do not actually want a drill, you want a hole. They do not sell holes at the hardware store, but they do sell drills, which are the devices used to make holes. We must not lose sight that technology, for the most part, is a tool, and it should be used in applications which address educational concerns.”

How could we turn this analogy into practice? What would help teachers choose the right tools to achieve a desired outcome? How could we help teachers to focus not only on technology, per se, but also as a medium for enhanced learning?

How do we get there?

1. Teachers’ perception of technology in learning
Technology is not the panacea; passionate teachers are. Teachers know that technology is here to stay. They should also know that it is not here to replace them. However, as per Dr.  Ray Clifford: “Technology won’t replace teachers, but teachers who don’t use technology will soon be replaced.”

It is crucial to remind teachers that with the disruptive technology inventions emerging every day, it is a no brainer to incorporate technology in learning. Recent trends in education such as mobile learning, adaptive learning and the like will change the role of the teacher from ‘a sage on the stage’ to ‘a guide on the side’. Consequently, the learning environment will nurture independent learners and help them thrive. Passionate teachers are ready to do whatever it takes for a better learning experience for the students.

2. Teachers’ training on effective technology integration

Though training on hardware and software is essential, it does not guarantee an enhanced learning experience for the students. Using technology in learning should be underpinned by profound pedagogical principles; it should be a driver for authentic learning. Furthermore, it should facilitate critical thinking, problem solving, creativity and innovation through communication and collaboration.
The training should introduce some models to help teachers assess and evaluate technology infusion in learning. Models such as SAMR and TPACK should be introduced in training programmes. However, there is no master framework for effective use of technology in learning. A critical success factor here is reflection and the sharing of best practices. Teachers should be trained on how to embed technology integration in instructional preparation. Implementation of technology integration is then observed and reflected on by peers and superintendents.

3.  Teachers should have a voice in technology integration

They should be involved in the decision-making processes, which include training plans, software assortment and implementation mechanisms. Teachers who work closely with learners are the most suitable prospects to make reliable decisions in this regard.

Technology integration as a process

As mentioned earlier, technology integration is a process that is incorporated in lesson planning. It is not about picking up an app and forcing it into teaching to make it more attractive. With pedagogy steering the process, the first step is to identify the learning objectives. Typically, the teacher will then decide on the methods and assessment tools to achieve learning objectives in a student-centered learning environment.

This is when the teacher should start looking for technology’s help with the guidance of the following questions: Compared to the traditional tools, other than making the lesson more attractive, how can technology help the students ‘explore’ a concept (if exploration is the chosen method to use)? Can this be made in a differentiated approach? Can they produce a product using it? If so, can they share this product using an online channel? What value will this add to their learning experience? How can technology improve formative assessment and make it more personalized?
Nonetheless, this does not mean that all the different technology-based aspects must be applied in a single lesson. It is critical once the teacher finds some answers and take them to practice in the classroom that s/he reflects and evaluates this practice.
So while shopping for a drill, keep in mind that if it were not because of the hole that you want to make, the drill would have seemed insignificant to you.

The article is also posted  to InnovateMySchool here

All rights reserved to Bashaer M. Al Kilani @bashaierk © 2016

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