What is Effective Technology Integration?

March 22, 2009

The Technology Integration page at Edutopia.org provides a good explanation:

Effective Technology Instruction is when its use supports curricular goals. It must support four key components of learning:

  1. active engagement
  2. participation in groups
  3. frequent interaction and feedback
  4. connection to real-world experts

This site also has some excellent exemplary videos and descriptions of effective technology integration in different schools. Keri Hem’s TeacherTube video is another exemplary video: Effective Technology Integration.  Keri  stresses  that the focus be on the learning, not the technology, and that the learning activity needs to be difficult or impossible without the technology.

WAIT! Don’t click the back button yet This is a good starting point to help answer the question, but far from a complete answer.

Effective technology integration also requires a solid understanding of good pedagogy well grounded in solid educational learning theory and principles, such as the supporting principles for Manitoba Education’s Literacy with ICT developmental continuum:

• inquiry
• constructivist learning
• higher-level critical and creative thinking
• reaching deeper understanding
• gradual release of responsibility
• digital citizenship
• multiple literacies for the 21st century

In Avoiding the Digital Abyss: Getting Started in the Classroom with YouTube, Digital Stories, and Blogs – Mullen & Wedwick (2008) wisely recommend that when using digital storytelling, it is important for students to focus on the story first and the digital medium second, otherwise the stories can be weak and overpowered by the technology” (p.68) A similar message is delivered by Jason Ohler inthe March 2009 issue of  Educational Leadership in Orchestrating the Media Collage: “Focus on expression first and technology second and everything will fall into place”.  He also recommends teachers “be the guide on the side rather than the technician magician” (p. 13).

Yet the transformative changes required to allow that shift from “sage on the stage” to “guide on the side” have shown to cause confusion and conflict in teacher belief systems as outlined by Chao-Hsiu Chen in Why do teachers not practice what they believe regarding technology integration? “Educational reform may encourage teachers to integrate technology to engage students in activities of problem-solving, critical thinking and collaborative learning, but a culture emphasizing competition and a high-stakes assessment system can strongly discourage teachers from undertaking such innovative initiatives.” (p. 73)

Perhaps this  helps  explain why of the 55  industry sectors recently ranked by their level of IT intensiveness, education was ranked 55:

This suggests that intensive technology integration is not going to happen due to the efforts of a few innovative school leaders. This is going to take extensive education reform and  include all the stakeholders: parents, students, educators, administrators, school board members, ministry and elected officials.

Has this reformation begun? Yes. Some schools would even report that it’s already happened. In my school I see the beginnings of some crucial components coming together, including division and school administrator support. Shifts are being made in how we assess students and how we work together in a school-wide and global culture of collaboration and inquiry.

And many resources are available for those ready to make the shift. In All Aboard and School-wide Technology Integration a focus on collaborative planning between teachers, teacher-librarian and other school specialists to plan and implement 21st century skill adoption is demonstrated and explained.

Resource lists like those available at www.futurekids.org & Technology Integration Made Easy have some good tips, but do little to move towards the transformative changes needed to fully integrate the 20th century skills and attitudes.  One excellent resource and example to fully integrate those skills and attitudes is laid out in the grade 4, 8 & 12 21st century skills Map by Dave Nagel, Partnership for 21st Century Skills Debuts ’21st Century Skills and English Map, from T.H.E. Journal ( November 2008).

Can the efforts of a few  innovative school leaders make a difference? Yes! Teacher-librarians and IT specialists are in a  unique position to work with others in the learning community and all the educators in a school towards a common vision grounded in good pedagogy.

img_06241img_06231

Rhonda Morrissette, Mike Friesen, Jo-Anne Gibson and Heather Eby sharing ideas for integrating Web 2.0 tools at a recent Manitoba School Library Association Literacy and Information Technology Forum

I’ve jotted down a few ideas below that I either have or would like to demonstrate how technology will assist student learning in all stages of the inquiry process:

Planning

  • Concept mapping
  • create assessment criteria using a spreadsheet or desktop publisher

Retrieving

  • Best searching strategies including paid subscription sites and newspaper, magazine and journal databases
  • Social bookmarking & RSS feeds
  • iTunes podcasts
  • Collecting Primary Data  using digital cameras, e-mail, videoconferencing, GPS, online surveys and online artifacts.

Processing

Creating

  • wikis to gather information, collaborate & demonstrate learning & synthesize
  • create reports, maps, spreadsheets & charts
  • presentation software like PowerPoint/Slideshare
  • multimedia software like MovieMaker or PhotoStory
  • web pages
  • blog – analysis, reflection and exchanging views
  • Citation software/tools – Citation Maker/Reference Tools in Microsoft Office 2007

Sharing

  • demonstrate learning in a wiki, podcast, videocast, website,
  • mashup, movie, blog, animation, comic book format (using Comic Life software), or essay

Evaluating

  • Blog comments
  • Flow chart

And all the while with teachers assessing, and students reflecting on the process using blogs, electronic journals, e-mail, podcasts, video or digital photograph portfolios. (Focus on Inquiry: Alberta Learning, Alberta, Canada, 2004 & Manitoba Education’s Literacy with ICT developmental continuum).

So what makes effective technology integration? The important thing to know is that no educator is alone in this. To integrate technology effectively requires a full team effort. It recognizes and honours the strengths and gifts that each student, staff and community member can bring to student learning. It allows students to learn and  demonstrate understanding of their learning using the best tools and resources available.

More on this next week . . . . .

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The Digital Divide and the Teacher-librarian

February 8, 2009

  • the belief that people, communities and organizations need universal and equitable access to information, ideas and works of imagination for their social, educational, cultural, democratic and economic well-being
  • the conviction that delivery of high quality library and information services helps guarantee that access
    (2 of 4 core values – International Federation of Library Association)

The differential between groups’ effective access to digital information is a concern on global, national, provincial and community levels.

Globally the digital divide is evident between developing and developed countries. Strategies to bridge that divide include the “One Laptop per Child” initiative .

In North America the digital divide has been shown to exist between groups based on gender, income and race and includes access to ICTs AND the acquisition of skills required to use them effectively.

In Canada, data collected in 2000 indicates that the lowest income groups “continue to lose ground” for equal access to internet-connected computers. (The Digital Divide in Canada p.5)

In Manitoba the digital divide is most evident between urban and rural areas, and especially remote areas. The situation is so dire on some northern Aboriginal reserves that Winnipeg FreePress columnist Colleen Simard challenged readers in December 2007 to donate through the “Get One Give One” program of the “One Laptop per Child” initiative to put one laptop into the hands of a child in a developing country, and the other to an Aboriginal child in Northern Manitoba.

Our education system strives to promote equity and equality of opportunity. Senior administrators of the division in which I work are committed to providing equal access and equal opportunity for their students, as evidenced by the following policy.

INTEGRATION OF TECHNOLOGY GOALS Within the resources available, The Winnipeg School Division No.1 will strive towards the following goal:  Students will have equitable access to a variety of technologies to enhance learning and productivity across the curricula.

So what is it a Teacher-librarian can do in his/her little corner of the world?

I think a starting point is by learning as much as possible about your students, staff and community. Access to technology in homogenous affluent neighborhoods may not be as great a concern as in schools in mixed or lower income neighborhoods. Skill levels of teachers to teach the necessary information and communication technology skills may be more lacking in some schools than others, and barriers like internet filtering differ greatly between school divisions.

To further examine what role I could take to even the digital playing field, I’m going to refer to the four levels of influence as shown in this model developed by mmardis and posted on the AASLBlog .

digital-divide

Access – I conducted a survey with staff and students in the spring of 2007  shortly after I arrived at my adult high school. When I looked at the data to compare percentage of staff and students in our different programs with internet access outside of school – the evidence of a digital divide is shocking:

• Staff – 84%

• Grade 12 Students – 70%

• Grade 9-11 /EAL Students – 57%

• Adolescent Parent Centre – 56%

• Basic Ed. Program (Gr.2 to 9) – 28%

Our staff prides itself on providing equality of opportunity for our students. Looking at these results will no doubt help our technology committee make decisions to provide even more opportunities to interact with technology to those groups with the least amount of access outside of school. They need  easily accessed, inviting and user-friendly computers that work even more than our grade 12 students, yet have less and older technology available to them. These figures also indicate a need for a laptop lending program.

Teacher-librarians may also be able to help access grant money that is available to increase and address disparities in student access to technology.

Skills –As Heather Eby states in the digitalarithmetic wiki “Many schools have some of the best technology equipment and computer access available, yet if they don’t have the staff, who are willing to make the effort to learn about it and understand the needs of the 21st century learner, than a digital divide exists for our students’ access to the education they require for their future.” Not all teachers in my school have the literacy skills to enable them to teach students to use technology proficiently. mmardis asserts that  Web 2.0 tools are gaining in popularity in education, but not all teachers have the skills, motivation or confidence to integrate them into their teaching.

I know from the survey I conducted in 2007 that teachers have expertise in critically analyzing the information available on the internet (p.3) yet only a few staff have started to look at taking full advantage of the potential of integrating blogging, wikis, podcasts and other web 2.0 into their teaching practices. Teacher-librarians can work collaboratively with teachers to continue to strengthen students’ critical web literacy skills, and also include learning experiences that include social bookmarking, blogging, wikis, and other web 2.0 tools as part of inquiry based learning projects. This helps eliminate some of the “technology anxiety” experienced by some teachers and students.

Teacher-librarians can also advocate that technology integration/infusion remain a priority in school professional development planning and take a lead in planning PD opportunities.

Policy – In my last post I made a plea for least restrictive filtering in schools to allow inquiry learning projects and web 2.0 applications. Teacher-librarians will need to continually monitor and advocate for access to the learning resources their students need. They must also advocate for equipment that works well.

Motivation – Given the multitude of concerns pressing overwhelmed teachers today, it’s important to bring issues of equal access to digital resources to the forefront in an efficient, non-threatening manner. All educators want what’s best for their students so it’s important to outline what students need to succeed in today’s society. Student employment and future prospects can be enhanced by careful instruction, integration and infusion of information and communication technology into our programs. This is where a Teacher-librarian can help!


Podcasting

October 13, 2008

Listen to this blog – Talkr

My growing list of favorite podcasts:

I currently subscribe to the following podcasts in iTunes:

  • Doug Johnson’s Breaking Bread and Tech Squawk
  • The Library Channel
  • School Library Journal
  • Alan November
  • 2¢ worth Podcasts with David Warlick
  • Teaching with SMARTBoard
  • Women of the Web 2.0

My latest new habit that really works for me is I use my daughter’s iPod hand-me-down to listen to podcasts (as well as music). I particularly enjoy podcasts by Joyce Valenza, Alan November and Joan Fry Williams for daily inspiration and ideas on my walk to work.

Why Podcast?

In Manitoba, podcasting is included in our Literacy with ICT Continuum as one way for students to communicate their learning:
C-2.1 discusses information, ideas, and/or electronic work using tools for electronic communication (examples: email, electronic whiteboards, web pages, threaded discussions, videoconferences, chats, instant messages, camera phones, wikis, blogs, podcasts, online whiteboards…)
C-3.1 adjusts communication based on self-evaluation and feedback from a global audience

Many reasons for podcasting in schools are explained in the “Why Podcast” podcast made available at http://blogs.wsd1.org/podcasts/.

In this podcast teacher Jean Haldarson explains why she and her students podcast:

  • podcasting requires students to read, write, speak and listen as well as develops a willingness to write draft after draft of scripts in preparation to podcast to the web
  • higher level thinking skills – for example students may need to synthesize science learning
  • most of the podcasting process is spent in the upper level of high level thinking
  • it requires students to work together – podcasts with multiple authors require each student assigned one segment of the project
  • rise in self-esteem & confidence / students learning along with adults to create the podcast

Robert Craven provides many reasons for administrators to podcast including communicating better with parents and community.

Reasons that I find compelling for using podcasts for professional development include:

– they’re easy to distribute
– podcasts can be uploaded to a personal listening device and busy teachers can listen at their leisure or while they’re exercising or doing mundane household chores.

Tony Vincent also made a great suggestion for a classroom application of podcasting in his manual Podcasting for Teachers and students. He suggested interviewing important people. He also provides the information for the software needed to record an interview through Skype to later import into Audacity. This way students can interview an expert from far away.

Making My First Podcast

Here’s the link to my school blog where I posted my first podcast. I took the opportunity to podcast how I created an .mp3 file using Audacity (instead of explaining myself in writing for a change).

Podcasting for Teachers and students by Tony Vincent guided me to Levelator software which made my first attempt at podcasting sound so much easier to listen to and smoother. I remember having different students narrate into Photostory 3 software. Quite often the variation in the volume of speech from child to child was quite distracting, so I really appreciate the value of the free little Levelator download. I also followed the steps in Vincent’s handy manual to add information, details and artwork in iTunes so that it would be labeled properly for anyone who decided to download it into iTunes.

I posted this improved podcast through SolidCasts which is one of the online hosting services suggested in Tony Vincent’s manual. It can be heard here. This podcast also appears on a very plain looking webpage, but it’s free and it comes with some handy buttons. For example it has the html code and RSS feed buttons and iTunes buttons for subscribing to the podcast series. Unfortunately Bloglines and Microsoft feeds registered an error each time I tried to subscribe using their html code or URLs so I need to seek some advice about this. The site does provide good hints for registering your podcasts in iTunes and other hints for promoting the podcast.

WordPress has a $20.00/year upgrade for uploading 5 GB of video and audio directly into this blog. I was tempted to try it out because I think it looks so much cooler when it’s played right on a blog post, but decided to learn how to use a free service because that way I can better faciliate our adult students to post their podcasts for free.

I posted my first example above on my school blog which is administrated by my school division educational technology consultants. I eventually want to be able to embed my podcasts using the free hosting service “Podango” as in the “Why Podcast” podcast mentioned above. Each time I went to the Podango website and Podango blog I got a “503 Service Unavailable” message. I was able to get in and register on Monday, and am now beginning to learn the process of embedding podcasts into my school’s WordPress blog.

I wish I had come across Ann Bell’s excellent podcast rubric @ http://www.uwstout.edu/soe/profdev/podcastrubric.html before I produced my podcast. After going through the rubric I realize I could have done a much better job by paying attention to a few details such as:

providing my name at the beginning of the podcast instead of at the end

providing the date of the podcast

paying better attention to smooth transitions and pacing

concluding by summarizing the key points

The biggest drawback for podcasting at my school at this point may be the excessive amount of time it takes to produce them. For example it took me 8 hours to research podcasting, then 8 more hours for me to produce my 2:18 minute podcast. I don’t know of any students at Adult Education Centre that could act as mentors to teachers or other students. So for busy teachers at my school, it may require an educational leave to prepare podcasts for use in their classes or as professional development aids. It may also be a hard-sell to convince senior high teachers to readjust their course outlines to allow several hours to facilitate the process for their students.

All in all however there couldn’t have been a better time for me to learn how to podcast. An EAL teacher asked me this week if I could walk her through the steps to do a series of podcasts that she will burn to CDs for her students. We have set aside time next week to go through the process together. One of the technology leaders in the school has asked to sit in too, and we’ve already talked about working together to do podcasting with her students. The World Issues teacher and I have decided to prepare a multimedia presentation for the library on Remembrance Day that will loop throughout the day on November 10. The plan is that students will produce a podcast that will play as part of the presentation. Change is in the air(waves)!

David Loertscher spoke at the Manitoba Special Area Group Teacher Librarian Conference in November, 2007 and concluded his keynote speech with the message: “There is no new technology that you cannot learn”. I feel my foray into learning podcasting proves his point beautifully.