In today’s ever-evolving technological world, teachers need to figure out how to integrate technology in the classroom. In fact, the 2009 Speak Up survey finds that schools are losing relevancy as students turn to technology outside of the classroom and take their educational destiny into their own hands. “For these students, the schoolhouse, the teacher and the textbook no longer have an exclusive monopoly on knowledge, content or even the education process. These students are leveraging a wide range of learning resources, tools, applications, outside experts and each other to create a personalized learning experience that may or may not include what is happening in the classroom.”
The 2009 Speak Up survey also found that, “Students, regardless of community demographics, socio-economic backgrounds, gender, and grade, tell us year after year that the lack of sophisticated use of emerging technology tools in school is, in fact, holding back their education – and in many ways disengages them from learning.” However, there are more and more school districts coming up with plans to implement educational technology in the classroom. For some it is a slow process, but others have already discovered effective ways to incorporate technology into school activities. The following schools show how to integrate technology in the classroom:
Michael Randall, the principal of Orinda Intermediate School in California started creating his own podcast two years ago as suggested by a parent.1 Randall’s initial intent was to provide another means of communications to help keep parents informed about upcoming school events. These podcasts have been used to highlight events and activities for the upcoming week and to spotlight accomplishments of students and staff, not to mention the entire school. “When we surveyed our community at the end of last year, 100% of those who responded said that they were very satisfied with the communication from the school,” says Michael Randall. “We attribute this directly to the use of the podcasts.” He continues, “I believe it is vital to take advantage of the technology and not be afraid to do it.”
Robinson Middle School in Plano, Texas issued netbooks to 350 eighth-graders as part of a pilot program in November 2009.2 The netbooks were programmed with access to personal directories at home and for school, and included an icon on the desktop that links directly to the district’s network for students and staff. This capability not only alleviates the students from needing to transport files between school and home, it also allows students to print documents to most of the school’s printers. Mary Hewett, executive director of the district’s instructional technology department states that, “Things have changed in the way some instruction is done in the classroom. With this program, the students are learning the same curriculum, but using a device to help them. We want to help the students find new and unique ways to learn and understand their work and excel.”
This type of technology has also allowed for more flexibility. For example, during a snow day students are still able to work on assignments. Integrating educational technology in the classroom is also beneficial for teachers since they no longer need to make paper copies for everyday assignments, nor do they have to send students to the school’s computer lab to work on electronic assignments. Robinson principal, Billie Jean Lee, said the students have embraced the new avenue of learning and seem very motivated. “I’ve seen kids that are highly engaged in the learning,” she said. “They seem more excited about it because it involves technology, which plays a huge role in their lives inside and outside of school.” And because of the increased motivation to be engaged in class work, Lee can attribute an improvement in grades to the netbook project.
While schools across the country ban cell phones, Wiregrass High School in Wesley Chapel, Florida tells students to bring their cell phones to class.3 Since most of the 2,000 students have cell phones, the principal thought it would make no sense to ban this technology from the school when it could be used as a teaching tool. Students have to register their cell phone numbers with their teachers, who can then send out mass text messages for class assignments and more. Students can also use their cell phones to take pictures of the chalkboard, pass on school notes, access their teachers’ blog and even download entire lessons. Although the principal knows that students could technically use this technology in the classroom to cheat or beat the system, the students at this A-rated school do the right thing. The cell phones are only on in class when permitted by their teacher.
The use of educational technology in the classroom is rapidly growing, but there are still plenty of innovations teachers can include. The U.S. Department of Education’s Evaluation of the Enhancing Education Through Technology Program: Final Report (2009), found that with some technology-related advanced development for teachers, instructional practices involving technology have substantially increased. This report also uncovered these top ways teachers are using technology in the classroom:
There are many advantages to implementing technology in the classroom for elementary students and throughout all education levels. As the world becomes increasingly technologically advanced, it is more and more important that children are not intimidated by it. Not only does technology help teachers plan lessons, but it can also be very beneficial in helping students of all ages gain imperative knowledge. There is also governmental legislation in place, such as the Enhancing Education Through Technology program, that requires all students to be technologically literate by the eighth grade. This is ensured by the Government Performance and Results Act program that assesses the percentage of eighth grade students who meet state technology requirements.
As a teacher, you see the importance of technology and are always looking for new ways to integrate technology in the classroom. You also recognize how beneficial it is for you to acquire the latest specialized skills and instructional techniques only found in a comprehensive advanced degree program. But you are also well aware of the major obstacles that interfere with obtaining your master’s degree: time constraints and work commitments in a high-pressure environment of soaring expectations and dwindling resources.
1 Principal Podcasts Get to the Point, Education World, February 15, 2010
2 Robinson Eighth-Graders Selected To Test NetBooks, Plano Courier Star, March 1, 2010
3 Bring Your Cell Phone to School, Fox News.com, December 10, 2009