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 Guide to Easily IntegrateTechnology into Teaching

Are you feeling pressured to integrate technology into your K-12 curriculum? Do you feel overwhelmed and under-prepared for the information age? Whether you are a student teacher, first-year teacher, or veteran teacher new to technology, this article provides ideas you can use to assess where you are and to plan for the future. Included: Six steps for integrating technology painlessly plus Web sites and tips to motivate reluctant or fearful educators.

Are you tired of unused computers taking up space in your room? Are you a first-year teacher with many dreams but too little time and too few resources? Has your district mandated that each teacher begin "integrating technology" -- but you're not sure what that means? Have you decided to take the technology plunge -- and don't know where to begin! Let us help!

Integrating technology simply means using computers within the existing curriculum. Technology should not supplant what you usually teach. It should become a tool -- just like a calculator, a pen, or a chalkboard -- that helps you teach and helps your students learn. It's that simple.

ON YOUR MARK: ASSESS YOUR RESOURCES

The first step in determining how to integrate technology into your curriculum is to take a quick assessment of where you are in terms of technology. I've developed this four-point "STAR" approach to technology assessment:

  • Student skills and attitudes: What can students already do with computers and what's their attitude toward technology? Do students have computers and Internet access at home?
  • Teacher skills and attitudes: What can you do on a computer and how do you feel about using computers in the classroom?
  • Access: How much computer time can you and your students get each week? Do you have classroom computers or lab access only? How much lab time is available? How many computers?
  • Resources: What kinds of hardware, software, and training are available? Are computers reliable? Is the available software education software (such as math drills) or productivity software (such as a word processing program)? What types of training (free or paid) are available through your school or community?

Take a moment to pencil (or type!) your thoughts on each of these STAR points. The better you understand the lay of the land, the better you'll know what you need to do to jump-start technology use in your class. Don't let any negative or weak areas depress you. Make an honest evaluation of what you have to work with. Even if you are a beginner with a single computer in your classroom, few training opportunities, and students with no home computers, you can integrate technology into your classroom.

GET SET: GOALS AND PLANNING

Next, consider what you want to accomplish. If your school or district has established expectations for technology use in your classroom, write them down. If you have personal goals ("I want to use spreadsheets in my middle school science class, for example"), write those down as well.

Now, take some time to get ready and get motivated. How?

  • Get wired: Make sure you have Internet access and a reliable computer at home. Both are fairly cheap if you choose low-end service and an older computer. (Choose one with a CD-ROM drive and a 56K modem, if possible).
  • Get inspired: Find peers who already integrate technology, and learn from them. Try to observe a class -- seeing it done right will help motivate you!
  • Get informed: Visit a professional organization's Web site regularly. The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, International Reading Association, National Education Association, and others all provide excellent and constantly updated online resources for teachers. Don't know where to go? Use your favorite search engine to look for the sites of your favorite organizations.
  • Get e-ducated: Subscribe to an e-mail newsletter and access short and relevant articles on educating with technology. Two examples include:
  • Get involved: Sign up for a mail list or another online dialogue, and join teachers in discussions on technology in the classroom. Some examples include these:
  • Get trained: Find out who does technology training in your school or district, and get help if you need it. If you prefer learning at midnight in your bunny slippers, try one of these Web sites:

 

GO! GO! GO!

Enough motivation -- it's time for integration! Take it one step at a time:

  1. Manage with technology: Use technology to manage your classes. Average grades with a spreadsheet, use mail merge to send parent letters, and surf the Internet for lesson plans. Focus on using technology yourself before introducing it to your students.
  2. Start small: Set an initial goal of including technology in one content area or unit a month. Have students write a letter with a word processing program, create a graph in a spreadsheet program, or practice math skills using content software.
  3. Surf in shallow waters: Surfing students misspell site addresses and become distracted by commercial sites. Focus class research by hand-picking relevant, age-appropriate Web sites. For help, check out 42eXplore or the Education World site reviews.
  4. Online learning tools: Learn how to use WebQuests, scavenger hunts, and other online learning tools -- and how to make your own -- at Ed Index. (Click Online Learning Basics on the drop-down menu.)
  5. Test online: Save instructional time and motivate your kids by creating, administering, and grading tests online. Check out the Education World article Motivate While You Integrate Technology: Online Assessment for more information.
  6. Know when to say no: Technology isn't perfect; it can't replace face-to-face teaching. Learn to determine when technology helps -- and hurts -- the learning process and use it accordingly. Your curriculum, not your computer, should be the focus of technology integration.

No matter what you know -- or don't know -- about technology, no matter how many computers you have, no matter how skilled your students are, you can integrate technology. Remain confident, flexible, and enthusiastic and you will succeed.


Article by Lorrie Jackson
Education World®
Copyright © 2002 Education World

 

5/8/2002
Updated 05/26/2005
 

 

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