Thursday, 18 April 2013

Three phases of integrating technology in the classroom

Three phases of integrating technology in the classroom
Any teacher that can be replaced by technology deserves to be.
David Thornburg

Integrating technology is a challenging prospect but it doesn’t have to be. The above quote is important to bear in mind throughout this article as successful integration of technology is as much about the teacher and their ability to bring learning to life as it is about the use of technology.

The three phases of digital integration is not a best-practice checklist but rather an insight into a typical implementation plan.

When considering any new teaching initiative it’s important not to view the phases as a hierarchy − no single phase is more or less significant. Some may be more suitable than others or in some circumstances it may be appropriate to use multiple phases.

Phase One – delivering dynamic lessons

Phase one is where most teachers start and involves a teacher using technology to deliver a dynamic lesson or presentation to students. In this sense technology simply replaces a standard whiteboard or overhead projector. This stage often involves a teacher using their own computer or tablet with some sort of multimedia presentation station. It can involve the use of e-whiteboards, PowerPoint decks and keynote presentations and video tutorials. Really, anything that captures student’s attention.

Teachers often move into phase two integration once they have become comfortable with phase one and once they have embedded it into content delivery and lesson structures. Phase two also dictates that students have access to a laptop/PC, tablet or other internet-enabled device.

Phase two – accessing content knowledge

Typically in phase two, textbooks are replaced by electronic forms of information. In other words, students are using technology to access content knowledge. In many cases the lesson is traditional with the lesson outcome often being a research paper, completed test or worksheet – the key, however, is that students are using online sources to access the content knowledge. This may be in the form of web searches, wiki-spaces or online tutorial videos.

Phase three – transforming the learning process

In phase three, integration is at an advanced stage and in some ways requires a paradigm shift from what we expect in a traditional classroom. Whereas phases one and two are often ways to take technology and instil it in traditional lessons, phase three really begins to change the way teachers teach.

Phase three centres on full integration and is more about getting our content standards infused into twenty-first century skills – communication, collaboration and creation.

How do we do this?

To achieve this in a typical classroom, teachers must first begin to think of students in a different role. We have to start thinking of the student as a producer of information rather than a consumer. In this way, the responsibility and role become a more active and responsive one.

There are many tools available to support this: encouraging students to produce creative output, placing the emphasis on them as an individual and encouraging them to take responsibility for their own work. The key is to set and explain clear objectives and outcomes – communicating what is expected from them by the end of each lesson. Whether this is a traditional paper-based worksheet or a short video, podcast or presentation – learners must be aware of what they will be judged upon and have clear instructions on what is required.

The second part of phase three is to involve students as the publisher and this is where the classroom begins a process of transformation.

Traditionally, work would be handed into their teacher to be marked and then returned with feedback and comments. On occasions, a student may share their work with the class or present to a small group, but generally the teacher will be the only reviewer.

Digital technologies open up the opportunity for students to publish their work to a much wider audience: a classroom, a school, a group or potentially the world. In this way the role of the student changes, using web 2.0 methodologies to reach audiences of reviewers, collaborators and fellow peer publishers.

Whether students have access to laptops/PCs, tablets or smartphones, there are software tools available across all platform types that enable students to publish their work. Transforming the role of the student and increasing the scope for review challenges and engages the learner, provided there are the necessary precautions in place and an effective e-safety policy established. Students are social; they’ve been brought up on a diet of wireless connectivity and social media networking. Therefore, the prospect of reaching a wider audience with their work raises their own expectation levels and input both in terms of time and effort.

Once work has been produced and published, the student then becomes the audience and peer reviewer. Again, thinking about web 2.0 methodologies, work can be rated, commented on and shared. Students become appraisers and if this is structured in the right way using rubrics and other types of assessment models, you can establish an interactive feedback cycle. Accelerating learning and establishing the student as producer, publisher, audience and peer reviewer, raises engagement and fosters the core twenty-first century skills that are becoming so highly sought: communication, collaboration and creation. For teachers, the impetus should be to take our content standards and build them around technology-driven projects that allow students to share what they’ve done.

These phases are not intended as a hierarchy of steps or stages; often, a single lesson can incorporate all three phases. These are simply typical ways that technology can be embedded into the curriculum and they offer a more systematic approach when thinking about how to implement and integrate technology-centric teaching and learning.

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