Technology in the Classroom

I’m currently living my dream job. The American School of Bombay embraces innovation and preparing our students for the future: “The future is now at ASB – Technology is an integral part of ASB to support creativity and innovation, so that students actively participate in shaping the future.”  

ASB is a mission driven school, We inspire all of our students to continuous inquiry, empowering them with the skills, courage, optimism, and integrity to pursue their dreams and enhance the lives of others.”, and technology plays an important role in actualising this mission.  We are surrounded by human resources to help make this happen.  Our tech team support us by being a part of our planning and teaching and providing professional development through various avenues: blogs, online learning platforms (ASB Academy), and, on-site conferences (ASBUnplugged). We have tech support on each floor that support us minute by minute to ensure a smooth flow throughout the day. There is also an onsite research and development team who are constantly innovating and exploring new technologies. I’m literally surrounded with technology and it’s so much a part of our everyday lives that I hadn’t realised how infused it is – it’s in my DNA.  Technology is an important part of who we are and supports us in our endeavors to live the school mission.

This is the big picture.  So what does it look like in my classroom?

Students use their laptop throughout the day for a variety of purposes.  Read more about my thoughts on technology integration.  I would say that technology is used at various points of the SAMR model. It is used to substitute many school related activities/tasks which often makes us more efficient at what we do.  For example, students might use an online dictionary to find word meanings rather than traditional dictionaries.  The print dictionaries are still there, but not often utilized as they find it faster on their laptop. Laptops are used for skill practice (e.g. IXL), research (online databases), reading (a suite of online reading resources are available).  But for all these uses, we still do them in other ways too.  For example, we do math skill practice through simple games, we do research using informational books, we read self-selected literature from our school libraries.  Technology is used to do not only enhance learning in these ways, but to transform learning and create new tasks – previously inconceivable.  For example, students have opportunities to create their own media (images, videos, digital stories), contribute to global projects (e.g. If You Lived Here, Hour of Code), and have an authentic and global audience for their work (blogs). 

Photo by ASB
Photo by ASB

I like the categories that @amandashaw used to describe tech usage:  Research, Collaboration, Publishing, Communication. Technology is used for all of these purposes in my classroom.  See where they fit when I describe a typical day using technology:

Students arrive to school and follow some routines including taking their laptop from their bag and putting in the laptop storage shelves. They’ve learned to manage their laptop by bringing it to school charged, and know how to take care of their device. Later that morning, a group of students are investigating words with particular latin/greek derivatives and use online dictionaries to search word meanings. During math workshop, an independent math group may use IXL to review content while another group is using iPads to explore tessellation using an application like Amaziograph.  While involved in a provocation exploring the central idea connected to the unit of inquiry students use a backchannel such as TodaysMeet to record questions, observations, wonderings. Later in self directed independent work on their projects students are using our online research hub to find suitable resources for their research topic while others are finding images to support their digital photostory using VoiceThread.  During the reading workshop, some students may blog about their reading on the class blog. There may be some students publishing their written work during writing workshop using google apps.  Later on, students reflect on a recent field trip to see a musical event and do so by relistening to parts of the performance on their computers and write a response on their e-Portfolio (google site). And just like that, our busy day is done. Students go home and may continue working on some of their projects at home.

Photo by ASB
Photo by ASB

My goals is to support and facilitate students’ learning and help kids acquire tools and attitudes to be successful in an ever increasing complex and technology-rich world. The best place to do this is school as they can experiment, build confidence, and take risks with a safety net.

A technology rich classroom is like cooking.  There are many ingredients, you need to balance all the ingredients, the quality of the ingredients matter, and they all impact the end result.  Also, like cooking you have to keep testing and modifying to keep the perfect balance.


flickr photo shared by NicoleAbalde under a Creative Commons ( BY-ND ) license

May your classroom be blended perfectly for optimal student learning and engagement.

Tech Integration

There is much out there describing tech integration – what it is and what it isn’t – and the shape that technology is taking in the classroom.  Some key words you’ll come across include:  routine, transparent, daily, ongoing, continuous.  Definitions abound including that of wikipedia.  Here is one of my best fit definitions:   

Seamless integration is when students are not only using technology daily, but have access to a variety of tools that match the task at hand and provide them the opportunity to build a deeper understanding of content.“ Edutopia, 2007 

As an educator, I’ve spent significant time overthinking the definition in an attempt to figure out if I am really doing IT <tech integration>.  I’ve spent many hours thinking about it and wondering ‘Am I integrating?’ thinking to myself that there would be some magical moment that I would suddenly feel like… I was NOW integrating.

I would beat myself up thinking I was not doing enough, not planned enough, not current enough and failed to see that all this time I’ve been on an integration continuum.  There is not a discrete point in time (from yesterday to today) that I will be able to say that yesterday I was not integrating but today I am, because it really is too fluid and multi-faceted to think one act or characteristic of integration would be enough.

What I can say is that it will keep changing as what satisfies me today will not be enough tomorrow; that the goal post will keep moving – again it is not a discrete point in time.  Going back to the definition, I gravitate towards this one as it is vague enough and open to interpretation and focuses on deeper understanding – which is the goal with or without technology.

But to satisfy myself, I’ve created my own self assessment around tech integration and I think these points will stay true even though other things may change (like the tools I use, the planning of the use of technology etc).  If these six things are happening I know that I have the foundations in place for technology usage which enhances learning.  These are my key indicators…

  • Technology usage happens on a routine basis.  It is not on the schedule.
  • I am the primary technology teacher.
  • The use of technology in my classroom supports the school mission and our student-generated classroom goals.
  • Students don’t ask ‘Can I do this on my computer?’
  • Students are creators and consumers and connectors.
  • Students use a variety of tools to investigate, organize, collaborate, communicate, create their knowledge, skills, and understandings.

Other tools that are helpful to evaluate technology integration are the SAMR model, and the TPACK Framework.  The SAMR model is my preferred choice due to its four levels.  But it wasn’t enough until I started to look at it with concrete examples in mind. I struggled  to think of my own examples of redefinition and therefore this level was put way out of my reach.  This was until I read of lessons transformed through SAMR and practical examples on the difference between transformation vs enhancement  that I could see that I was already well on the way.

The power of technology integration lies really in the hands of the users – that is the teachers and students.  It is going to look different in every single classroom, in every single school as it is the sum of the philosophies of the teacher, the school vision and values, and the current context.  

What does technology integration look like in my classroom?

  • Students in charge of establishing agreements for tech usage
  • Students choosing from a variety of tools to learn
  • Students choosing from a variety of tools to share their learning
  • Students learning from each other

What are my next steps

  • students using technology to connect with a global audience
  • look for new ways to redefine old lessons and units
  • students continue to build their tech toolbox
Photo by author.
Image by author.

 

Edutopia. (2007, November 5).  What is Successful Technology Integration.:  George Lucas Educational Foundation.  Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/technology-integration-guide-description