I have recently moved out of the classroom and into a new role in my school. I am now a Technology Integration Coach in the Middle School and High School. When starting a new role there is always a learning curve. My head is swimming with trying to get a grip on my new job and how I can be an asset to the teachers in the school and the students they teach. I think the most meaningful way I can use this assignment is to assess my Technology integration in previous years to see if a pattern emerges. As with most teachers I have my “go to” activities and that includes tech. There are things that I do well but in many circumstances there are ways in which I could have integrated technology that I just didn’t attempt because there was some real or imagined roadblock keeping me from working in this way. It will be good for me to know because the wonderful people that I work with are likely expecting a balanced approach.
I definitely integrated technology better as a Grade 3 homeroom teacher than I did as a specialist. My class was not one to one with their devices but I did invite them to bring in their own devices toward the end of the school year in order to prepare for the 1:World (as we call it at AIS-R) experience. Based on the SAMR model I would say that I lived comfortably in Modification. I would like to believe that I hit Redefinition but i am not so sure about that. I frequently tried to push collaborative work by signing out Chromebooks and having the students work using Google Docs and slides. I had them collaborate on Slideshows and peer edit writing by sharing and giving comment only rights to friends and family. We used apps like iMovie, Nearpod, iMotion, Google Forms, QR Code Readers on the 5 class iPads. We even used an app for signing out books. Despite only having limited access to technology integration was a regular member of our class.
Moving into the STEM lab made tech integration more of a challenge. That year the Grade 3’s joined the 1:World ranks so half of all my classes had their own iPads. My KG2, Grade 1 and Grade 2 classes were limited to the five iPads per class. Being a specialist class meant that I had to make arrangement to have students bring devices to class and that wasn’t always easy. At times it wasn’t convenient to drop students off with their devices. If they had just been at recess for example and bringing iPads meant making a detour back to class to go get them. In the ECE classes some teachers didn’t even have them out of the cupboard where they locked them up the previous night. Or they weren’t charged. Or they forgot to bring them. I had a lot less control over access to technology as a specialist teacher than as a homeroom teacher.
I also had limited time with each class. The schedule called for me to meet classes once every six school day cycle (eight actual days) for about 45 minutes per class. I met with each of my classes about eight times per trimester or 24or 25 times a year.
In my first year of STEM I struggled with Technology Integration. Having limited time with students and a lack of control related to access to tech I couldn’t create a solid plan for integrating it into my lessons and learning activities and assessments. I largely focussed on the fourth and fifth grade classes where students all had their own devices and where I could lay the responsibility of bringing iPads in the hands of the students. The classrooms were closer to my STEM lab as well which made it easy to send a student or a small group of students back to class if they forgot to bring their iPads to class. The model I used for integration of technology was definitely Project based where they used the iPad to document progress in the STEM projects they were creating and do a little research on how they could improve their design. Still, more could be done.
Last year Technology Integration changed for the better in the Elementary School at AIS-R. With the launch of our Tech Task Force (of which I was a member) led by Sean Walmsley there was a real focus on exploring the ways that technology could be integrated into the all areas of the curriculum. The task force gave teachers a framework and guidance as to where technology could be used. We were also given substantial PL time to “tinker” and build our own capacity and comfort with technology. The initiative was a big success. Technology integration was now in the forefront of our thinking and planning of instructional practices and learning activities. Everybody was better with Tech Integration and it filtered into specialist classes as well. I still had the occasional struggle with limited access in some classes but most everyone was on the same page with Technology Integration – it was a focus!
This year I am leading my own task force with the Middle School and I hope to learn from and implement many of the hugely successful elements of the Elementary School Task Force. Instead of focusing on specific apps Sean designed the task force to follow work flows. Examples include Broadcast/Podcast and Create, Revise and Publish. What I really liked about this approach is that even though specific core apps were taught there were options to deviate from those apps and try something different. This type of differentiation will be essential because in the sixth and seventh grade the iPad is the required device but the eighth graders are required to have laptops. We are planning our Task Force to center around the ISTE Standards for Students.
As I reflect on the way I have integrated technology in the past I feel good about the numerous ways I have tried to integrate technology. When I take a deeper look I consider that there have been too many times where I focused on being the expert. In order to do that I limited the choices students had to just one or two applications. I believe that one advantage of integrating technology in the classroom is that it motivates students to learn. According to Daniel Pink intrinsic motivation is more effective for complex and creative tasks than extrinsic motivation. Students are more highly motivated when they have choice and some autonomy in how and what they learn. If one of my greatest challenges is that students use different devices with different operating systems and have different applications installed then I need to turn this challenge into an opportunity by giving choice. We are talking about moving the focus away from the device in our school tech plan. We have developed a culture of effective tech integration in the ES and the technological capacity coming into the MS from the ES is at an all time high. My task is now to harness this capacity by giving a broad choice and overview for teachers so that they can unleash that choice on their students.