Let's face it. Technology is a powerful classroom tool. It makes teaching easier, increases the enjoyment of learning, improves student engagement, boosts collaboration between learners, and enhances student engagement. Technology also makes distance learning more accessible, helps track students' progress better, and is good for the environment. These are just a few ways that technology in the classroom boosts learning.
But to enjoy the benefits cited above, you must integrate technology in the classroom. Too often it isn't. Instead, it's kept separate. That's not the best approach to using technology. When technology is at its best, neither the students nor the teachers are aware they're using it. Instead, it works below the radar, allowing students and instructors to focus on the learning task at hand. That’s the ideal and what teachers should try to achieve.
Defining Technology Integration
So, what does it mean to integrate technology in the classroom? Here's one explanation of what it means:
"Effective integration of technology is achieved when students are able to select technology tools to help them obtain information in a timely manner, analyze and synthesize the information, and present it professionally. The technology should become an integral part of how the classroom functions -- as accessible as all other classroom tools."
This definition comes from the National Educational Technology Standards for Students, International Society for Technology in Education via the website Edutopia.org.
When technology is integrated into the classroom, it provides students and teachers numerous advantages that other learning tools can’t offer, such as:
• Provides access to updated primary source materials
• Facilitates data collection and recording
• Helps connect with students and teachers worldwide
• Generates learning that is relevant and assessment that is authentic
• Trains students to present/publish their new knowledge
With so much to offer, it’s no wonder that integrating technology in the classroom is a priority at many schools.
Easy Ways to Integrate Technology
But today’s teachers have a lot going on at one time, like preparing lessons plans, grading students, prepping students for tests, meeting standards, and so on. It’s a heavier workload than teachers have had in the past. So many see integrating technology as just one more thing to add to their workload. But the payoff from integrating technology in the classroom is often big for both teachers and students.
Below are five proven ways to integrate technology in the classroom. All are easy to do for even the most technophobic teacher.
• Create game show-based reviews — Some teachers use Microsoft PowerPoint to create subject reviews based on popular game shows, like "Jeopardy" or "The Weakest Link." It's a fun and easy way to conduct reviews. And it's not hard to do. Plenty of templates exists online that can help. All you have to do is add content.
• Conduct multimedia presentations — Microsoft PowerPoint is a powerful communication tool that teachers don't always use to its full advantage. Beefing up a PowerPoint presentation with photographs, diagrams, sound effects, music, and so on, livens up a boring lecture. In high schools, you can have the students create the slides and give the presentations.
• Employ online worksheets — Worksheets can engage students during class time and promote learning. They're a good option for teachers worn out trying to come up with daily seatwork assignments. A good example of an original worksheet is Education World's Writing Bugs, which focuses on creative writing activity. The website offers other worksheets in a wide variety of curriculum areas.
• Develop a class blog or wiki — Blogs and wikis are great classroom tools. They're also easy ways to integrate technology into the classroom. Teachers can use blogs to drive outside-the-class discussion on a topic or expand on one. They can use wikis to get students to work together to generate information on a topic they’re studying. They can also get students to correct each other's work.
• Make science a daily event — There’s a big emphasis these days on science. But getting a daily or even a weekly science lesson into the teaching mix is a challenge. Just ask any science teacher. Online resources, like NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day, or Universities Space Research Association’s Earth Science Picture of the Day, can help. You might even be able to use both on the same day.
These are just a few ways teachers can integrate technology into the classroom. Dozens of others exist. Many are easier to integrate into the classroom than teachers think. In fact, you might say that the ways you can integrate technology in the classroom are limited only by a teacher’s imagination.
Of course, how you integrate technology depends on the grade level you teach. What works for a junior high student might not work for a high school student, and vice versa. Nevertheless, integrating technology in a classroom is a powerful way to promote and extend learning, and the payoff from using it is big. The key is finding ways to employ technology without taking time away from your core subjects.