How Integrated Tech Tools Help Meet the Needs of Students and Teachers
Technology integration is the use of technology resources—computers, mobile devices, digital cameras, social networking platforms, software applications, the internet, etc.—in daily teaching and learning practices, and in the management of a school. But simply having and using technology does not mean it’s “integrated.” Successful integration of tech tools is achieved when the use of technology is:
- Accessible and available for the task at hand
- Routine and transparent
- In support of students reaching their curricular goals
When technology integration is at its best, students and teachers don’t stop and think that they are using tech tools. It’s seamless, and because of that, students are often more actively engaged in learning.
It’s important to keep in mind that seamless integration is not an automatic outcome of the use of technology, either. It happens only when students are using technology daily and have access to a variety of tech tools that match the task at hand and offer the opportunity to build a deeper understanding of content. Seamless integration also depends on the kinds of technology available, how much access one has to technology, and who is using the tech tools. Willingness to embrace technology—from both teachers and students—is also a requirement for successful tech integration.
Integrated tech tools can help meet the needs of students.
When effectively integrated into the curriculum, technology tools can enhance student engagement and extend learning in new and exciting ways. Properly integrated technology provides students with:
- Access to up-to-date primary source materials
- Opportunities to express their understanding and mastery on multimedia platforms
- Relevant learning that meets students where they are
- Authentic assessment that guides further instruction
Additionally, effectively integrated tech tools aid students in developing 21st century skills, like:
- personal and social responsibility
- planning, critical thinking, reasoning, and creativity
- strong interpersonal communication skills, as well as those for presentation needs
- cross-cultural understanding
- visualizing and decision making
- knowing how and when to use technology and choosing the most appropriate tool for the task
Effective tech integration must happen across the curriculum to truly deepen and enhance the learning process, not just in a separate computer class that teaches basic skills. In particular, it must support four key components of learning: active engagement, participation in groups, frequent interaction and feedback, and connection to real-world experts. When this happens, students are more equipped to take responsibility for their learning outcomes.
Integrated tech tools can help meet the needs of teachers, too.
For teachers, the first step in successfully integrating technology tools is understanding the shift that may need to occur in your approach to teaching. When we bring tech tools into the classroom, the teacher is no longer the center of attention. The amount of refocused attention will typically depend on the type of technology brought into the classroom and the level of technology integration. However, by no means does this mean that the teacher is no longer essential to the learning process for students. In fact, effectively integrated tech tools provide teachers with worthwhile benefits, as well. Two of the most important benefits are:
- Ways to collaborate with students, other teachers and colleagues, and subject matter experts
- Cohesive methods of collecting and recording student data
In order to experience the most benefits from integrating technology in the classroom, keep in mind those levels of technology integration that we mentioned before. Mary Beth Hertz lists the four levels of technology integration as:
- Sparse: Technology is rarely used or available. Students rarely use technology to complete assignments or projects.
- Basic: Technology is used or available occasionally—often in a lab rather than the classroom. Students are comfortable with one or two tools and sometimes use these tools to create projects that show understanding of content.
- Comfortable: Technology is used in the classroom on a fairly regular basis. Students are comfortable with a variety of tools and often use these tools to create projects that show understanding of content.
- Seamless: Students employ technology daily in the classroom using a variety of tools to complete assignments and create projects that show a deep understanding of content.
Technology is continuously, and rapidly, evolving. It is an ongoing process and demands continual learning. Undoubtedly, the closer we can get to seamless integration, the more beneficial technology tools will be for teaching and learning.