…it’s about learning
First and foremost, technology is just a tool that can be used to meet a learning goal. It can enhance and facilitate learning. Sometimes it makes learning a whole lot better, and sometimes it doesn’t.
The first question to ask in the process of technology integration is ‘what do I want my students to learn?’ The next step is identifying the best tools to help your students achieve those learning goals. The third step is to recognize situations when technology enhances learning and situations when it just might interfere with the learning goals.
An example of bad technology integration, aka what NOT to do (and yes, this really happened!):
The technology integrationist (a teacher who was really enthusiastic about edtech tools) at an elementary school determined that ThingLink would be a good tool for students to use in a unit on mythology. ThingLink is an iPad app that allows you to upload images and then annotate them with text, video, URLs, etc… The annotations appear as targets on the image. Suffice it to say, this is a really cool edtech tool. However, it was also a really bad match for the students’ projects. Here’s why:
-Some students had a difficult time finding an image of their god/goddess, especially the more obscure ones. One student even ended up drawing a picture and using the scanned image of it (that’s good problem solving though).
-Most students ended up randomly placing targets on their images, demonstrating that they didn’t fully understand that the purpose of each target was to annotate a part of the image. Additionally, the nature of many of the images made them difficult to annotate.
-The ability to add URLs, videos and text easily to the images meant the students were not truly demonstrating their knowledge of the topic. In other words, the research skills they were supposed to develop from this project didn’t happen. Only one student used information from books to annotate the images with text. And unsurprisingly, that was the best project of the bunch. For most of the rest of the students, it was an exercise in Googling, copying and pasting.
A better choice in tool to foster deep learning would have been the use of concept mapping software to help students to see and understand the connections between the mythology characters (sort of like a family tree). And with products like Webspiration (which the school has), students could have collaborated, researched and annotated this project in a way that fostered more critical thinking skills.
ThingLink was just a really bad fit for this particular project. Unfortunately, this a common occurrence in the race to bring technology into the classroom. It’s an example of how we unconsciously prioritize technology over learning.
So, remember this golden rule: Technology integration is not about technology…it’s all about the learning.