In my opinion, “Best practice” for Tech Integration is when it is natural and authentic, used to teach digital citizenship & literacy skills, embedded in all/many aspects of curriculum, developmentally appropriate and works to augment, modify and (ultimately) transform teaching and learning.
Does it always look this way? Definitely not. Do I keep striving to make it this way? Definitely yes.
I wasn’t entirely sure what my school’s belief of technology integration to be, and how closely my personal beliefs were in alignment. I asked another Ed Tech Coach at the school and we realised that we weren’t entirely clear on what our school’s philosophy statement was, or even where it might be located in our crowded Google Drive.
If I as a (new) Ed Tech coach am unclear, then there is a very good chance most other teachers (and therefore students and parents) are not, either. This is “clearly” something our Ed Tech team (along with Administration and Curriculum to aid teacher buy in) needs to revisit.
I recently I shared some of my “Tech Integration Comments” used in previous years in report writing with colleagues. As I read through them, I thought I had done a decent job at seamlessly embedding them into into each of our 5 curricular areas. Mind you, our Early Years reports are already very transdisciplinary skill focussed rather than traditional subject focussed, but still, I’d managed to embed a Tech themed comment into each of the five areas: Communicator, Thinker, Self-Management, Social, Researcher.
So when I read Edutopia’s Technology Integration Guide Description :
“When technology integration is at its best, a child or a teacher doesn’t stop to think that he or she is using a technology tool — it is second nature. And students are often more actively engaged in projects when technology tools are a seamless part of the learning process.”
And again, Kim Cofino’s post, We Are All Technology Teachers:
“I firmly believe that technology is best taught within the context of the core curriculum. The natural use of authentic technology within the classroom setting, just like the way we use paper and pencil without any second thoughts, is always what I’m striving for.”
I couldn’t help but think I managed to achieve that in my classroom last year–at least some of the time 🙂 This year feels a bit different, being the Tech Coach, or the “iPad lady” or the “Seesaw Teacher” or the “IT” person. I am noticing that tech is definitely not yet an embedded or natural practice within most of the classrooms I visit. (Also I tend to cause mayhem and desperation when I do bring out iPads–the students often aren’t “allowed” to use them at other times.)
Kim also does a nice job likening our changed responsibilities with respect to EAL teaching –we are all EAL teachers, and expected to employ strategies and best practices used by EAL teachers….(simply giving oral explanations day in and day out isn’t enough.) She states:
“It’s the responsibility of the technology facilitator (or coordinator or integration specialist or whatever they may be called) to help their colleagues build their understanding of successful technology-rich teaching practices.”
I’ve been having some discussions with another Early Years colleague about the appropriateness of Technology integration in an early years, play based classroom. I am constantly wrestling with the best way to do this. I felt much freer to be spontaneous and try things and experiment when I was a classroom teacher. Now I often have multiple discussions beforehand about a technique/provocation/app/introduction, etc. The extra discussion and reflection, however, can be beneficial. Recently we were discussing the SAMR model in relation to best practices surrounding tech integration.
I admitted to occasionally using an app as a simple substitution, or for consumption mainly (letter/shape recognition/addition practice games, for example). Sometimes this is a place to start.
Sometimes a simple Substitution (using a drawing app, like Drawing Pad rather than traditional pencils and paper) has its place and can easily become an Augmentation when used with intention. Of course, this is only one app, and like any tool–when used with intention it can be used to create something great, or, for simply playing about (always necessary when introducing an app). It is hard, however, for young children to understand this difference, and as a teacher, to know when and how to guide/direct this intention in a play based environment.
Arguably, there are many Augmentation features to using this particular app: Digital literacy skills are gained: learning how to locate, read and select appropriate symbols associated with different commands; deciding whether to save, share/export, or start over. With some guidance the stamp feature also becomes an Augmentation feature–children who are not yet able to accurately represent objects now can add the stamps to a background to create a much more detailed scene than they could have before. The children can quickly fill a page with rich colour to express a mood. Of course, they can do this with paper, too, but many young children give up this task before finishing as the amount of time and pressure required on their drawing utensil to achieve the same result is too much.
The downside when the app is viewed through the lens of simple Substitution: fine motor control relating to pencil grip and pressure on paper is lost. I would argue a different (and equally important) set of muscles are required to draw with one finger, or to select tools, swipe, pinch, etc…which the way things are going with the ubiquity of mobile devices, these muscles will ultimately serve them more often.
This potential loss of skill reminds me of AJ Juliani ‘s article SAMR is Missing a Level, where he describes E for elimination, located right at the top:
“What happens when technology is no longer “integrated” into what we do, but instead Eliminates what we do because of the advancement?”
He gives the example of school children no longer needing to learn the Dewey Decimal system in favour of Augmented Reality to help locate a book–or even more drastic–eliminating the need for libraries at the University level entirely–at least in the traditional sense– in favour of online journals.
I told my colleague, who was becoming more skeptical as to tech’s value in Early Years, that ultimately I was sold on tech integration when I began to see its true power in two areas–(where I saw us moving along the SAMR continuum to modification and transformation) documenting and sharing learning in our class blog and when creating digital stories.
I wrote a post a few weeks ago about my class’s learning journey with digital storytelling using Book Creator, ending with:
“This began our lengthy exploration into Stop Motion as a digital story telling tool and prompted the evolution of moving from ebooks to pure movie making magic. Stay tuned for future posts regarding this process.”
I do want to describe/reflect on this a bit more…but not here, not now. I’ve got a Tech Integration Philosophy Statement to think about.