Technology usage in the classroom has skyrocketed in the last 10 to 15 years. Overhead projectors, TVs, and VCRs used to be the only technologies available to teachers, and these played only a limited role in the educational process, such as to help students see more clearly or to play an educational movie. It wasn’t until the advent of PowerPoint that the potential of technology in the classroom really began to be realized, as teachers imagined more and more creative ways to use technology to enhance the learning experience.
Today, educators have a wide variety of technologies available to them, such as laptops, tablets, and interactive touch-screen panels, not to mention thousands of apps, tools, and softwares. Each of these technologies can be leveraged in new and compelling ways to engage students and solve some of the most challenging issues facing educators and students today.
How to Successfully Integrate Technology in the Classroom
Everyday educators are finding new ways to teach their students via technology and digital learning. However, some educators are still uncertain as to how exactly to integrate the right technology into the classroom. Here are a few ideas to help you successfully navigate the entire process.
1. Be intentional.
It may sound too obvious, but intentionality is the key to success when it comes to integrating technology into the classroom. The purpose of educational technology is not technology for technology’s sake. Rather, technology must serve a purpose, and that purpose is to benefit both students and teachers in the learning and teaching process.
One of the first places to start in being intentional is to consider the layout of the classroom itself and how technology fits within it. Do you want a more collaborative learning space? Or do you want independent work stations? Do you want a front-to-back seating arrangement or a half circle? Or do you want flexibility to reconfigure on the fly? As you consider these types of questions, you will begin to get a clearer picture of the types of technology that accommodate your particular classroom environment.
Equally important is thinking about your particular students and how technology will best meet their needs. Does your technology accommodate different learning styles? Does the technology accommodate students with special needs? Will your students benefit from collaborative technology or do they require individual laptops—or both? Consider whatever unique situations and needs your students have and then explore technologies that satisfy these needs.
It’s also important to consider what teachers needs. After all, teachers will likely be the heaviest users of this technology. They are the ones who will be creating the digital lessons, and they are the ones who will ultimately make the technology successful in its purpose. If a technology is not well-suited to the teacher’s needs, it is doomed to failure from the start.
2. Focus on seamless integrations.
Apart from being easy to use, technology that works as expected is a critical factor in its success. Technology that works is good. Technology that works well is even better. But when it works well and works well with other technologies, it is the best of all worlds.
From a practical standpoint, you want a technology ecosystem that works together seamlessly, and one that does not constantly waste valuable classroom time when it fails to work as expected. Integrated technology gives a teacher the ability to roam freely about the classroom and easily transition from device to device. This is incredibly liberating and opens up new ways for teachers to interact with their students.
The opposite scenario, however, can be devastating. Failing to have a seamless technology solution can cause unnecessary frustration to teachers who have to deal with classroom distractions every time technology doesn’t work as expected. If technology issues are left unresolved, they can lead to a culture of resistance to using a particular technology and even resistance to future technology implementations out of fear that they will be the same as past ones. All of this translates into lost investment and lost opportunity for a school, its teachers, and its students.
3. Know how to use your technology.
Imagine if you opened up a professional photo editing software, but you didn’t know how to use it. You could probably figure out how to perform some basic functions, but it’s highly likely you would never be able to unlock its full potential unless you invested time in learning how to use it well.
The same is true for classroom technology. While much of it is intuitive and easy-to-use, there are often more advanced features and functionality that can be learned. Teachers that seek to become experts in how to use the technology will learn these areas and unlock new and innovative ways to benefit their students.
4. Don’t limit your technology.
New technology should not be limited to a single purpose in the classroom. In fact, you get to determine how far you want your technology to go and what you want it to do. In the connected classroom, your technology, such as iPads, panels, and computers can be used to extend your lessons beyond the classroom walls via video conferencing and online classes.
There are also many administrative uses for the same technology. For example, many school administrators are now using campus-wide connectivity to various devices as a means of communicating quickly to the entire school. With a simple click, a school administrator can push out a message instantly, whether for morning announcements or in the event of an emergency.
Once your technology is in place, you will be surprised at how useful it is across the entire life of your school or school district. For example, it can be used in facilitating staff meetings and information fairs to hosting parent and student orientation to creating displays at your school’s open house.
5. Don’t forget about the software.
Software ties everything together when it comes to classroom technology, and in order to be most successful, you will want to ensure that any hardware solution you choose comes with an equally capable and well-supported software solution.
The first key is to find a software package that works well and is portable across all of your various devices. For example, when lesson planning, you will likely want to create your lessons on a desktop computer or laptop, but may want to present the lesson via a tablet, mobile device, or touch-screen panel. If an application or software is too limited in its compatibility, frustration will ensue as you will be unable to easily create and access their lessons from any device.
Similarly, all of your various softwares should allow for easy connectivity and sharing of content via cloud or network storage. This will empower you to easily adapt to any unexpected event—for example, a switch to a new classroom or having to use a new device because you forgot your computer at home.
Your software package also needs to provide a wide variety of tools that empower various teaching and learning styles. As already mentioned, lesson planning tools are a must for any technology suite, but sharing and collaboration tools are also extremely useful in encouraging classroom interactivity.
It’s also important not to forget administrative and management tools as well, such as analytics tools or announcement and emergency notification tools. Various connectivity tools are also very important for ensuring easy and efficient remote management by your IT department of all devices school- or district wide.
Finally, it is extremely important to choose a technology solution that offers an all-in-one software solution. Buying and maintaining individual license for each and every software is a nightmare and quite expensive. Rather, you will want to find a solution with an all-inclusive license for various tools and applications.
6. Remember that technology is only a tool.
At the end of the day, technology is simply a tool, and it cannot replace people. This is a key factor to success because people are a school’s most valuable resource.
Integrating technology into the classroom is about providing better tools for administrators, teachers, assistants, and support staff, allowing each person to excel in his or her individual role. It is about exploring new ways to solve complex educational challenges that schools face each and every day. Ultimately, it is about teaching students and equipping them to be the best that they can be.
When it comes to technology in the classroom, remembering this simple fact and following these basic principles will ensure a successful and seamless integration of technology into your school.