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Posted: September 29, 2012 3:22 p.m.

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What does integrating technology mean?

The Newton County School System has outlined three strategies it expects every teacher to use in their classroom. The strategies are: using research-based instruction strategies building background knowledge and integrating technology. These three strategies have proven to be successful in improving student achievement. This month's topic of discussion is integrating technology, and what it means to integrate technology.

Several years ago while talking to a group of administrators from another county, I asked the following question: What does integrating technology mean? The reason this question is important is because there are several levels of integrating technology; and if a teacher stops at the first level, that teacher is missing the potential that technology offers to education.

The first level of technology integration is when the teacher uses technology to enhance an activity she is already doing. For example, for a teacher who normally lectures to her students, she might integrate technology by using a PowerPoint to supplement that lecture. Although using PowerPoint is integrating technology, it is doing so at a very basic level. Students prefer the reinforcement that PowerPoint offers over just a lecture; however, this form of integrating technology uses only a small fraction of the potential that integrating technology offers.

The second level of technology integration is when the teacher uses technology to transform her teaching practices. For example, instead of reading and discussing colonial life in America, the teacher may use technology to take students on a virtual field trip to Williamsburg, Va., to "see" colonists make candles, build furniture, and weave a basket. In this way, students get to "experience" colonial life in ways that might be impossible to do so without integrating technology.

Another example of the second level of integrating technology is when students interact with math lessons by solving problems on an ActivBoard. This interaction component is the key to integrating technology at the second level because it allows students to assume ownership of their own learning. By giving students the opportunity to participate in their own learning in a meaningful way, the students learn more and retain more of this knowledge longer.

In this article, we begin spotlighting our schools with examples of technology integration.

Spotlight on Heard Mixon: On a recent visit to Heard Mixon Elementary School, I heard about a collaborative project upon which all fourth grade students were working. In order to meet a specific performance objective in the Common Core, all the fourth grade teachers along with Ms. Aldridge, the technology coach, and Ms. Moseley, the Media Specialist, collaborated on a project resulting in each student creating a digital newspaper focusing on astronaut Neil Armstrong.

I heard Ms. Aldridge explain, "We finally decided on using Publisher so that each student could have a final version of the entire project with their own writing." Therefore, the advantage of this type of lesson is that students are engaged because this type of lesson is meaningful to them. As a result, all the students assume ownership over their learning. As Scott McLeod, a nationally recognized leader in educational technology, recently wrote, "Engagement is not a goal, it's an outcome of students doing meaningful work."

Ms. Aldridge sent me an email later explaining the impact this lesson is having on these students. She wrote, "The students really have enjoyed working on this project because they were creating something meaningful and taking ownership of it.

They were excited about even the research because they wanted to make sure that the article they wrote was accurate and interesting-Ms. Moseley kept reminding them how hard it was to be a journalist-and how they were ‘trying to create a paper that someone else would want to buy.'"

The difference between these two examples of integrating technology is that the teacher's goal of using PowerPoint did not give the students the opportunity to create a product, while the goal of the second example at Heard Mixon was for the students to produce their own product. Both examples engaged the students in their learning; however, the second example added rigor and added meaningfulness to the students' learning.

To achieve the full impact of integrating technology students should assume ownership of their learning; this may happen by integrating technology at the second level. Teachers need to put the technology into the hands of students. As I mentioned in my last article in July, we live in a participatory culture.

Throughout the county there are many other examples of teachers using technology at both the first level and at the second level of use. Our task, as we continue to move into the 21st Century, is to train teachers in how to integrate technology into meaningful lessons that allow students to assume ownership over their learning.


Gary Shattuck is the director of technology and media. He can be reached at

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