As the educational technology leader in a school my charge is to work with the entire school community to enhance student learning and promote student creativity, critical thinking, collaboration and communication through the balanced, authentic and intentional integration of technology in the classroom. To achieve this vision it is important to develop an integrated educational technology program that meets students’ needs, provides differentiated professional development for the staff and communicates effectively with parents.
Authentic, balanced, and intentional are the guiding principles of a strong educational technology program.
Tech integration experiences should have a curricular context that makes them an authentic part of the learning process and not a stand alone or one off. This is why we switched from a pull out “specials” model to a push-in integration model at American Embassy School. When students use technology as a part of their everyday units of study they are able to make deeper connections between content and technology. The focus then shifts from “tech for tech’s sake” to the holistic use of technology to increase student learning.
A strong educational technology program is also balanced. Technology and media should not replace beneficial educational activities, creative play, or interactions with peers and adults. Technology can enhance young children’s cognitive and social abilities in much the same way blocks, books and other materials can. In the best cases, technology becomes a ubiquitous tool in classrooms that drifts in and out throughout the day when students need it, much like math manipulatives, books or journals do. Students have access when they need it but it is only a part of their balanced educational experience.
Intentionality is key to the developmentally appropriate use of technology. Technologies should be used in ways that support existing classroom developmental and educational goals rather than distort or replace them. Intentional use of technology tools connect on-screen and off-screen activities and bring adults and children together rather than push them apart. By co-planning with classroom teachers we strive to make the use of technology a transformative experience where the technology assists students in communicating with others, collaborating in meaningful ways, fosters creativity and allows them to tackle perplexing problems with critical thinking.
“It’s the teacher. Not the technology.”
It is often said that the best 1-1 device is a teacher. I could not agree more. An educational technology program is only as good as the teachers delivering it. In developing a robust educational technology program the key component is a differentiated professional development and support program for teachers.
Since we understand that teachers are on a continuum of understanding and adoption regarding technology it is important to meet teachers where they are with professional development and classroom support. As such a multi-pronged approach to working with teachers is an excellent way to move forward.
The first prong is providing tech-centric training. At this level the training focuses on having teachers gain confidence with the tools themselves. These experiences can take the form of challenge based trainings with apps or programs, Happy-appy hours to explore devices, or speed dating with tech integration opportunities. By gaining comfort with the tools we establish a base for teachers use the tools effectively and confidently in the classroom.
The second prong of professional development is providing integration-centric training. At this level the focus is on using technology tools in meaningful ways in the classroom. Our first step is selecting a technology integration approach such as TPACK and training the staff on the use of the model. Then the next step is to apply the model to the refining of existing units and the development of new units. At this time collaborating in grade level or team meeting and leveraging the knowledge of content area coaches or media specialists takes on an important role. We aim to identify the content learning objectives, explore pedagogical options and then match an appropriate technology to the content and pedagogy. In this way we develop meaningful holistic learning experiences for students.
Once there is comfort with the tools and a plan for using them in meaningful ways our role shifts to the final prong: classroom support. At this point technology facilitators push into classrooms and teach, co-teach, or provide silent support for lesson or unit depending on the teachers comfort level. Finally, the technology facilitator closes the professional development and support process by evaluating the experience and capturing thinking on what could be done differently or better the next time.
Effective communication with parents is critical to building a community of learners regarding educational technology. As many parents attended school at a time when educational technology was not prevalent it is import for us to help them understand what benefits an authentic, balanced and intentional educational technology program can provide for their child.
This communication and education can occur in many ways. First we host parent coffees on a variety of technology related topics. In the past our team has presented on topics such as our schoolwide philosophy and technology program, technology and parenting, leveraging technology for home and summer learning and hosting showcases of student learning with technology.
In addition I believe in transparent communication regarding our school technology program. To meet this goal we maintain a technology blog that is open to the school community which houses our weekly tech notes, showcases student learning with technology and provides resources for teachers and parents alike. Moreover we have a Facebook Page that we use to share technology realted readings and resources with parents. My role is to maintain communication that is open between home and school that shares the vision of the school and our work toward developing the best learning experience possible.
As the educational technology leader of the school I am in a unique and challenging position to enhance student learning and promote student creativity, critical thinking, collaboration and communication through the effective use of technology. By creating an integrated educational technology program for students that is authentic, balanced and intentional, a differentiated program of professional development and support for staff and communicating and educating the parent community, I can meet this challenge and provide the best educational technology program possible.