Thursday, December 4, 2008

Depth of Technology Integration

Technology integration is not monolithic; that is to say, just using computers does not mean you are fully integrating. There are degrees to the definition.

Those that do talk about the degree of integration often talk about the frequency, not necessarily the purpose. But both are components.

I've tried to represent this visually:
What are the levels of integration?

Sporadic - Very occasional use of technology, perhaps a free day in the lab or one-time "research" looking up websites.
Limited - Integration is influenced by factors. Students have to work on assignments at home because computers are not available. Or activities are modified for the one-computer classroom.
Scheduled - Integration happens once a cycle, during scheduled time.
Intensive Unit - Students are not working with technology regularly, but do so intensively during a particular unit (such as three weeks spent making an iMovie).
Daily - Not only intensive, but there is a daily integration to technology. Can be ongoing projects or things as simple as daily student blogging or checking the message board.
1:1 - Daily integration to the nth degree. Now students are in possession of the computerized device, extending learning beyond the classroom time slots and walls. Also, integration becomes school-wide instead of classroom-wide.

Compliance - Integrating only because you are forced to as a teacher. This isn't much deeper than no integration at all.
Convenience - Integration only where it is easier to do the lesson than in the absence of technology. Showing streaming video in the same way you would show analog video is convenient integration. So is using Microsoft Word for word processing. In some districts, Power Point is reaching convenient integration, where the technology is not a tool for learning but rather an easier method to the desired product.
Unstructured - Free "play time" with technology. Can lead to student learning through their own inquisitiveness, or to a waste of time.
Unconnected - Integration that isn't tied to the curriculum. Actually, this could be used as a descriptor for convenience, unstructured, or procedural integration than its own category. While the learning could be deep or shallow, the main feature of this is that it is teaching a tool/doing a project for the sake of experiencing the technology, not for the sake of learning the curriculum.
Procedural - Training integration, where students receive explicit instruction on how to use technology (this can be a pre-cursor to other types of integration, or in the case of computer applications courses, it could be the only model).
Constructivist - Integration is used by students to create products, artifacts, or authentic work, which allows students to construct their own meaning.
Connectivist - Integration is used to connect students to a variety of resources and people, building their "knowledge net" and their exposure to the infinite number of learning items in the world.

A note: while there is general correlation between the two sides, there is by no means a requirement to be at the same level. For example, in a 1:1 school, you will probably have quite a few teachers at the constructivist level and also a few at the compliance level. And some creative teachers in a limited setting can find ways to develop constructivist learning.

If we made this chart into a chart of frequency used in schools, there would be several "hotspots". A lot of "integration" is Scheduled-Convenience. There also is a large portion of (what I would consider) quality integration that is Intensive Unit-Constructivist. Just as often, there is Intensive Unit-Unconnected (as my principal mode would say, tell me again why you are having the kids do this?). There are "dead-spots" as well, obviously with 1:1 and Daily, as well as Connectivist integration.

It is my premise that The Deeper, The Better. We should aspire to the Digital Curriculum at the bottom. This is where technology is not a conscious effort, or even worse, a foreign experience. It is where technology use in the classroom has become so native that is invisible, just like using a pencil.

To get there, though, we have to correctly identify where we currently are. We are not there just because we had students look up sites on the Holocaust last Thursday. We are not there even if we have that one cool unit where they make a podcast. If they are isolated events in the curriculum, technology use remains foreign for students. This was okay when people did not work and live with computers, but it is not okay now. Just like the work world and the private world, our technology use must be native.

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