Integrating ICT into the classroom

Finding the right blend to support technology integration can be difficult.

Recently I started in my new position of Technology Integration. I’m working with teachers and students from Early Childhood Education to Grade 3 with limited technology and varying teacher attitudes. Starting the year I was nervous, yet enthusiastic. I’ve been very fortunate to be moving into not only a new position for me, but a totally new position for the school. This has meant loads of flexibility and no expectations of how it was ‘done last year’. As a result, I was able to develop a model of integration that I think would work best. In this post I’d like to outline the major (and successful:)) parts of the model that I’ve worked to implement.

Flexible schedule for me and the computer labs:

 One of the most disheartening aspects of technology teaching in schools is seeing the ‘technology time’ scheduled in to class schedules. Imagine your life if you were only allowed to use technology at 1pm on Tuesday for 40 minutes and then again on Friday at 11am for 40 minutes! This isn’t how technology works. We all use technology to serve a purpose and we use the technology when we need that purpose met, so why do we insist on telling students when they should and should not use technology.

Now ideally, we would have enough technology for students to use it when they need it and put it away when they don’t. Unfortunately we don’t have this flexibility, but we have implemented a flexible booking system for both our computer labs and the in-class support from me. Teachers make use of Google Calendar to book in the times when the technology is needed or when the support is needed, giving greater ability to use the technology as it’s needed.

Priority grade levels:

Currently I am working to support 43 teachers and their classes (approx. 800 kids), plus our single subject teachers. To try to equally share this support each week would be impossible and ineffective. Instead, a key element to ensure technology integration is to work with teams to identify the strongest and most demanding units of learning (in terms of new skills and time) where technology fits in best. These grade levels then become a priority for me. I will work with that grade level intensely over a period of a unit of learning to help the teachers and students meet their goals. Throughout the year, each grade level will have at least one ‘priority unit’. As we believe all teachers are technology teachers, the classroom teacher is responsible for integrating technology into other areas of their curriculum as they see fit and are comfortable to do.

Work with what’s in place:

My goal when helping teams plan their units is to work with what they have in place and to then tie in the technology where it fits best. Let’s consider the example of our grade 3 team who had a heavy focus on research skills for their current unit. As our school makes use of Google Apps for Education, we saw this as a great time to introduce the kids to Google Docs as a place where research groups can keep shared notes on their research questions and inquiries.

Being mindful of teachers’ workloads:

Building on the example from above, I was cautious not to overload teachers with more ‘stuff’ they need to teach. With that in mind, I left the planning meeting with the objective of building a technology unit that would coincide with the unit of inquiry already in place. Some of the key elements were:

Central idea: Technology can help us to work together.

Assessment focus: How well do students use Google Docs to take shared notes with peers?

Inquiry areas:

  • How do we use the Internet to research?
  • How do we stay safe and act responsibly when online?
  • How to we use Google Docs to work together?

My job is to then allow teachers to book their time with me to help them work through the process. With the flexible booking (and a little encouragement or reminder here and there), teachers were able to build the technology skills alongside the unit of inquiry so that students were ready to use Google Docs for their note taking at the time that they were ready to begin their group research.

All in all, teachers have been happy with the many aspects that have been built in to allow for more genuine integration of technology in to the classroom learning experiences. How does technology work at your school? What are the upsides and what are the downsides?

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EdTech tips and tools from the week – 2nd Sept 2011

TIPS

Reading – 6 Reasons Why Kids Should Know How To Blog

  • A great summary of why students should learn to blog at an early age. If I were to add to this, I would definitely add that blogging:
  • is a motivator to write – particularly for boys,
  • blurs the boundaries between school and home. Kids learn to use blogs as a personal expression space, which in turn allows them to feel more confident to express their learning to the world. As a teacher, you gain a wonderful insight in to who the students are as learners and as individuals.
  • allows students to see technology as a production tool (beyond word processing) rather than just a place to play games and connect with friends.

Reading – The role of ICT in the PYP

  • My apologies for those who are reading this and aren’t in PYP schools, but I don’t think I can link the PDF here due to copyright. For those of you in PYP schools, talk to your PYP co-ordinator to get your username and password for the OCC. Do a search for the document called The role of ICT in the PYP. It’s only recently (June 2011) been revised and published and I have to say that the PYP have hit the nail on the head.

ReadingNumeracy for Preschoolers (thanks to @davidwees)

  • A nice blog post from David sharing his thoughts on the importance of developing numeracy with preschoolers.

SlideshowEmbedding Digital Citizenship into Curriculum

  • While there are some slides that don’t mean much (as this is part of a workshop presentation I think) there are some real gems in there. For example, slides 11, 12 and 14, just to name a few.

 

TOOLS

File Convertors (free and online)

  • www.zamzar.com – converts pretty much any document, image, video, ebook or audio format to any other alike format. I’ve personally found it great to be able to access the information on a Microsoft Publisher file when using my mac laptop (as there is no equivalent to publisher for mac that I’m aware of). There are loads of other uses however.
  • http://media.io/ – I discovered this one earlier in the week when I needed to help a teacher convert a midi file to an mp3 format. This file convertor converts pretty much any audio format to any other audio format. Clean look and free from ads too.

Voicethread for reading records

  • I’ve come across this wonderful set of voicethreads this week, via @sherrattsam.
  • I’ve used voicethread before, and seen it used, in many wonderful ways. But the idea of using it as a collection of oral reading samples from throughout the year is terrific! Imagine at the end of the year, you’d have a great selection of books and texts that the child had read that year, each with its own picture, and then the reading sample attached to each one. When it’s completed for that year, you’d be able to sit and literally listen to the progress in reading skills and see the increasingly complex texts throughout a whole school year, in 10-20 minutes. Wonderful!