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?


Using Google Forms to Organise Research

I recently began using Google Forms within Google Docs to have my students collect and organise their research notes – and with excellent success.

The particular focus that we had for our research was to find out details about a water issue from somewhere in the world (we teachers had provided a list of websites to choose from at with the purpose of producing a newspaper article about the issue and what is or can be done to help.

Google Form screenshot

After doing some work on newspaper article structure and text features, each of the students set up a form in Google Docs that was specific to the task. The first thing to include on the form was the Website URL that the information came from. – a simple text entry box would do this. Next, knowing that we had to include who, what, when, where, why and how about the issue of research, we used these criteria as ‘questions’. Paragraph text boxes suited this fine. Following the introduction of who, what, when… we needed some further details about specific points of the water issue. Some simple paragraph text boxes called detail 1, detail 2, etc sufficed for this. Some students later renamed these to match the detail topic.

Once a website was found, the kids started taking jot notes using their form. When finished with the site, click submit and the results are entered into a spreadsheet for later access.

Spreadsheet with research notes

The beauty of using forms for research was at least threefold:

  • Tailor Made Research Form: In making your own form, you can change it to suit your every need.
  • Thinking ahead: by having to make the form, it forces the kids to think ahead about what they will be researching for. This definitely helps guide them when browsing through websites to eliminate useless websites and target the useful ones.
  • Organised notes: Each submission of the form adds the detail to a row within a spreadsheet. The result after all research is done – an organised set of jot notes categorised by the criteria you set at the beginning.