Mar 17, 2009

Not just small steps but leaps and bounds!

I was observing a Grade One Math lesson this morning, where the teacher has been trying new ways to integrate technology. The teacher had the class sing, "The Bubblegum Song," which is about spending money on bubblegum, and then she had the students sit on the carpet to learn about money as they interacted with the smartboard. All students were engaged as they learned each story about the picture on the Canadian coins, listened to the sound of a loon, saw a picture of the Canadian mint in Manitoba and then matched coins with their proper value and bought items from a simulated online store. At the end of the smartboard lesson, students had their own set of coins to explore and made number stories, complete with pictures. This was a great lesson and made me wonder if:

"The use and integration of educational technology has improved teaching and learning?"

I do think that the use and integration of educational technology can improve teaching and help all learners, when integrated effectively. Integrating technology into lessons, gives students the opportunity to achieve the learning outcomes in a variety of ways.

We know from Gardener's theory of multiple intelligences that students learn in different ways and that there are eight different potential pathways to learning (Brualdi, 1998). If you already take a multiple intelligences approach to teaching and use a variety of strategies to reach all learners, then it is easy to see that integrating technology can become a great addition to any lesson plan. In the article, "Why do teachers not practice what they believe regarding technology," Chen argues that for teachers to embrace technology in the classroom, they need to believe that technology use will not disturb higher level goals, rather can help achieve higher level goals more effectively and that teachers will have adequate ability and sufficient resources to use technology (Chen, 2008). Using the smartboard effectively, for example, can provide students with a visual, auditory and hands on approach to learning, whereas using a powerpoint presentation for a lecture is not any different than using an overhead.

Just as with any lesson, it takes more than including multiple intelligences to make the lesson effective, as the learning needs to be meaningful. In the article, "Meaningful Technology Integration in Early Learning Environments," Weng et al, contend that when integrating technology there needs to be a constructivist framework and curriculum that emphasizes learner centered exploration and active meaning making (Weng et al, 2008). They state that the choice of technology should be based on how well the tools serve classroom learning, teaching needs and student needs (
Weng et al, 2008). So teacher's perceptions of pedagogical beliefs play a big role of the integration of technology. In "A Study of Teacher Perceptions of Instructional Technology Integration," Gorder noted that four pedagogical principles that were practiced in classrooms where technology was integrated. They include active learning, mediation, collaboration and interactivity (Jaffee in Gorder, 2008). While there are easy ways to integrate technology into your day as Linda Star highlights in "Education World," including accessing the online weather channel, including URL's into your monthly calendar and providing a URL with a daily quote, there are other more meaningful ways to integrating technology into your classroom. (Starr, 2002). There are numerous web 2.0 tools like blogs, digital storytelling, podcasts, youtube and other online sites with simulations, virtual field trips and discussion sites like Skype, that can make learning come alive in your classroom.

For me, having a smartboard in the classroom and easy access to computers gives me the opportunity to add interesting strategies and tools to my lessons. All learners are benefiting from using the technology for their learning and while we may be taking small steps to implementing technology effectively, the learning for students certainly jumps from small steps to making leaps and bounds!

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