Reading Dr. Harmes’s post last month, Flexibility: A Teacher’s Range of Technology Integration Levels, got me to thinking about my own teaching. Since the focus of our center is technology integration, I’ve conducted hundreds of PD trainings, classes, and workshops on the topic over the past 25 years.
There’s a concept in K-12 education of the hidden (or invisible or unintended) curriculum—those values and beliefs that are not a part of the formal curriculum, but nonetheless are picked up by students in their schooling. I had not previously given much thought to the “invisible curriculum” in regards to my own teaching in higher education.
The goal of most of the PD we offer at FCIT is for our teachers to be able to operate at higher levels of technology integration. And we frequently explain that one benefit of using the Technology Integration Matrix is that once a lesson profile has been determined, it is easy to give a teacher concrete feedback about how the lesson could be adapted to work at those higher levels.
From this, teachers could well arrive at the unintended conclusion that we value ONLY lessons conducted at higher levels of technology integration, rather than our intended position that we value the ABILITY to conduct lessons at all levels of technology integration as appropriate for the students, subject matter, and place in the flow of a unit of study. It’s not enough to stand in front of a group of teachers and say, “Yes, we value a teacher’s ability to conduct effective lessons at all levels of technology integration,” and then go on to completely ignore the lower levels. There’s that invisible curriculum thing again. Your workshop participants will hear, “We don’t really value effective lessons at lower levels of technology, so let’s get on to the good stuff.”
So what to do? I’ve resolved to spend at least a bit of time in future PD sessions discussing when it’s appropriate to introduce a lesson at a lower level of technology and also, if appropriate to the topic, take some time to discuss how we can make those lessons more effective. Here are a few ideas to get started.
At the Entry level, teachers are predominately using technology to present content to their students. All well and good at times, and probably most of your PD participants are quite capable of doing so. But here are a few ideas/questions to discuss with your participants:
- Do I model technology choices by selecting the most appropriate tool to present course material?
- Do I become more familiar with the tools available to me so that I can make better use of the various affordances of the tools I use?
- Do I, from time to time, explain features or the reasons for utilizing the tools in the way that I am?
- Do I occasionally ask for student feedback about how I’ve used a certain piece of technology, so that they become more reflective about the use of technology?
- If the tech fails for some reason, do I try to cover it up so I can maintain my reputation as a perfect user of technology? Or do I make it a teaching moment for the students and discuss my choices about the technology, what I was expecting, what went wrong, and what I learned?
Even at the Entry level where the teachers are usually the only ones using technology, they can model effective, reflective use and begin to create a classroom culture around technology use that is essential for the higher levels of technology integration.
At the Adoption level, students are primarily learning the conventional use of technology tools. While it’s necessary that they learn the basics of how a tool is used, be sure to include more than where to find each menu item.
- When introducing a new technology or a new feature of a familiar technology, do I include the reasons for using it?
- Do I provide multiple examples of how a new technology may be used?
- Do I include a discussion of the affordances and limitations of the new technology?
- Am I providing meaningful contexts for using the new technology?
- Am I providing for collaboration opportunities if the new technology supports it?
- Do I follow an “I do, we do, you do” process when appropriate? (i.e. Teacher first demonstrates the process so students get a high-level view of the purpose and flow of the tech. Students and teacher then work through the process together step-by-step. Lastly, students work through the tech on their own long enough so that they own it.)
Including more than mere mechanics when introducing new technologies into the classroom provides a solid foundation for students to use technologies at higher levels in the future.
Taking at least a few minutes in our PD to discuss using technology well at lower levels will both improve its use at those levels and disabuse our teachers of the notion that we only value “transformative” lessons and expect them to always be working at the “top” of the Technology Integration Matrix, whether that’s the most appropriate level or not for the particular lesson.
Roy Winkelman is a 40+ year veteran teacher of students from every level kindergarten through graduate school. As the former Director of FCIT, he began the Center’s focus on providing students with rich content collections from which to build their understanding. When not glued to his keyboard, Dr. Winkelman can usually be found puttering around his tomato garden in Pittsburgh.
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