Integrating Technology in Today’s Curriculum In today’s classrooms, educators are increasingly becoming more aware that technology is essential in student-driven learning. While some teachers embrace the concept of incorporating technology into their curriculum, others are resistant. This resistance could stem from the lack of technological fluency or possibly they do not see it as part of their content responsibilities (Plair, 2008, p. 71). Understanding the Adversity of Technology Integration
The fundamentals of technology integration in the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) of 2002 “emphasizes the improvement of student achievement in academics with the use of technology in elementary and secondary schools through integration initiatives, building access, accessibility, and parental involvement” (Learning Point Associates, 2007). The success of this mission of education reform requires financial resources. With schools facing the pressures of making yearly adequate progress (AYP) and coping with financial struggles, technology is sometimes forced to take a bended knee.
Inequity in public education is another impediment facing technology integration. Cowan (2008, p. 56) stated that “The poorer a school community, the more likely that learning was delivered through teacher examples, followed by independent skill and drill practice. The more affluent a school community, the more likely that group work took place, enrichment activities occurred, and students had control over learning”. Practicing innovation in the classroom of poorer schools is much more difficult because of the reduced funding and the significance of striving for AYP.
Technology in Early Education Most people think of early education learning (birth through 3rd grade) as “…story time and hands-on activities with no technology in sight. Yet electronic media use among young children is growing, as are new digital divides between rich and poor, rural, and urban. Tech-savvy educators are incorporating technology in early learning lessons and experimenting with new channels of communication between parents and colleagues” (Guemsey, 2012, p. 1).
Digital Media Used by Young Children The old reference that children were born with a silver spoon in their mouths, are now born with an electronic device in their hands. Digital devices are fundamental elements in everyday lives of young children. Parents of these young children are big consumers in technology. In 2011, Common Sense Media reported that fifty-two percent of young children, ages 0 to 8, have access to a smartphone, video iPod, or tablet such as an iPad or Android device.
Gutnick (2011) found that “Two-thirds of homes with children (0 to 11) have computers and Internet access, more than half have some type of videogame system, and a large majority have cell phones”. Integration in Early Education Integrating technology into early education programs is not always black and white. Educators must be proactive in gaining knowledge of the various forms of digital media and how it can play a role in their student’s learning. Public libraries provide digital media resources to families with young children. Videos, audio books, as well as, computers with Internet access are readily available.
Guemsey (2012, p. 6) expresses that state leaders should “embed educational technology training in teacher training programs, develop training programs that help educators see how to better integrate digital media and interactive tools in classroom activities in developmentally informed ways, when it makes sense to do so, and promote the sharing of resources among libraries, schools, and birth-to-5 programs such as parenting playgroups and preschools” when planning for technology in early education. Implementing Technology in Curriculum
One of the specific goals of NCLB for Title II, Part D – Enhancing Education Through Technology- is “To assist every student in crossing the digital divide by ensuring that every student is technologically literate by the time the students finishes eighth grade, regardless of the student’s race, ethnicity, gender, family income, geographic location, or disability” (Learning Point Associates, 2007). Literacy in this context does not mean the ability to read and write. “The literate of the twenty-first century must be able to download, upload, rip, burn, chat, save, blog, Skype, IM, and share” (Mullen & Wedwick, 2008, p. 66).
The following are examples of how technology can be integrated into the curriculum: Khan Academy Salman Khan is a 35 year old ex-hedge fund manager turned YouTube professor to millions around the world. His academy is an online repository of some 3,250 digital lectures and he has become a celebrity to techies, educators, and uncounted students cramming for tests (Webley, 2012, p. 36). It all began when his cousin needed help with her algebra homework. Khan was in Boston and his cousin was in New Orleans. He tutored her online using a chat service when a friend suggested that he record the lessons as videos and uploaded them to YouTube.
He started receiving positive feedback and decided to make more videos. In 2009, he quit his job as a hedge fund manager to devote his time to the Khan Academy. With his video-teaching method, Khan wants to “fundamentally change the role of teachers in the classroom—and redefine the concept of homework along the way” (Webley, 2012, p. 36). He has received monetary donations from Bill Gates, Google’s Eric Schmidt, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, Irish entrepreneur Sean O’Sullivan, and Ann Doerr, wife of Silicon Valley venture capitalist John Doerr.
His goal is to “create a complete educational approach—with video lectures, online exercises, badges to reward student progress, an analytics dashboard for teachers to track that progress and more—that can be integrated into existing classrooms or serve as a stand-alone virtual school for anyone wanting to learn something new” (Webley, 2012, p. 40). Khan does face some adversities from veteran teachers saying that he is not an educator and has never worked with children. He feels that there is an advantage of being from the outside in that he is not “colored by the dogma of the Establishment” (Webley, 2012, p.
41). Digital Storytelling and Blogs There are a lot of innovative tools that teachers can use to entice student creativity. Digital storytelling is one tool that students can use to create stories using a variety of multimedia tools. A digital story uses words, pictures, music or sound effects to tell a story that the student created. This effective instrument promotes students’ critical thinking and media literacy. A blog is “a Web site that contains an online personal journal with reflections, comments, and often hyperlinks provided by the writer” (Merriam-Webster, 2012).
This is a resourceful tool in that students can create a variety of writing experiences. Mullen and Wedwick (2008) expressed that “In our technological world, blogs can be used to create limitless, unique, and meaningful writing opportunities for students worldwide”. Alternative Assessments When integrated technology is not measured via the standard form of assessment, it is hard to justify its success. Alternate forms of assessment are needed to demonstrate the effectiveness of technology in the curriculum and the growth of student learning that may go unmeasured.
Two influential tools for alternate assessment are rubrics and student portfolios. Rubrics are a valuable resource tool for the teacher, as well as, the student. The teacher is able to set criteria for areas of measurement like visual appeal, presentation, etc. Students benefit from rubrics because they can see what is required of the assignment and they can set a goal of what they want to accomplish in completing the assignment. Student portfolios are great tools to show student progress and growth over time. Portfolios provide students the opportunity to engage their writing creativity.
There are a wide variety of portfolio styles that teachers can choose whether they are computer-based or hard-copy format. Conclusion Technology is prevalent in a wide variety of ability levels and learning styles. Using technology in the classroom and demonstrating alternative assessments to measure student growth are positive ways to help students succeed in twenty-first century education. “The curriculum should drive the technology. Teachers, relying on and dedicated to high standards, should drive the curriculum” (Cowan, 2012, p. 59).