tech integration

Tech Integration: A Year in Review

Tech Integration: A Year in Review

I love the access that technology gives students in my classroom.  I am very thankful to be at a 1 to 1 BYOD school in which all my students have laptops to help aid their learning.  My professional goal this year was to make my classroom paperless, and upon completion of the year, I can truly say that it was a success.  There were a couple of major steps I had to take (and many realizations along the way) to make this a success, but I can truly say after trying it for one year it did help student learning in my classroom.

Introduce it early – The first thing I learned about tech integration over the past year is it works best to introduce it right from the start.  This year instead of passing out paper copies of the syllabus to students at the first day of school, we discussed where they could go to find it.  This worked wonders to increasing buy in.  Although the school is a BYOD school, this is more of a firm encouragement as opposed to anything that the students sign.

Photo Credit: CA Technologies via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: CA Technologies via Compfight cc

In the past this has meant that each class always has at least two students who do not have devices when we have needed to use it.  Starting right away demonstrating the importance of using a device in my classroom sets the stage for the year and allows the students to clearly see my intentions with tech integration.

Make it purposeful – If you are going to integrate technology in your classroom, or require your students to bring a device to class each day, it is important that the use of the device is both regular and purposeful.  If you have students bring a device on the off chance that they will need to use it that day, there is a much higher percentage of kids that do not have a device as they do not see a valid reason for lugging it around each day to sit in their backpack.  This year, my goal of a paperless classroom accomplished this, as any activity that was done was accessed online.  This made the students see the point of bringing their device to class, as they would not be able to learn the same way had they not.

Infrastructure of integration –  This year utilizing a paperless classroom, it was important to have the infrastructure in place to clearly support my objectives.  On a classroom level, I made sure I had extra plugs and extension cords to reach around the room.

Photo Credit: kalleboo via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: kalleboo via Compfight cc

This eliminated the excuse of not having a device due to it being dead.  On the tech level, I made sure that once my class lists were finalized, all students joined my Google Classroom and I included them all on Doctopus for sharing files.  This allowed me to clearly outline and walk them through the process of finding all classroom materials as well as what it means to be a part of our community of learners.

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Overall this year has been very productive in the way students have been able to use technology in the classroom.  By having my classroom entirely paperless really made the process smoother and easier than if I used technology every now and then.  With the students connected every class period, getting resources from my course page, and collaborating with peers regularly, it created a great jumping off point to prepare my students for the 21st century.

Challenges of the Big Flip

Challenges of the Big Flip

In many ways, my classroom is already flipped.  In my English class, I probably give a traditional lecture of forty minutes or more once every two weeks.  In my classroom we largely spend time working either as individuals or groups practicing, collaborating, and exploring aspects of the content.  This exploration time in class allows me to monitor the students as they progress through the inquiry cycle, and also allows me to give feedback.  Most of all, it encapsulates a central component of my classroom, that students are the center of the classroom, not me.  In my opinion it is much easier to disengage and zone out when the teacher is speaking for the class period, as opposed to when the activity demands student engagement and participation.  This is the type of hands on learning that a flipped classroom demands.

Photo Credit: COSCUP via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: COSCUP via Compfight cc

There are two main hindrances to the flipped classroom however, both the time aspect and the engagement aspect.  These two concerns warrant a further investigation through the lens of my classroom, a DP 1 and 2 HL English Language and Literature class.

Time – I think the main problem to the flipped classroom is the time aspect.

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Photo Credit: Leo Reynolds via Compfight cc

This can be looked at in two different ways, the time that I have to prepare my students for future assessments, and the time my students have if they are full diploma students.  On my end, as the teacher, the flipped classroom is hard due to the amount of content that I need to get through in the short amount of time to get through it.  I must admit, even though I have it easier than some other subjects in regards to content, it is hard for me to envision an entirely flipped classroom due to the rapid pace of the course.  In regards to the students, if every aspect of content is delivered at home on their own time, and each “lecture” was forty minutes long, students would have to sit through four hours of just lecture, not counting pausing for any notes or re-listening to parts they didn’t understand.  This would most likely take the amount of work each night to around six hours, which would not take into consideration long term projects or assignments in each course including IA’s that can not be done in class time alone.  This would lead to students not having enough time for everything, creating priorities, and…

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Photo Credit: Aaron Jacobs via Compfight cc

Engagement – The question I constantly ask myself about engagement is how can I be sure that students will actually watch all of the flipped content I am producing?  This is the same question that all teachers have about any work given to complete out of class, but the results would be detrimental if my Lang and Lit or TOK students show up to the world exam having only classroom activities to speak of.  On the article “Should You Flip Your Classroom”, they offer some poignant suggestions to curb this issue such as reflection or other synthesis type activities.  With these activities however what is the incentive to complete if your school doesn’t allow you to mark homework for completion?  I would imagine it would take students a month to realize this has no weighting on their mark and cease to complete them.

In my classroom, I really enjoy the benefit of the flipped classroom, but I do not think it would be possible to entirely flip your classroom at the DP level.  Eventually, there is always a need for direct instruction, and this breaks the mold of the totally flipped classroom.  Technology gives us this opportunity to flip our classroom, and we as teachers should assess these positives and negatives to provide our students the best experience possible.

SAMR and My Classroom

SAMR and My Classroom

I first heard about SAMR about two years ago during a school PD session on technology in the classroom.  I was very interested in SAMR as a model of thinking about tech integration.  It went beyond how I perceived it before, either you did it or you didn’t.  Instead of looking at tech integration through a binary lens, it is important to view it as a spectrum of integration.

Coming through teachers college college and first starting out in the classroom, it was clear that the emphasis was largely placed on substitution and augmentation, with little focus being given to redefining what can be done in the classroom.  Smart-boards were being placed in the classroom for the sake of “tech integration” and PowerPoint was encouraged to break away from traditional style lectures.  Looking back at this now, this is the definition of substitution and augmentation.  Technology was being used in the classroom for the sake of technology being used, but it wasn’t being used to allow students opportunities to go beyond what could already be done.  All around students this idea of “going beyond” was emphasized, largely driving innovation in society, but it was being ignored in the classroom.

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Photo Credit: shareski via Compfight cc

Reading the article, “What is Successful Technology Integration” the author posits that successful tech integration should achieve the following three aims:

  • Routine and transparent
  • Accessible and readily available for task at hand
  • Supporting curricular goals, and helping students to effectively reach their goals

I think this is a very important list, and was really the first epiphany I had within integrating technology in my classroom.  Technology should be routine and transparently embedded, so we do not make a big fuss about using technology in the classroom, but the students use technology regularly.  In my mind however, this is still limiting and although it aids the students within the classroom, it does not allow students to use it as a driving force to create.

Photo Credit: Enokson via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Enokson via Compfight cc

This is where SAMR comes in.  The goal with SAMR as a framework is not only to make sure teachers are using technology, but to aspire to reach “redefinition” within their classroom.  This brings technological integration beyond the enhancement phase and into the transformation stage.

In my classroom presently I think redefinition is something that I aspire to, more than something I consistently achieve.  I would say that most of my activities would fall in between augmentation and modification.  I do use technology on a daily basis in my classroom, and upon reflecting, do not think it is possible to consistently reach redefinition.  I would say each year I give my students two or three projects which redefine how the students create and inquire.  One example of redefinition in my classroom this year was my Course 1 COETAIL Project.  Students were required to create an advertising campaign to explore how language is used to persuade the audience.  Within this unit students also had a separate opportunity to create a vlog or blog, post it online for feedback.  This goes well beyond substitution by opening up the blog to a wide audience through the use of social media.

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Photo Credit: tim.klapdor via Compfight cc

Overall, SAMR is a very interesting framework to allow us to consider technology integration in our classrooms.  Instead of looking at tech integration as either do or do not, this gives us a spectrum to view the purpose of our integration, not just pat ourselves on the back because it is there.