The Good, the Bad, and the Reality: Stories of Technology Integration Inside Today’s Classrooms
While the abundance of tools and new technologies has never been greater, many educators still struggle with authentic and meaningful integration. So what’s driving success, and what’s putting up barriers? Here are three examples that illustrate the realities facing today’s educators.
Story One: So Many Tools, So Little Time
Aubrey Chancellor is beginning her sixth year as a Social Sciences educator for Laguna Middle School. She was delighted when her school received ESSER funds during the COVID-19 pandemic, as it allowed them to purchase much-needed technology resources she’d been requesting for years.
But, in Aubrey’s case, this was a case of “be careful what you wish for”. While the new tools have been engaging for her students, Aubrey admits that she struggles with seeing precious class time squandered by switching back and forth between all the various tools.
On this particular Wednesday morning, Aubrey begins the class period with an online quiz game to review yesterday’s lesson. She’s found that her students enjoy the friendly competition, while she mentally scurries to make last minute adjustments to today’s lesson based on her students’ responses.
No problem, Aubrey thinks. She’s got this. After explaining the follow-up group activity, she shares an online curated list of website links specifically for today’s lesson. Despite her preparation, many students struggle with their logins as they switch over from the quiz tool. When everyone is finally logged in, they dig in earnestly. Aubrey laments the time lost, but quickly recovers and moves on with enthusiasm when she hears the classroom buzzing and she looks around to see groups of students excitedly sharing the information they’ve found.
With five minutes left of class, Aubrey brings her students back together to review their homework assignment. They click into the school’s LMS and enter another login to gain access to the homework portal. She begins to show students where they can find a new folder that she added named “Unit 1 Study Materials.” Then she nervously glances at the clock and quickly redirects her students to navigate to the classroom calendar to point out the after-school study sessions and show students how to sign up—and then—the bell rings. Her students disperse for their next class. Aubrey is left feeling defeated, wondering how she can possibly have students juggle so many tools if they have to login to each and every one, wasting so much time. If only her school had single sign-on set up and required for all their technologies, then she could have more time spent on learning rather than troubleshooting.
Story Two: Overcoming Technology Burnout
Libby Honshu is an educator at Martinez Elementary. With years of in-the-trenches education experience, Libby finds herself now just trying to make it through her busy day. Make no mistake: she is still passionate about teaching and—in particular—her third grade class full of bright and shining faces. But the COVID-19 pandemic—and, in particular, the switch to remote learning—tested her school’s mission to Embrace, Engage, and Empower.
After valiantly trying to keep learning alive through the pandemic, Libby was eager to return to the classroom. While she appreciated all of the technology that made remote learning possible—most of it learned “on the fly”—she can’t help shake a certain level of technological “burn out” now that she’s back in the classroom.
Technology is already a huge part of Libby’s full plate: from taking attendance through the student information system, sharing assignments on the schoolwide LMS, posting grades, and assessing formal and informal learning gains using the school’s online testing tools. Libby reluctantly admits that she isn’t exactly thrilled at the prospect of integrating extra technology into her tried-and-true teaching routine, especially now that they’re all back together in the classroom.
Then came Cindy Hefernan. Cindy is a fifth grade educator at Martinez and is also Libby’s mentor colleague. Cindy frequently plans math lessons using digital math manipulatives and sees the power they have in boosting math confidence in her class every day. So, despite her misgivings, Libby tries digital manipulatives in her classroom and she can’t dispute the difference in how her math-phobic students approached their thinking about mathematics.
When she runs into Cindy in the hallway that afternoon, Libby shares the exciting news. She describes the “aha moments” her students discovered when they customized the manipulatives to visualize their thinking and problem solving. With a somewhat knowing smile, Cindy reiterates that the success of the tool comes from being an integrated piece of Libby’s underlying pedagogy—no “technology-for-technology’s sake” here—and that it all comes down to well-designed tools inline with real-world learning.