In the Right Place
In the last year, my learning curve for integrating technology into my classroom practice has been steep. Through my participation in the COETAIL course and the commitment my school has made to technology for learning, or eLearning, I have been provided relevant and practical professional development and support. I now have an iPad and a Mac Book Pro courtesy of my school. My grade 7 and 8 students each have their own school laptop and my grade 6 students just got their own iPads. We have a Director of Technology for Learning and eLearning coaches at each division level. My colleagues and I are sharing ideas and resources in both face to face discussion and through Twitter (#sisrocks) and our school’s eLearning blog. I am completely aware of the amazing opportunities and support I have for using technology in my classroom. With all this access to devices and guidance, the question I need to be asking is
“How do I know if technology is being used effectively in my classroom?”
To answer this question, I have to consider two parts in the equation: the learning goals and the technology tools.
One theme I keep returning to over and over again based on my learning and experience this year is that the driving force behind the use of technology in education is the need to prepare our students for success in this 21st century digitally infused world. Now, the content of educational curriculum has to, in many cases, shift to realign with those needs, but that is a whole other HUGE topic to address in another post (or two). The point is that the focus has to be on the learning. David Carpenter discusses when planning with teachers, technology is the support, not the focus, in his post “How Do We Connect Technology and Classroom Instruction Seamlessly?”
When working with teachers one on one or in small groups, we again use the UbD [Understanding by Design] approach to determine what the learning will look like and how we will assess it to then work backwards in creating the instruction and content. As the collaboration progresses, we discuss possible ways that technology and/or research skills can support and enhance the learning….the technology does not enter the picture until we are far along in designing how to meet the learning objectives.
The learning determines the technology. Not the other way around.
This means I have to do what I have always done. I have to make sure my lesson plans are scaffolded to meet the content and skills goals of my curriculum. If I am not on target with those learning goals, the technology tools won’t matter.
The Technology Tools
Once I am confident the learning plan is in line with the curricular goals, I can then consider how I can use technology to support and facilitate those goals. It is quite easy to ‘fall in love’ with an app or particular website or a cool lesson activity and then try to manipulate or even shove it into the curriculum (I plead the fifth on this…no contest). However, I need to make sure the technology used matches with what the students need to learn, practice and demonstrate. I also want to make sure I’m taking advantage of using technology tools and resources that address the critical thinking skills students need to be developing and practicing no matter the content. I am now at the point where I need to really take a closer look at how the technology being used in my classroom is providing those educational opportunities for my students (or not). In fact, this is one of my professional goals this year: to evaluate the use of technology in my classroom.
The Evaluation Tools
As I begin to more deeply evaluate the use of technology in my classroom a couple different ‘taxonomies’ seem to stand out as tools I could use for planning and reflection.
Two models that I think are useful for a guides for general discussion are the SAMR model (Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, Redefinition) developed by Dr. Ruben Puentedura and the Tech Audit Tool being developed by Andrew Churches (based on work by Bernajean Porter). Both of these models provide general categories to classify how technology is being used in the classroom. At my school, we’ve used the SAMR model in professional discussions about tech integration and the Tech Audit Tool could also be used as guide for those discussions as well. Both models could also be used to show how projects can address multiple levels of integration.
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Tech Audit Tool
Level 1: Literacy: Teaching about technology
Level 2: Augmentative/Integrating: Teaching with technology
Level 3: Transformative: Teaching through technology
However, as I evaluate my own practice, I want to get more specific about the learning that is taking place because of the technology. Two resources that could accomplish this are Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy developed by Andrew Churches and TIM (Technology Integration Matrix) developed by the Florida Center for Instructional Technology.
Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy
Andrew Churches has taken the Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy and applied to Web 2.0 tools and processes. This provides teachers with a way to look at the technology in their classroom related to different cognitive domains. Churches is clear about the use of the taxonomy, stating,
Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy isn’t about the tools or technologies rather it is about using these to facilitate learning. Outcomes on rubrics are measured by competence of use and most importantly the quality of the process or product.
Mr. Churches provides various resources for planning, assessment and reflection regarding the use of technology to address learning goals.
Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy Quick Sheets provide examples of technology tools and processes that could address each of domains:
Bloom’s Analysis Tools (for Activities and Assessments) can help document to cognitive domains addressed in classroom activities and assessments over time.
These resources, and many others provided on the wiki, provide practical ways I could evaluate the use of technology in my classroom.
TIM (Technology Integration Matrix)
The purpose of TIM is “…to assist schools and districts in evaluating the level of technology integration in classrooms and to provide teachers with models of how technology can be integrated into instruction in meaningful ways.” It is a matrix of five characteristics of meaningful learning environments AND five levels of technology integration.
LEARNING ENVIRONMENTS (students’ roles)
- goal directed (reflective)
TECHNOLOGY INTEGRATION (teacher’s technology literacy)
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In addition to the matrix, there are resources with various printable indicators, a grade level index and a digital tool index that categorizes the videos of tech integration in classrooms found on the matrix. What appeals to me about this matrix is I can evaluate the learning opportunities I am providing my students (learning environment) and at what level I am facilitating the use of technology. The more and more I dig into the matrix, the more useful I am finding it to be for me to really be able to evaluate and to articulate what is happening in my classroom for myself and for others.
I have a much clearer vision of what technology integration should look like in my classroom but now I need to make sure it is happening and that I continue to reflect and set new goals for myself and my students. Of course, it could be predictable that I would conclude with a quote from a more famous ‘matrix’….
Sooner or later you’re going to realize just as I did that there’s a difference between knowing the path and walking the path. -Morpheus to Neo in The Matrix (1999)
For More Information…
Educational Origami (Andrew Churches’ wiki)