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Technology Integration Strategies

Integrating technology into the classroom has become an imperative for teachers at all grade levels. State standards require it and research supports its positive impact on student learning. Nearly all schools today have computer labs or a computer in the classroom and many also have Internet connections.

Teachers know that they must integrate technology into their lessons, and they finally have the equipment at their disposal. Understanding why it should happen and how best to do it are often less clear.

Reasons for Integrating Technology
When done effectively, technology has a positive impact on student learning. It can:
  • Increase student motivation for learning
  • Improve communication of learning goals
  • Facilitate higher-order thinking skills
  • Build valuable skills that students will use in college and in the workplace
  • Expand students' understanding from novice to mastery
There is no denying that computer technology has become as commonplace as the telephone in American society. To make learning relevant to students, this reality needs to be acknowledged in the form of technology-based lessons.

How Technology Changes the Way Students Learn
Students still learn the same way that they always have: by comparing new information with previously acquired knowledge and skills. However, students today have different preferences for how information is presented, based on their experiences with computer technology.

What is different in the learning process is the array of tools available to the learner. Computer technology automates previously laborious processes, allowing students to focus on developing higher order thinking skills. It also makes an unprecedented number of information resources available to students, often making for a more circuitous path to learning. Students use hypermedia (linked information) to access non-sequential pieces of information. Read "Click Here: Teaching the Net Generation" to learn more about how to appeal to these learning styles.

Activities for All Classrooms
There are literally thousands of ideas for using technology in your classroom. Online tools can be used for collaboration; the Internet provides a rich source of information; and multimedia tools allow students to assemble presentations that are both educational and entertaining.

The following ideas can be used in virtually any classroom, regardless of course content.
  • Create a Class Web Site—The Web is an excellent way to communicate with your students and their parents or guardians. You can include course information, assignments, lecture notes and presentations, links to interesting sites, challenges, study tools, links to textbook Web sites, and many other features.

  • Take Your Class on a Virtual Field Trip—Use the Internet to visit one of the many online exhibitions available. Notable institutions, such as the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian Institution, have exhibitions and guides designed especially for teachers and students. When funds or time do not allow a field trip, look online to find a worthwhile destination.

  • Take Part in a Web Event—These online events allow classes to observe and interact in educational activities occurring in real time. Using chat room technology or streaming video, these events are exciting to both students and educators. Students can often ask experts questions and can read (or hear) what other students from around the world are asking.

  • Create a WebQuest—This popular idea began back when the Internet was in its infancy, and it has grown by epic proportions ever since. Designed to engage students in Internet-based tasks that require higher-order thinking skills, WebQuests can range from a simple one class period activity to an extended group project that can take all semester. You can create your own using a template or visit one of the many sites that have teacher-created WebQuests ready for your use.

  • Visit Your Textbook Web Site—Many publishers offer supplementary Web sites to accompany textbook study. Glencoe/McGraw-Hill offers Web sites with extensive resources as a supplement to the textbook program. Glencoe Online Learning Centers have a wide array of features including tools for self-study, chapter summaries and links, video clips, and interactive activities.

  • Participate in an Online Research Project—The Internet is filled with ongoing projects that allow students to contribute by collecting, submitting, and analyzing data, submitting ideas, or contributing work online.

  • Have Students Create a Multimedia Presentation—Ask students to use various digital media, such as digital video clips, audio clips, and digital photographs to assemble a multimedia presentation. Use your content standards to identify choices that students can make about the project topic. The end product could result in a Web site, PowerPoint® presentation, or other hypermedia product.

  • Use Common Productivity Software for Teaching and Learning—Software that is commonly used to increase productivity in offices and in homes can also be effectively adapted to school use. Common products, such as word processing software, spreadsheets, and presentation-making applications, have a multitude of uses in the classroom. Whether used to organize data collected in a science project, to track revisions in the writing process, or to create a time line of events, these software products can increase student motivation by making tedious tasks easier.
Additional Forms of Technology for the Classroom
There are numerous other forms of hardware and software that can help engage students in technology-assisted learning. These include:

Peripheral or Course-Specific Technology
  • Calculator-Based Labs™
  • Calculators
  • Scientific monitoring devices, such as probes and sensors
  • Drawing software
  • Animation software
  • Global Positioning Systems
  • Email
  • Digital cameras
  • Digital video editing suites

Technology Lesson Guidelines
Whichever tools you choose to use in your classroom, you need to remain focused on the purpose of each activity. Use the following tips to guide you in your technology integration efforts, and you will be on your way to success.
  • Clearly define learning objectives for each lesson.
  • Align lessons with content standards.
  • Prepare learning assessment tools in advance.
  • Share assessment methods with students.
  • Familiarize yourself with the technology before using it in the classroom.
  • Be prepared with a back-up lesson in case technology malfunctions.
This article was contributed by Elizabeth Melville, an eLearning consultant and editor of Teaching Today.

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