It was very interesting witnessing technology being integrated across so many contexts. Watching how situational factors influenced opinions and decision-making demonstrated how complex technology integration really is. The range of student experiences in all the contexts demonstrates the importance of pedagogy but also of the willingness of larger educational systems to support meaningful technology integration. Access to technology, professional development opportunities, professional/school culture, instructional level, etc. all impacted the way teachers integrated technology in their contexts.
Case one demonstrated the benefits of an integrated, interdisciplinary approach. The concepts are connected to real world problem solving and technology is used as facilitator to explore the concepts. The student’s knowledge is connected and constructed through authentic experience. I love how the teacher is excited that the kids figure concepts out on their own and independently problem solve, instead of just remembering what they were told to do. Technology is integrated but is not the focus of instruction. The students were applying the concept with the help of technology, within a theoretical framework. For example, he mentions an Arduino, but only within the context of the project. The students had a functional understanding of the technology and how they were using it to learn. The teachers discussed independence, communication, critical thinking, creative thinking, problem solving as a main focus. I also thought the point about getting student teachers to engage in projects similar to the students was a great idea. I just went to a Makey Makey PD attended by a lot technologically novice teachers. The facilitator had us just do the same projects we were going to do with our students. In one day, he had everyone happily coding away in Scratch. If it the PD would have been done with a ‘stand and deliver’ approach, it would not have been nearly as successful.
The teacher in the case 5 classroom has a very positive view of the potential of technology. She views it as an effective scaffold for English language learners. She integrates technology across the curriculum to facilitate her form of project-based learning and incorporates a lot of collaboration. I was wondering how much focus was on just incorporating a lot of technology and how much was on the topics they were learning. It was interesting to listen to the retiring teacher and the new teacher focusing on the reasons why technology is difficult to incorporate. It is a common viewpoint that using technology is a separate ability, or pet interest, that only some teachers possess. Many teachers have a growth-mindset for most subjects, but for math and technology ability is viewed as more fixed.
The teacher talked a lot about content and being “right” in his interview. I got the impression he viewed learning as retaining content and regurgitating the answers provided to them. I think his integration provided an upgrade from traditional direct instruction, but I did wonder about the value of students just repackaging provided information through PowerPoint or podcasts. I wondered if the style of integration would allow students to address conceptual challenges. The student teacher made some good points about the benefits of hands-on, collaborative and creative learning.
I was struck at the difference between case 1 and case 7. The participation in learning went from immersion with concepts and technology to pressing a button on a remote. Having said that, I would have loved to have access to that during my undergrad educational experience. Actively involving so many students is a very difficult task and at least they are provided with some means of participation.
I thought the teachers in case 8 did a good job connecting the use of technology to the concepts they were teaching. They had a convincing rational explaining how the specific technology would help students understand the concepts. They also explained why the technology was more effective than using other methods. They were trying to incorporate the students work into the learning as much as possible. Some of the teachers did identify a significant issue regarding how time intensive integrating technology can be in the early years. The relative lack of independence results in a heavy burden on the teachers. I wonder if the reduced participation of kids impacts its overall educational value for students.