Can’t we just "integrate it everywhere?"

Yes, technology should be in every course. Of course. 

But to be everywhere it must also be understood everywhere. The fact is that right now (particularly in the US) teachers are stressed, budgets are stressed, and to just cut technology courses and say “Oh, we're going to integrate it everywhere” without a plan is really saying “we're not going to use technology as much.”

Getting Rid of Computer Class

Many people are going the way of getting rid of “computer class” but I have found that technology should be specifically TAUGHT kind of like we teach “handwriting” – handwriting is important enough to grade separately when there is something that must be mastered – it moves off the “report card” when it is just part of what we do. Without the grade in handwriting – this vital skill is lost.

So, as something is needed to be added to the student's toolset you have to focus on it. i.e. making videos, voicethread, wikis, collaborative writing, blogging, podcasting, editing audio, etc. and then it becomes just something you “do” like writing a paper. You're always adding aspects to it and improving it.

I know a school down the road that got rid of “computer” and put in Latin. Their reasoning was “if the kids need to know how to use PowerPoint they can come in at 7:30.”  OK, well, what about global collaboration, digital citizenship, visual literacy, copyright? Oh, I see, let the Latin teacher do that? Oh, all teachers should do that? Well, they should but is it realistic?

There is what SHOULD happen and what DOES happen and all of us realists out here know that most of us have a long way between the SHOULD and the DO.

Don't we let one teacher at the elementary level FOCUS on handwriting? Shouldn't we let a teacher FOCUS on keyboarding. We reap what we sow.

Where Are We Going?
After coming back from China I realize many of us just don't get it here in the US. My students saw fifth graders doing what some of my seniors can't do — they are controlling the stop motion camera mounted on their soccer field and capturing frames and giving feedback to the players of what they are doing! They live and breathe all kinds of media and have someone in ICT. I do think that the  International Baccalaureate Program  has an excellent framework that is influencing what I do here.

Learn from the Best.
We cannot look at those who are lagging but at those who are the best. Because of budget cuts many are settling. We cannot afford to settle at this point – I'm talking to US teachers – most likely our economy will be the second largest in the world in the next 8 years and I've seen what our children MUST be able to do.

We must move forwards not backwards. 

Sure we have to do it with less money and more sweat of the brow but goodness knows, it is time to stop blaming other people and whining. Throughout the generations tough times happen and those with great character rise to the occasion.

Be the Best.
That being said – I think most “computer classes” are hugely lacking in what they cover and often use computer software to teach what humans are better at teaching (i.e. keyboarding) and humans to teach what real-life experience can teach better (digital citizenship learning experiences, true global collaborative projects.) Sometimes we use books to teach what well designed projects would teach better (i.e. the effective use of software – point and click teaching is a WASTE of time!)

We need to follow best practices and set as our goal to be the best!

Better Your Best.
I've said a lot here and have to add that we're not perfect here either but I know where we are working towards and it is towards INTEGRATION in every class AND focused experiences to learn how to use these tools at a younger and younger age. I'd be happy if our first graders could type and make videos – but that isn't going to be possible yet so I”ll be happy w/ voicethread.

What Technology Lets You Do.
It is, however, NEVER about the technology but what it lets you do. I like Voicethread because students can easily use their voice. If they can learn to TALK in a topic sentence then when they are ready to construct paragraphs by hand – the concept is in their mind already. Anything to help bring multisensory learning and expression to differentiate and reach all students should be what we do – but it shouldn't be done some here some there.

As Chris Lehman says, technology should be like air. Ubiquitous, everywhere, invisible.

When Invisibility Happens

But it doesn't become INVISIBLE until everyone knows how to do it. Air is invisible because we all know how to breathe and it is everywhere. Technology is not invisible because it is NOT everywhere and when it is there, many do not know how to breathe it into their mode of teaching.

Time to Get Moving
Those of you who have heard me speak will recognize this – but it has to be said. The fact that you are reading a blog puts you in the minority!

You can't do it all, but you can do something.

The question is not how you compare to the teacher down the hall but how do you compare with yourself yesterday, last week, last month, last year? Are you improving yourself?

Sometimes we are too busy having a pity party to get ourselves busy and head towards that victory party!

Look at the thinking that is holding you back. Move ahead. Be creative. Let's get moving.

And until it becomes like air and we integrate it everywhere -it is going to take time. And when it becomes like air and is integrated everywhere remember that you'll still have transfer students! 😉

This post is extracted from a conversation I've been having with Michael Rhodes, Director of Technology of High Meadows School in Roswell, Georgia through the MISBO buying consortium. I'm very happy that my small school has joined MISBO. This nonprofit group that I found out through a chance seat on a plane trip from ISTE last year has helped us buy technology at DRASTICALLY reduced rates. It is a buying consortium for small schools or independent schools. I highly recommend it and NO, they don't pay me. 😉

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23 thoughts on “Can’t we just "integrate it everywhere?"

  1. Vicki thank you! This is a conversation I have been trying to form/verbalize for some time and you’ve hit the nail on the head! I’m bookmarking you!

  2. Vicky,

    I agree with much of what you write in this post. But, I’ve recently come to think that tech invisibility is not something to be sought after. In fact, I think it really ought to be as visible as possible. When technology becomes invisible it has a subversive way of using us and we loose our ability to control it. Examples of invisible technology that have this effect are:

    1. the mechanical clock and what it has done to control the movements of people and our method of approach and view of time
    2. language, as Neil Postman would suggest, is the most invisible technology in any culture and the shape and form of which shapes how we see things relating to each other. In countries that have English as their first language, for example, people have a greater tendency to view things as an either/or or binary perspective (see Technopoly or End of Education).
    3. Design, specifically environmental (both indoor and outdoor) have a way of subversively controlling our actions. Though not usually digital, design is a method of man manipulating their environment and therefore a form of technology.
    4. Statistics is perhaps the most dangerous technology effecting public schools today. Statistics, becoming an invisible technology in that those who have power to make decisions regarding what gets done and/or funded obsessively use this technology to…make their decisions. What ends up happening is that what gets measured gets done and what doesn’t get measured doesn’t. The invisible technology of statistics causes the decline in things like the arts and leads school leaders to decide to do things like eliminate recess or cut PE and offer it to students online.

    I used to think I would be a successful technology integration specialist if the technologies and strategies I introduce to teachers became invisible. I don’t think that anymore. Tools like social media, web applications, computer automation tools, etc. are too powerful to be allowed invisibility status in our schools. It will move us from being tool users to being used tools.

  3. Really, this wasn’t meant to argue for Chris’ view of invisibility but really to point out that maybe we aren’t to a place that is possible- at least not yet. As you argue- maybe not ever.

    However it is an argument used to remove focused courses on the use of technology- whether invisibility is a not ever or a not yet- it is definitely not valid for how people are using it!

    Thank you for your thorough and timely comment!!

    Vicki Davis
    Cool Cat Teacher Blog

    Building the bridges of today that the society of tomorrow will walk across.

    Sent from my iPod touch

  4. I agree that there needs to be some kind of dedicated computer education. I have had many fresh high school graduates come into my college classes who don’t know computer basics. They know how to browse (not search) the Web and type a little, but not how to move files around, or even where things they download are saved. As someone who grew up along with the evolution of computers I don’t understand how recent high school graduates do not know these fundamentals. I guess everyone assumes that they already know it.

  5. Yes! Everyone assumes they “know it” but they do not! I get transfer
    students who don’t know how to save or use a jump drive, for goodness sakes.
    When I see kids in 5th grade in China who cannot only do these things but
    more it upsets me that we just don’t “get it.” Just because adults can’t
    doesn’t mean a thing -it is time to know HOW!

    Vicki A. Davis
    http://www.coolcatteacher.com
    Blog: http://coolcatteacher.blogspot.com
    Twitter: @coolcatteacher

  6. My students have won awards almost every year for the last 5 years that we have had a 1:1 laptop program (and for more years before that). We have broken ground on uses of Skype, wikis, and more … and every year (this year has been the worst) we have more and more walls put up to block us from doing those things. I’m forced to “break rules” and “Go Guerilla” or “underground” to do what I do. Am I told I can’t do these powerful learning activities? No! But more and more required “programs” take up the entire day. So the claim can be made that no one is telling me not to run a 1:1 laptop program … there is just no time or support to do so. Many teachers I have worked with over the past 5 years are running into the same issues.
    Brian

  7. Yes!! There are so many issues. There are so many struggles and many
    mistakes are greatly harming the greatness of what we could be. And yet,
    BRian, you are living proof that you are more. You ARE being exceptional.
    You ARE doing great things anyway. You are frustrated but you ARE
    succeeding. WE all stand at the precipice of negativity sometimes and think
    about taking the plunge but we know if we go too far we may not be able to
    come back. And we don’t plunge because of who we are. Thank you for being an
    inspirational leader and fighting against the tide that is shifting us in a
    direction that is not beneficial to our future. IN some ways we are so
    concerned about the future that we’re not using common sense today.

    Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to comment!
    Vicki A. Davis
    http://www.coolcatteacher.com
    Blog: http://coolcatteacher.blogspot.com
    Twitter: @coolcatteacher

  8. Vicki, thank you for your encouraging words! I appreciate your passion here and your support for the technology/computer special. I am half of a technology teacher and half of a classroom teacher. I’ve thought about how the specials are often the first to go. Being in both roles and having a 1-to-1 program in my fifth grade classroom I have to say I love the fact that there is dedicated time each week in computer and technology class for my students to learn the basics. If they did not have the time in the technology lab setting, they would be greatly lacking in the essential basics. As a result, I’ve discovered how important it is to get the word out to parents, other teachers and community members regarding what is happening with technology in the school. This seems to help make what is invisible suddenly visible and hopefully lead to more use.

  9. Excellent post on technology and the lost art of actually teaching to a class. We rely so much on technology now that we take it for granted. I, personally, could not imagine going through a day without checking my email, checking the internet, or wasting more time on my iPhone, but I’ve slowly been trying to ween myself off this constant need. One last note, today in class, we were in the computer lab working with seventh graders for a story they had to read and respond to with a written response. During this, I had a discussion with a couple of students who were amazed that I could type without looking at the keyboard. To this, I stated to them that that was how you normally typed on a computer and they then thought I was wrong and they were right in not watching the screen as they typed. Ahhh, the joys of technology…

  10. I guess part of my problem is that computer is treated ‘special” at all – do
    we do that to handwriting? No, handwriting is needed just to function in
    school. So is typing. So is technology fluency. The fact that we treat it as
    special and have this conundrum is evidence that our generation is allowing
    our “newness” to technology to influence the fact that we think technology
    is an option at all.

    Vicki A. Davis
    http://www.coolcatteacher.com
    Blog: http://coolcatteacher.blogspot.com
    Twitter: @coolcatteacher

  11. So many kids are taught with software and they learn by looking at their
    fingers. Our kids here average over 70 words a minute and it is important to
    not be a visual typer! From a typing teacher to you – you are right – you
    should be able to type with your eyes closed and the lights off (in fact, at
    the end of keyboarding, that is exactly what we do!)

    Vicki A. Davis
    http://www.coolcatteacher.com
    Blog: http://coolcatteacher.blogspot.com
    Twitter: @coolcatteacher

  12. Reading this post, it really hit home for me. This is what I have been saying for a while as well. Students are “assumed” to have the basic computer skills (typing, basic word document skills, etc.) but not all of them do! I think many schools teach some basic skills early then feel like they have had enough and move forward to “fun” things like making videos, using voicethread (as you said), creating websites, etc. But the fact of the matter is that if students aren’t equipped with basic skills, then what we teach them as “fun” skills, will be useless if it doesn’t look professional in the workplace. Students ultimately will have a job whenever they are “done” school (which ever level), and those jobs require some basic knowledge and skills – we seem to be doing a disservice by creating students that don’t have a focus on important essential computing skills.
    I completely agree that when you are teaching essays for example, that it is good to show, and teach students the proper way to format, and edit work. Also, it is crucial they know how to organize that information (file moving, saving formats, etc.) because yet again, that is really important as a professional in the workforce.
    Buck up teachers and just teach tranferable skills in all subjects. Computer skills are not and should not be isolated to the computer class.

  13. I love this, Vicki. Thank you for sharing your work under Creative Commons. I would like to build your ideas into a presentation for my faculty next year—I’ll be Technology Integration Specialist, and you have given me some great ideas for a start.

  14. Excellent post! This is exactly why I’ve been frustrated recently. I have difficulty in getting teachers to want to do collaboration because they “don’t have time.” Well, sure, they don’t have the time to spend teaching the kids how to use the technology while creating/working on project.

  15. So we if teach them and the teacher knows what should be known by a certain point – they can just “use it.” Then, we’ll have to have an orientation, of sorts, for transfer students.

  16. I find myself hesitant to integrate technology into my daily practice for two reasons. I don’t have a grasp on what is available, necessary, or how it works. I spend so much time managing the objectives that I am required to teach that I don’t feel as if I have time to explore other, more technology infused ways on teaching them. Secondly, there is a serious problem with lack of access to technology in my building. We recently had to disband our computer lab in order to create more class room space. We do have laptops on wheeled carts, but there are only 90 computers for 600 students. Access is a big issue.
    I think that many teachers want to integrate more technology into instruction, but really don’t have any idea of where to start.

  17. You are right. But remember, you cannot integrate everything but you can use it for something!! You know something that works! Something you can do!! Something is better than nothing and you can’t do everything anyway!

    We all have reasons for not doing it but if we list our reasons for doing it- and if we see where we want to leave our legacy- let’s do what we can!

    Thank you for sticking your neck out and reaching out! Teachers everywhere are having this problem! Onwards and upwards!

    Vicki Davis
    Cool Cat Teacher Blog

    Building the bridges of today that the society of tomorrow will walk across.

    Sent from my iPod touch

  18. Vicky,
    I am currently a third year student up at the University of Maine that is taking a computers in education course. I never even considered the possibilities of using technology in the classroom like I have been exploring recently. I found your page and am thoroughly enjoying what you have to say.

    “Those of you who have heard me speak will recognize this – but it has to be said. The fact that you are reading a blog puts you in the minority!” When I read this line I knew immediately what you were talking about. When I tell my friends about what I am learning in my class, many have no idea of possibilities. So, that lead me to this project I am working on. http://heyamoose12.soup.io/ is my project where I directly ask students questions about education and the hold up a sign with the answer.

    The idea of integrated technology at a younger age I agree is very important, once we get to the kind of curriculum that can support that kind learning, the growth that those students can show in the years to follow is almost difficult to predict. When you talked about the 5th graders in China being able to do stuff that your seniors could not, it just made me think of how the U.S. is truly slipping in the field of education in comparison to other countries. I have never had a computer class like I do now, and I wish I did. Most of the computer classes I took in Middle school were limited to learning to type. That was it. There is something wrong with that.

    I am looking into a lot of the articles you post because they definitely bring up a good points. I am really looking forward to looking more into your posts. 🙂

    Linda Gaudreau
    University Of Maine
    Future English Teacher
    Blog: http://heyamoose12.wordpress.com/
    Twitter:http://twitter.com/#!/heyamoose12

  19. Great post Vicki,

    With respect to tech being invisible, I use a quote my buddy Dave Sands taught me in a presentation a while back on how POD’s, Personally Owned Devices are coming into our schools whether we want them or not… “To the fish, water is invisible”. Well technology is becoming ubiquitous and our kids don’t ‘see’ it, they just use it, but they use it in very specific ways and seldom know how to use it for educational purposes without it being explicitly taught. Unleash a Grade 4 on Powerpoint and you get volumes of plagiarized slides, filled with text and nothing to compliment the points visually, and with transitions that distract (and delay) the presentation, rather than compliment it. We can’t assume that because we unleash a kid on a tool and they are able to find things the tool is capable of doing faster than most adults, that they have a clue about design, or using visuals to persuade etc. Using technology (well) still needs to be taught.

    On another topic, it infuriates me to read comments like Brian’s and see teachers wanting to use the tech, and their own districts shut them down. I live in China and have to deal with blocking, but here is a teacher in the ‘Free’ world & he has to go underground to use free social tools because they ‘might’ be used poorly by students. The next time someone writes on one of the school walls with a pencil, maybe we should ban all pencils from school.

    Here are a poster I’d like to share with teachers like Brian. In my blog post about this poster, I said to post it in your front entrance, but maybe the better place is on the doors of your head office and school administrator.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/datruss/4408321697/

  20. Wow! Insightful and true!!! Thank you for the poster. Kids don’t just “know this stuff” and it must be taught. Unfortunately, here in the states many are moving backwards while claiming they are moving ahead. Lots of hardware and closed systems that represent closed minds and pixies that will serve to be detrimental to the future of these kids. Thank you for taking the time for such a thorough comment.

    Vicki Davis
    Cool Cat Teacher Blog

    Building the bridges of today that the society of tomorrow will walk across.

    Sent from my iPod touch

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