Integrating Technology Into the Content Areas
The rise and rapid development of technology both forces and allows educational institutions to integrate technology into teaching. The resources abound- both free and paid applications and websites; a variety of themes, topics, and subjects; and different delivery methods (games, simulations, lesson plans, etc.) Technology allows us to enrich our students’ learning experience, and can take them to places they would not otherwise be able to get to.
Sounds like a perfect world, right? But the reality is a bit more complex than the seemingly endless opportunities technology offers us. Lack of digital resources and slow Internet connectivity together with lack of teacher knowledge and understanding in instructional technology, hinder the effective integration of technology into schools and classrooms around the world.
According to an essay titled The Continuing Challenges of Technology Integration for Teachers, the main problem of technology integration is that it is often not integrated in a meaningful way (Morehead & LaBeau, 2005). The author, Barbara LaBeau, explains that in order to achieve higher levels of engagement, teachers must know how to utilize technology as a tool for student learning. They will then understand the benefit of technology in teaching and learning, and find meaningful ways to integrate technology into their content areas. Another cause for the difficulties in integrating technology into teaching is the lack of access to technology in some institutions (El Hariri, 2007; Capper, 2003).
According to Morehead and LaBeau, in order for schools to properly integrate technology into the curriculum, schools must (1) work together to map their curriculum so teachers understand the curriculum better, and then (2) align their technology standards. Once the foundations are in place and teachers understand technology can enhance their curriculum in many ways, teachers need to (3) receive professional development related to technology instruction in their content area (2005).
Using the many options technology offers us nowadays can greatly enrich our curriculum and the quality of the instruction we provide our students with. Technology can be integrated in any content area- social studies, math, science, PE, the Arts, etc . Technology integration can take place in many different ways- may it be for student research, to learn about people and places of the past or far away, to display our work in a fun, exciting, and engaging way, etc.
According to Glencoe.com, effective use of technology in the classroom allows for:
- Increased student motivation for learning;
- Improved communication of learning goals;
- Facilitation of higher-order thinking skills;
- Building of valuable skills that students will use in college and in the workplace; and,
- Expanding of students’ understanding from novice to mastery.
More specifically, when speaking about particular content areas, the integration of technology offers benefits that are often unique to that subject area. For example, according to Roblyer and Doering (2013), the use of technology in language arts can support students’ word fluency and vocabulary development, comprehension and literacy development, writing instruction, and literature learning. Through the use of digital publications, blogs and wikis, concept mapping software, eReaders, and other resources, the above goals can be reached in a more efficient and engaging way than without the use of technology. Roblyer and Doering further explain that it is important to remember that in order to effectively integrate technology into a language arts program, the teacher must have a combination of English and language arts content knowledge, pedagogical knowledge, and technological knowledge (2013).
When discussing the integration of technology into the mathematics curriculum, most of the challenges are similar to those of the integration into the curriculum as a whole. In an article written by Gladis Kersaint, there is a clear disconnect between national recommendations, research on the use of technology in math education, and the reality of the use of technology in many classrooms. In addition, she explains the problem begins with the fact that pre-service teachers are not taught how to integrate technology into their math instruction (Kersaint, 2007). In order to properly integrate technology into the mathematics curriculum, teachers must have a mastery of the mathematics content, the pedagogical skills, and the technology used (El Hariri, 2007).
In cases where technology is integrated properly, the results are positive. Kersaint summarizes, “…the use of technology has enabled students to visualize mathematics, engage in active learning strategies, verify conjectures, have positive attitudes, and build confidence in their ability to do mathematics.”
In order to support student development and success in science, for example, the use of technology is extremely important. As Roblyer and Doering put it, “Technology supports science, and science makes new technology possible” (p.308). In addition to the variety of state and/or national standards that technology helps us to address in our teaching, the use of technology in science allows our students to experience more authentic science, and allows them to take part in phenomena that otherwise they would not be able to experience. Digital microscopes, graphic calculators, simulations, games, robotics software, etc. are just a few of the tools and software available to enhance students’ understanding of scientific and other concepts.
The relative advantage of integrating technology into different content areas has improved student motivation, increased student engagement and improved overall achievement.
Here are some examples of technology-enhanced lesson ideas I created:
Capper, Joanne. (2003). Complexities and challenges of integrating technology into the curriculum. Retrieved from http://www.techknowlogia.org/TKL_Articles/PDF/471.pdf
El Hariri, Maha. (2007). The difficulties facing technology integration into mathematics education in Lebanon. Retrieved from https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=5&ved=0CGQQFjAE&url=http%3A%2F%2Fmath.arizona.edu%2F~atp-mena%2Fconference%2Fpresentations%2FMaha_El_Harriri_Technology_Integration_Education.ppt&ei=ORV2UePyG4XkrAeYvYGoBQ&usg=AFQjCNHAIJfomV_R8QMulDyx882ncJejBA&sig2=WkNmFOuPgO_cQMgDGzr5Og&bvm=bv.45512109,d.bmk
Kersaint, Gladis. (2007). Toward technology integration in mathematics education: A technology-integration course planning assignment. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 7(4). Retrieved from http://www.citejournal.org/vol7/iss4/mathematics/article1.cfm
Melville, Elizabeth. Technology Integration Strategies. Retrieved from: http://www.glencoe.com/sec/teachingtoday/subject/tech_integration.phtml
Morehead, Pamela & LaBeau, Barbara. (2005) The continuing challenges of technology integration for teachers. Retrieved from http://www.usca.edu/essays/vol152005/moreheadrev.pdf
Roblyer, M.D. and Doering, A.H. (2013). Integrating Educational Technology into Teaching (6th Ed.). Pearson.