|Integration is a word which will come up again and again over this course so it is worth taking a look at this concept. According to the Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary, integrate means "to combine two or more things in order to become more effective"|
Technology integration is defined as the use of technology to enhance and support the educational environment. Technology integration in the classroom can also support classroom instruction by creating opportunities for students to complete assignments on the computer rather than with normal pencil and paper.
So with learning technologies, it is all about combining the learning technology with our everyday teaching in order to provide our learners with a more effective learning opportunity.
It is very easy with any new technology to get excited and forget pedagogy. It wouldn't be surprising that when teachers first got their hands on chalk and blackboards they spent an initial period where they had their backs to their students marvelling at what this new technology could afford them.
Of course, over time technologies become integrated so much that we don't even consider they are in fact learning technologies.
But it's not just the teacher who has to consider the implication of integrating new technologies. It is very important that integration is considered at the school or organisation level.
Integration at a school level
What does a school need to consider when thinking about integrating new learning technologies?
- cost - how much is it going to cost to provide enough resources for teachers? We can't expect students to share one copy of a key course book; it's no use only having one whiteboard in one classroom and none in the others. It may be a great idea to buy a new piece of software for students to use but if the school cannot afford to pay for the licenses so that everyone in a class can use it then it will be pretty useless.
There is also the recurring cost of maintenance and IT support, something that is often overlooked. One suggestion, to help keep the costs down, is to share support between a number of schools.
- modes of access - how will students access the learning technologies? If there is only one room with all the computers in then it will be very difficult to book time in it for your learners (and the computing teachers will be hard to shift).
- availability of resources and equipment - to find out how something works we need to experiment with it first. If teachers can't access the tools to experiment then the equipment will remain unused in classes.
- teacher training - possibly the most important. School managers invariably do not provide adequate time and resources for training - both for the basic IT skills needed and the pedagogic skills to integrate it (although if you're reading this then maybe your manager has considered this).
- keeping up with the students - we must ensure that children aren't 'dumbing down' when they come to school. If they have better equipment, better connectivity and better learning resources at home, then the school experience may be undervalued.
Integration at the lesson level
This is what this course is concerned with and involves two key areas: Syllabus integration - how are learning technologies used throughout the syllabus? Is there even usage? Lesson integration - how are learning technologies used in the lesson? This is related to lesson planning, what activities will be done before, during and after the stage using the learning technology?
The key thing throughout this is that pedagogy leads technology.
We must ensure that everything we do is led by desire to provide the best educational experiences for our students. It is important not to get blinded by what technologies are available and always question the benefits of using a particular technology.