Encouraging the Conversation: Strategic Integration of Technology

By Krista Moroder

The first time I held a workshop on Google Docs, three people showed up. The second time I held a workshop, five people showed up. The third time I held a workshop, two people showed up. Months later, I still couldn’t increase my numbers to more than 10 participants … in a district of almost 450 employees.

I didn’t understand it. I wasn’t exactly Sir Ken Robinson, but I definitely had more than five people in the audience when I spoke at conferences. What was going on?

The Wrong Approach

In my world (and the world of the #edtech gurus I follow on Twitter), technology can increase efficiency, encourage collaboration, and help support personalized learning environments. However, in the world of most teachers, technology seems like just ANOTHER thing to add to an already-increasing list of expectations.

Between Common Core, Response to Intervention, common assessments, this initiative and that initiative … who has time to learn about Google Docs?

I was teaching technology for technology’s sake- and I was completely failing in my approach.

The Right Approach

I realized that throwing haphazard workshops on “20 Ways to Use an iPad in the Classroom” was about as effective as throwing workshops on “20 Ways to Use a Pencil in the Classroom”. It was time to rethink my approach — and figure out what actually was working.

1- Score Descriptions
Below, I have an example of two of my teachers moving along a continuum of technology use — from Phase I: Unaware, to Phase IV – Integration (see right for the scale my district is using). The instructional technology coaches weren’t serving as evangelists for technology.

Instead, they end up serving three roles:

  1. Doctors (recognizing inefficiencies and prescribing solutions)
  2. Cheerleaders (encouraging conversation and experimentation)
  3. Counselors (encouraging reflection and refinement)

The entire conversation starts and ends with the teachers — the focus is always on what the teacher is doing in his/her classroom and the coach is merely there to encourage that conversation.

Phase I: Unaware → Phase II: Awareness

  • 2- Phase I to IIPhase I: You are either unaware of the technology alternatives, or you are unaware of how you can use that technology to make your tasks more efficient or more effective.
  • Phase II: You are aware of the technology alternative and developing foundational skills. You may be able to apply the technology when prompted, but you often rely on others to determine which technology to use.
  • Role of the technology integration coach: Doctor to recognize inefficiencies and prescribe solutions
  • How to move out of Phase I: A technology integration coach notices a task or process in the teacher’s classroom, and suggestions a possible efficiency solution.

Example:

  1. Mary (a 2nd grade teacher) mentions a discussion she had with Holli (a Library Media Specialist).
  2. Holli suggested the app Class Dojo to help streamline Mary’s process of tracking and communicating student behaviors (as part of the school-wide initiative, PBIS- Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports).
  3. Mary sets up an appointment to learn more about the tool.

Phase II: Awareness → Phase III: Exploration

  • 3- Phase II to IIIPhase II: You are aware of the technology alternative and developing foundational skills. You may be able to apply the technology when prompted, but you often rely on others to determine which technology to use.
  • Phase III: You are exploring the technology alternative for different uses. You have the skills to use the technology alternative, which you use mostly for classroom management tasks, presentations, or dissemination of information.
  • Role of the technology integration coach: Cheerleader, to encourage conversation and experimentation
  • How to move out of Phase II: The teacher experiments with the tool in his/her classroom, notes successes and failures, and has discussions with other educators.

Example:

  1. A few months after the original email exchange, Mary sets up another time to have a conversation. She brings another teacher, Carole, who is also experimenting with the tool.
  2. They reference real-use cases they saw on social networks for the app, and discuss what worked and didn’t work in their classrooms.

Phase III: Exploration → Phase IV: Integration

  • Phase III: You are exploring the technology alternative for different uses. You have the skills to use the technology alternative, which you use mostly for classroom management tasks, presentations, or dissemination of information.
  • Phase IV: You have replaced many of your daily tasks with the technology alternative. You are beginning to create collaborative, hands-on experiences for your students and encourage learner independence.
  • Role of the technology integration coach: Counselor, to encourage reflection and refinement
  • How to move out of Phase III: The educator targets best practices and decide to commit to the tool or look for an alternative.

4- Phase III to IVExample:

  1. After Mary and Carole discuss best practices, they decided to try a few different ideas.
  2. During the conversation, Carole says, “I think that I will try to experiment a bit more this year, and have it ready to go for next year.” (Phase IV).

Changing the Structure

As we move towards encouraging these conversations systematically across our district, we’ve realized that we need to build a new structure for professional development for our teachers.

Instead of haphazardly throwing workshops on different apps, we will be building PLPs (Personalized Learning Plans) with every teacher next year. Our goal for the PLPs is to build a structure around strategic technology integration — not integrating technology for technology’s sake, but integrating technology to increase efficiency or effectiveness.

So far, we’ve identified the following conditions that will help nurture these conversations:

  1. Finding flexible time for instructional technology coaches to walk around the building, learn classroom procedures, and have conversations with teachers.
  2. Encouraging strategic technology integration only! Instead of asking, “How can this tool be used in the classroom?”, we want educators to ask, “Is this a good lesson or procedure? Can this be more efficient or effective? How?”.
  3. Dedicating time for educators to meet with instructional technology coaches and other teachers to have these important conversations.
  4. Nurturing an environment that encourages innovation, risk-taking, and reflection.

Instead of starting with the tool, we want to start with the task; instead of starting with us, we want to start with the teachers. It’s time for us to stop talking, and start being a part of the conversation.

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