Monday, June 21, 2010

Thinking about Technology Integration...

As the course that inspired, instigated, and influenced this blog comes to an end, it is worth revisiting the Topic At Large -- that is, the integration of technology in Social Studies (or any other school "subject" for that matter). There are Big Questions of course: Can technology be integrated? Should technology be integrated? How? What kind of technology?

As one who is relatively reluctant to embrace technology of many kinds without a Darn Good Reason, I am often cast as a Luddite by my teenage son, a self-described techno-geek (and proud of it too!!). This is slightly unfair, as I am fully computerized at work and at home, use my laptop daily, keyboard at 60+ wpm, own and use a Smartphone, an iPod Shuffle, and an iTouch. I have a Facebook account, text message fairly often, used a template program to design an educational website for the museum, Google like crazy, and am learning to write for a web-enabled Smartphone app. I even know what a web-enabled Smartphone app is!!! Surely that counts for something...?

But in the world of my techno-geek son and his equally techno-geek or at least techno-saavy and techno-connected friends and peers, I cannot compete. This is a fact - he and they have literally grown up on technology and all it can do, and they embrace the new and advanced and faster and smarter and more functional with aplomb. They will always be more advanced, more interested, and more ready-and-willing to dive into the deep end and swim for it. I would prefer to dip my toes in, maybe sit on the edge and just watch for a while. I suspect that there are many, many teachers out there who feel the way I do, and are completely unable to contemplate integrating technology in the classroom. Who wants to set themselves up as the Luddite teacher to a gaggle of techno-saavy teens who will not hesitate to gleefully point out and celebrate your shortcomings?

This scenario certainly does not apply to all teachers, maybe not even to the majority of teachers, but this digital-divide reality, combined with the realities of educational today, can make technology and schools seem like an impossible combination. These realities include a society and its government that under-values and under-funds education; schools that lack technology resources altogether, or have such old or inadequate resources that they are virtually useless; a skills-driven, factory-mentality curriculum that relies on high-stakes testing; and a lack of technical knowledge and support at the school level, as addressed in my colleague's previous post. So much has to change, on so many levels. Schools need the best equipment, the top-tier support personnel, and the opportunity to re-envision and reconfigure the school as The Most Important Investment our society can make. Until that happens, we have to find ways to work with what we have, and maybe allow those techno-geek students to teach us sometimes. Will it be different in another generation, when the techno-saavy students of today are the techno-saavy teachers of tomorrow?
As technology becomes integrated into so much of daily life in so many places around the world, we must find a way to integrate that World into our schools. Perhaps then technology will have a chance to follow.

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