30 June 2013

Technology Integration Matrix

Effective technology integration is achieved when its use supports curricular goals. 
It must support four key components of learning: active engagement, 
participation in groups, frequent interaction and feedback, 
and connection to real-world experts.
Edutopia, 2012

What strikes me most about the video above from Edutopia, is that it posits that technology is just a tool - one of the many we have our disposal and that our responsibility as educators is to use "whatever resources [we] have to the best of [our] abilities". I am lucky enough in that I have at my disposal: 
  • experience of working in a 1:1 environment for two years
  • an ever-increasing knowledge about educational technology and how it might best integrate into the classroom stemming both from my experience but also from the learning I do to feed the burning desire to understand how best to use this growing tool
  • a supportive school that encourages us to take risks and try new ways of teaching and learning
  • a great online PLN from whom I learn something new everyday
  • an Apple geek husband who supports and helps me with technical queries and issues
  • a classroom full of eager learners - each with their own Apple MacBook Pro
and it is a combination of all the above that means that whilst educators have always had to use what they have (and I have worked in schools with NOTHING, not even my own classroom) I acknowledge that I am in a really privileged position and I have to make sure I make the most of it. It is my responsibility to use these resources wisely and effectively to enhance teaching and learning.
Edutopia: An Introduction to Technology Integration (2012)
The principals of technology integration that are most important to me are those that allow learners 'to foster creative problem solving and metacognition' (p. 50) as these are transferable skills that make life-long learners and 'to support efficient, self-paced learning' (p. 49). The Edutopia video above states that when we create our own learning, this is completely different learning to reading or memorising from a books. Most recently I experienced the power of this creativity myself. Having taught the research process for the IB Diploma extended essay for the past six years, I thought I had a pretty good handle on the research, writing and editing process. It was only once I enrolled onto my Masters in Education and began writing the first academic essay I had written in almost twenty years that I really began to 
get the whole process properly - and it meant I was in a much better position to teach research writing. My Grade 8 learners were also writing a research paper at the same time I was writing mine (read my first attempt at writing here) and they appreciated my struggles and the fact that I was going through what they were. One of them even took a draft of my paper home to read and came back the next day with questions about structure and organisation! 

Most importantly for me, technology integration is about the learning, it is about the creating and it is about the process. Technology is transforming all of this. Recently I qualified as a Flat Classroom teacher as I believe the power we have now enables us to transform what we think of as education and how we view the idea of a classroom. We have the power to provide authentic audiences, forge diverse cultural relationships and create global classrooms. "We need to meet [learners] where they are" (Edutopia, 2012), and this means we need to be lifelong learners but we also need to be someone who uses technology and tries to understand and utilise the digital world they are so comfortable in.

They are a variety of methods to assess the effectiveness or need for technology integration. One I have come across lately, is the Florida Center for Instructional Technology's Technology Integration Matrix (TIM) which identifies five levels of technology integration:
  • entry
  • adoption
  • adaptation
  • infusion 
  • transformation
At the entry level, teachers are at the point where they are "using technology to deliver curriculum content to students" and activities include "listening to or watching content delivered through technology or working on activities designed to build fluency with basic facts or skills, such as drill-and-practice exercises". At this point of integration, learners "may not have direct access to the technology...and decisions about how and when to use technology tools as well as which tools to use are made by the teacher".  At the further end of the spectrum, at the transformation level, learners "use technology tools flexibly to achieve specific learning outcomes" and have "a conceptual understanding of the tools coupled with extensive practical knowledge about their use".  Here, the "teacher serves as a guide, mentor, and model in the use of technology. At this level, technology tools are often used to facilitate higher order learning activities that would not otherwise have been possible, or would have been difficult to accomplish without the use of technology" (Florida Center for Instructional Technology, 2013).

Associated with these integration levels, are five interdependent characteristics of meaningful learning environments:
  • active
  • constructive
  • goal directed (i.e., reflective)
  • authentic
  • collaborative (Jonassen, Howland, Moore, & Marra, 2003)
Together, these two sets of criteria create a matrix of twenty-five cells that have various subject-specific suggestions embedded into it that can be used to create meaningful lessons that purposefully integrate technology.  At least, that is what I hoped.

I looked in detail at a 'goal directed' lesson at 'entry level' for language arts (click here). It involved learners taking a reading assessment by reading on screen and using 'responders', wireless clickers, to input answers. Results were automatically graded and collated for the teacher to use. I then compared this with a 'goal directed' lesson at the 'transformational level' for language arts (click here). Considering these two are at opposing ends of the integration spectrum, I struggled to see any real difference between the two as both, to me, seemed to be 'using technology' and I couldn't see a true "relative advantage" of using the technology (Roblyer and Doering, 2013). Sure, the 'Puppy Mill' project would have been a lot more difficult without the Internet or technology but what was the value added? I guess my main problem is with the learning objectives; what 'understanding' is the technology allowing these learners to experience that the lack thereof would mean was missing? The 'Puppy Mill' project's learning objective was to "design a project, create a task list, and complete the project as planned"; the learning objective of the reading assessment was to "use computers and responders to complete a reading assessment" - and I think more than the use of technology or the designation of the level at which it is being integrated is my issue with these learning objectives. Having focused on Wiggins and McTighe's (2011) Understanding by Design model, how are these objectives about understanding anything worthwhile or transferable? I want a tool that will help me to really consider HOW to allow learners to assess and show their understanding through a transference of their understanding into new situations and contexts. This led me to explore further and this time, I looked at the matrix via the Grade Level Index page.

Focusing on Language Arts again (it is my subject and I want to learn how to effectively integrate the into the English classroom), I looked that a Middle School 'authentic learning' lesson at the 'adoption level' (next up from entry). Again, whilst the teacher's rationale that her technology choice (Moodle) allowed her to "expand the classroom beyond these four walls" is a valid one that aligns with the desire I have for my learners, I could not see HOW she was doing this other than expanding learning into their free time. She made some valid points that these forums encouraged open discussion and the learners appeared to appreciate this and she indicated that this tool "allows those who are quieter to voice their opinion", which is a positive thing. Equally, she stated that she felt it was "creating a community of readers" which was "making them read more" which again, is excellent. However, to truly expand beyond the walls, learning needs to be MORE authentic than this - it needs real audiences beyond their classroom, blogs where they share with another school or even grade level go beyond the classroom; Skype with authors are great ways of breaking down walls - global projects that connect with a class from the other side of the world... Again, I think my problem is with the learning intention, which was to "engage in online discussions about their reading" and "complete assignments online and send them to their teacher" - what is the authentic learning here? Is this more authentic than having a discussion in class or writing an essay on paper? If the goal of education is to have “direct instruction and modeling…always in the context of trying to improve (increasingly autonomous) student performance” (Wiggins & McTighe, 2011, p. 104) - what is the learning goal that supports this understanding? What transferable skill are they coming to understand?

Finally, before I gave up disappointed, I found a Grade 9-12 'collaborative learning' research project lesson at the 'infusion' level of integration, which "typically occurs after teachers and students have experience with a particular technology tool". At the 'infusion' level a "range of different technology tools are integrated flexibly and seamlessly into teaching and learning" and "is available in sufficient quantities to meet the needs of all students."At this level, learners should be "able to make informed decisions about when and how to use different tools" and the "focus is on student learning and not on the technology tools themselves...the teacher guides students to make decisions about when and how to use technology". Truly, this lesson seemed beyond the level of the 'transformational' Puppy Mill project above - but I believe they are this way aligned as the learners in the Puppy Mill leson worked independently, whereas in this research project, the teacher was still there as a guide. What made a difference to the research project lesson (which was actually what the Puppy Mill project was too) was the level of detail in terms of the learning goals; still not completely aligned with what I like to see as a succinct intention, at least they were focused and more measurable:
  • Students will select and use a variety of electronic media, such as the Internet, information services, and desktop publishing software programs, to create, revise, retrieve, and verify information.
  • Students will write fluently for a variety of occasions, audiences, and purposes, making appropriate choices regarding style, tone, level of detail, and organization.
  • Students will use effective strategies for informal and formal discussions, including listening actively and reflecting, connecting to and building on the ideas of a previous speaker, and respecting the viewpoints of others.
and ISTE standards were also included:
  • Make informed choices among technology systems, resources, and services.
  • Use technology tools and resources for managing and communicating personal/professional information (e.g., finances, schedules, addresses, purchases, correspondence)
  • Routinely and efficiently use online information resources to meet needs for collaboration, research, publication, communication, and productivity.
  • Select and apply technology tools for research, information analysis, problem solving, and decision making in content learning.
  • Collaborate with peers, experts, and others to contribute to a content-related knowledge base by using technology to compile, synthesize, produce, and disseminate information, models, and other creative works.
I think this Technology Integration Matrix might help with ideas about different kinds of technology to use for different activities; the matrix would be particularly useful for teachers who are are at the entry level and wanting ideas about how to progress. The site provides lots of ideas, it easy to navigate and has plenty of options on how to find information which is useful. The Grade Level Index helps locate specific lessons for your grade level, the Digital Tools Index lists and categorises lots of different tools which is a great resource for everyone trying to find new ways of teaching and learning. The Professional Development Resources page intends to "assist teachers, schools, and districts in applying the Technology Integration Matrix as part of a comprehensive technology integration plan" and has some helpful resources such as the The Technology Integration Matrix Table of Summary Descriptors, which could be used as a checklist to help progression and professional learning. However, I am not sure how much the site can cement a true appreciation of how technology might enhance teaching and learning beyond the tools we already use. We have to be very careful that we do not use technology for the sake of it - it has to enhance existing teaching and learning pedagogies not jut be something we 'do'.

Doering, A.H. & Roblyer, M.D. (2013) Integrating education technology into teaching. USA: Pearson

Edutopia. (2012). Retrieved June 30, 2013, from An Introduction to Technology Integration: http://www.edutopia.org/technology-integration-introduction-video

Florida Center for Instructional Technology. (2013). The Technology Integration Matrix. (U. o. College of Education, Producer) Retrieved June 30, 2013, from The Technology Integration Matrix: http://fcit.usf.edu/matrix/index.php