In The Classroom How To Overcome Technology Integration Barriers

Are you one of those teachers overwhelmed by the prospect of “integrating technology” into your classroom? Do you secretly laugh when you hear all of this talk about technology and how it is “so important”?

“Get real,” you say to yourself. You may teach in a school that allows your class access to the computer lab only once every three weeks for 30 minutes at a time. You may have only one or even zero computers in your classroom. You may have little or no experience at “surfing on the net.” You are frustrated with all of the new adoptions and are skeptical at any suggestion of “learning something new.” Your “plate is full” and you wonder when the “pendulum of education” will swing back the other direction and allow you to do that which you do best . . . educate. You find yourself thinking: “The students already know how to work on the computer; they will learn it later or from somewhere else; I need to focus on reading, writing, and math.” Does this sound familiar?

Actually these are all comments teachers have made in many of the University of California classes I have taught on integrating technology in the classroom. I am always amazed at how little most teachers really know about integrating technology in their classrooms, even if they are technically literate. Most students, if not all, take the class to meet the requirement for their professional credential. These are the common questions they have when they start class:

o Why do we need to integrate technology?
o How do I overcome the barriers?
o What does an integrated classroom look like?
o To whom do I turn for help?
o Where do I begin?

Below are some answers to these issues.

Why the Need to Integrate Technology?

o Future implications for students: Post -high school institutions will expect students to use technology for research, communication, and presentations. Those students that are technologically illiterate will be forced to take remedial class as a result they will have increases in educational expenses and graduate later than their peers, as noted in “Uses of Advanced Technology in Remedial Instruction”.
o A U.S. Department of Labor Report states, “By 2006, nearly half of all U.S. workers will be employed in industries that produce or intensively use information technology products and services” (21st Century Workforce Commission, June 2000, p. 10)
o Present implications for students: Technology motivates students with multimedia and prepares them to think in constructivist ways, as noted in “The Role of Online Communications in Schools: A National Study”
o Teacher benefits: Increase in communications with parents, students, teachers, research; increases teacher productivity and efficiency, as noted in “Technology Integration in the Early Childhood Classroom.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics’ “Teacher Use of the Computer and the Internet in Public Schools less than 10 percent of teachers reported using computers or the Internet to access model lesson plans or to access research and best practices.”

What are the barriers to teachers integrating technology?

o Motivation
o Lack of support (money, time, & leadership)
o Teacher mindset
o Lack of tools
o Lack of understanding for the technology

How to overcome the barriers to integrating technology (for teachers)?

o Look at the standards for technology
o Understand the implications of not integrating technology
o Ask for support
o Make it a priority
o Be flexible and open minded
o Do what you can with what you have on hand
o Use low tech alternatives

What does an integrated lesson plan look like?

It may be different for each teacher because factors such as grade level, student ability, location, and resources can all create different looking classes. For those teachers that have “ideal” classrooms with computers, Internet access, and other resources, a teacher may do any of the following:

o Download lesson plans, quizzes, and games
o Download clip art for a bulletin board
o Create a class website
o Create a Web Quest
o Perform Online assessment
o Do Tutorials
o Have students take pictures with a digital camera

Those teachers who don’t have the “ideal” computer resources or support don’t need computers in the classroom to integrate technology. Here are some “low tech ways” to integrate technology into your class:

o Find clip art and print it up to use on your bulletin board or for the overhead. Get these from your home computer, school computer, Kinko’s, office computer, etc.
o Use old computer keyboards or paper keyboards to teach keyboarding skills to students
o Download lessons to extend or increase learning
o Download text, pictures, whatever and pass out copies to students, create overhead transparencies, etc.
o Use your class bulletin board to model an online bulletin board, Website, or Email.

Here are more ways teachers can continue to support their own objectives to integrate technology into their classrooms:

o Take courses to improve your comfort level with technology
o Be fearless and jump in
o Research online
o Write an article
o Take baby steps and do one new technology-based strategy each trimester
o Work with others
o Buy your own equipment and play with it at home
o Consider “low tech” alternatives to integrating technology into your classroom

In the classes it is always interesting to note the change in teachers’ perspectives. Students typically experience a paradigm shift by the end of a four week period which takes them from the idea that students need computers in order to integrate technology. When teachers are shown how to better integrate technology into their own classrooms, they become more motivated to use it, and their self esteem increases. The benefits in teachers learning and actually integrating technology into their classrooms is seen as a result when their own students are using technology. Teachers are role models and if a teacher is willing to try something new, his/her students benefit from this behavior and will also be likely to do the same.