Last week, we hosted a webinar at Education Week on effective integration of technology in the classroom. Our experts, Rebecca Stobaugh and Gwen Hicks, had so much fun sharing their ideas and answering great questions, but they were disappointed to run out of time. When the webinar closed, five burning questions were still unanswered.
Rebecca and Gwen wanted to weigh in on those five topics, so read on to hear their perspectives with additional input from Dr. Sandra Love.
Question 1. Several questions have been brought up about technology in the early childhood classroom. Could you share suggestions for guidelines, use, and integration with young learners?
Gwen Hicks: The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) recommends that the technology fits the developmental stage. Often, hands-on and active teaching can be paired nicely with interactive technologies, but passive devices (think TV, video) should not be used for children 2 and under, and should be discouraged for ages 2–5. Any use of technology for age 2 and under should support adult/child relationships and interaction.
Rebecca Stobaugh: There are many apps that support early childhood learning. Find some great lists of suggestions here and here. However, teachers should consider how much time should be allotted for technology use so students can grow in all domains of development and learning—physical, social and emotional, and cognitive.
Sandra Love: I’ve also heard the following recommendations for interactive digital tools from teachers of young school-age children. For coding: Kodable, Scratch Jr, and Tynker. For programming and problem solving: Bee Bot and LEGO® MINDSTORMS® Fix the Factory.
- A list of references and resources from NAEYC
- More helpful links for further learning
- A book on ed tech in the early years
- Recommendations for screen time limits
Question 2. What are options for technology resources for schools with limited funding?
GH: This is a tough one. If the teacher has a computer, you may want to try to set up schedules where students have the opportunity to complete tasks in shorter increments. Whole class WebQuests might be a direction to take.
This is out of the box, but don’t be afraid to go to local businesses and ask if they have any technology devices that they no longer need. A young teacher friend of mine decided her students needed to have access to more technology so she put out a plea on Facebook for old cell phones. She received over 20 cell phones from friends that are now being used in her classroom as listening centers. You could try this approach with many different devices. I have an old computer that belonged to a family member that I would love to give away to a classroom. You could use social media or Craigslist to help make that happen.
RS: As Gwen mentioned, if teachers have one computer or digital device in their classroom, they can use that device as a station. The teacher could have multiple stations around the room and have students rotate at an identified interval. This allows all students to interact with the technology during the class period.
Other technologies like Kahoot support teachers that have only one digital device. Kahoot allows teachers to create a multiple choice question then print out response cards from Kahoot. These cards would then be distributed to the students. The teacher would ask the question and have students turn the response card to show the correct letter of the answer. Using Kahoot, the teacher would scan the rooms with an iphone/ipad capturing pictures of the response cards. It’s a quick way to capture a snapshot of student progress.
- Ideas for funding opportunities: DonorsChoose (what Oprah called a “revolutionary charity”), We Are Teachers, and GrantsAlert
- Ideas on tech integration with limited resources from Edutopia
Question 3. How do you deal with colleagues who are resistant to technology integration?
RB: Teachers need to see how technology can support and augment their current practices. If they see it as an add-on and not meaningfully connected to student learning, they perceive it as a waste of time. Teachers in professional learning groups can view examples of assignments that effectively integrate technology.
GH: Keep in mind that you cannot change anyone else. My suggestion would be to simply weave into conversation all the amazing things that are happening in your classroom using technology and how much it is helping you with your teaching responsibilities.
SL: There are many variables to bringing everyone on board. For example, if your campus has a history of jumping on the educational bandwagon without following through and providing teacher support, then yes, I understand why that could cause concern or hesitancy for some. Here are some suggestions from a campus leadership point-of-view for combating this particular issue:
- Start by clearly defining the big picture in order to get buy-in from all participants. Answer these questions about scope and purpose: What is the vision at your campus? How does one grade impact the next? What ongoing support is available at different levels of implementation? Is the support user-friendly and scaffolded? Are there checks along the way? Are there hands-on demonstrations with actual students? Do you have different entry points into the initiative to allow for those with no understanding to those who have considerable skills?
- It is a good idea to allow for varying levels of expertise, so that some clear the path and others will have someone to network with as they advance in the campus technology plan (e.g., assigned mentors, demonstrations in the actual classrooms with students).
- Embrace varied degrees of teacher readiness. One of the key things to happen to reluctant teachers is they must recognize the change that may need to occur inside of their minds and the way they approach teaching. While teachers are essential in the classroom, roles will change and they will no longer be the center of attention, so to speak. This shifting role can be hard to navigate.
- Assure teachers that they are not on their own and then mean what you say. Have a long-range PD plan in place which will build each year and provide a seamless alignment between and among grade levels. Have professional development and resources (people and tools) in place for follow-up and continued learning.
- This book, The Real-World Learning Framework, showcases many examples of meaningful tech integration (Full disclosure: Dr. Stobaugh is a co-author)
Question 4. How can we appeal to all modalities of our learners?
RS: One benefit of using technology is that teachers can give students choice. The teacher can define the task and learning and provide many options for ways that students could demonstrate their learning.
SL: The integration of technology into the classroom naturally makes learning accessible to more students. I firmly believe that by using technology in their classrooms, teachers can differentiate instruction and make lessons more engaging to students. There are four different modalities of learners: visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and tactile. There are so many tools teachers can use to address each of these modalities (see below). Keep in mind that, no matter the technology, usually there is overlap with more than one modality.
- This research paper addresses multiple intelligences and learning styles
- Visual. Visually brainstorm and mind-map with Bubbl.us. Address verbal difficulties with Proloquo2Go. Find education-related videos on YouTube or search graphics on Google Images or Pics4Learning. Prezi allows you to make interactive slideshows.
- Auditory. Find YouTube videos or apps that feature educational songs. Access audiobooks via iBook or through the local library’s eBook lending program. Most smartphones and tablets have features that read text aloud. Search Podbean for a directory of educational podcasts. Challenge students to record their presentation or transfer a slideshow into a podcast with ProfCast.
- Kinesthetic. Engage with interactive activities with Learner Interactives. Create educational games, quizzes, or surveys with Quia. Teach numbers, colors, and ABCs with Monkey Preschool Lunchbox. Experience hands-on astronomy with Google Sky Map for Android and Star Walk for Apple products. Xperica provides interactive science experiments. Make a comic book with ComicBook! And despite its bad rap, SparkNotes provides some great activities and interactive study materials to complement a huge selection of books.
- Tactile. Draw 3D models with Google SketchUp. Paint and draw with professional-grade app SketchBook Pro. (A free, streamlined sketch alternative is Paper by FiftyThree.) Trace letters and learn to write with iWriteWords. Teach finger counting with Little Digits. Take digital notes with Evernote or NotionNote.
Question 5. What is an effective way to get results to take part in Step 5, “Analyze Results, Evaluate and Revise Practices”?
GH: Setting up learning objectives that are specific, achievable and measurable prior to providing instruction will help with this piece. Once this objective is in place you will be able to easily see whether or not the students “hit the target.” Another way to determine this is to survey your students. Ask them the questions found on Step Five and use their responses to assess the success of the technology.
SL: This is the only step that occurs after a specific technology is introduced, yet it is essential to the overall integration plan. As Gwen said, identify the objectives up front and how you will measure the effectiveness. Information and data that reveal evidence of student learning is important. A checklist of expectations for the use of the technology by the teacher or by the student could be used to determine effectiveness, or a rubric could be used to measure the effectiveness or growth of the students over time.
Ultimately, the key to any effective technology integration plan is allowing it to evolve over time. Ask repeatedly: What is working? What is not? What do we need to do differently? Failure to analyze results and revise integration practices can result in frustration, fatigue, and unjustified expenditures, as well as missed opportunities for deeper learning and enriched instruction.
Integration of technology into classrooms is an opportunity to assess as well as one in which you can provide timely and meaningful feedback. Note: the following tools require that students have frequent access to Internet-enabled devices and that they hand in their work digitally.
- Quick Checks. Know what your students understand—and what they don’t—with Poll Everywhere, Socrative, or Mentimeter.
- Feedback. Personalize feedback to students with comments and notes, using Edmodo, Schoology, or Moodle. You can use Screencast-O-Matic and Jing to provide personalized feedback on student work. Keep students updated on their progress or provide feedback on assignments with Evernote.
About the Experts
Gwen Hicks (@gawhicks) has spent 27 years in education, developing a passion for curriculum and instruction along the way. In her current role as a regional administrator, Gwen works with new teachers and campus leadership to seamlessly integrate technology tools and platforms into classroom instruction. Gwen has a Master’s degree in education from West Texas A&M University.
Rebecca Stobaugh (@RebeccaStobaugh) teaches in the college of education at Western Kentucky University, where her research topics include critical thinking and technology integration. Before completing her doctorate in K-12 educational leadership at the University of Louisville, Rebecca taught at the middle and high school level and served as a principal.
Sandra Love is the Director of Educational Insight and Research at Mentoring Minds. With 37 years’ experience in public education under her belt, Sandra is also a recipient of the National Distinguished Principal Award. Sandra holds an Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction from Mississippi State University.