Technology Integration
Using Technology in Ways that are Both Curriculum-Based and Future-Oriented

The challenge lies in using technologies in better ways to promote meaningful student learning!

Research Question           Research Process
Data Analysis/Interpretation     Research Contribution

Data Analysis/Interpretation

Observations of Students Using Best Practices:

Analysis of the data sources - observations of my personal growth process related to technology integration, questionnaires and interviews with my students, informal observations in the classroom, computer lab and library where the technologies are available, as well as informal conversations with my students - revealed that the use of advanced technology affected my students in the following ways. It has contributed to the building of a learning environment where everyone is a teacher/learner, and has enhanced the learning of my students in the areas of computer literacy, academic proficiency, and cognitive skills. After a review of observations, interviews, questionnaires, and documents, and through analysis of the data collected, five patterns of best practices in technology integration were found:

1. Technology was used best in conjunction with multidisciplinary projects in which curricular activities were pertinent to students. The design of these projects, although in-depth and time-intensive, enabled them to acquire and use information, skills, and tools in contexts that reflect the way information will be used in their future and real lives. Web-based technologies such as the Internet and e-mail made it possible to extend the classroom beyond its four walls. They provided my students with opportunities to participate in virtual information networking. They regularly participated in data-gathering projects with schools nationally through such websites as SchoolNet GrassRoots Project.

2. One of the best practices used with my students was focusing on the objectives of an activity first and then deciding when and if to use technology to help meet those objectives. Implementation strategies and media selection were chosen after the learning objectives were identified. In a technology-integrated assignment, objectives were like a travel destination, while implementation strategies and technology were like a type of transportation; without knowing where you were going, it was hard to know if you would need a plane, train, or automobile to get there. Being flexible and not single-minded about where technology could be used in an activity was necessary for technology integration. Technology would play different roles in their projects depending on curriculum objectives and lesson design.

3. Another best practice that I observed was students building a community of learners who participated in activities together with a shared understanding about what they were doing and what it meant to them. In each of the assignments, everyone was a teacher/learner. They shared what they knew about computer technology. Those students who brought presentation software knowledge with them helped those who were not as experienced. For example, one student was able to demonstrate the answer to the question, "How do you add sound?" They created opportunities to expand both the individual student's and the group's knowledge base, whether it was about technical skills or curricular content, participated in decision-making, took risks without fear of failure, developed expertise, experienced a variety of activities, and worked on interdependent projects with others. For my students, such collaboration fostered the potential to think reflectively, to think critically, and to become motivated to learn independently throughout their lives. The new users of Corel Presentations helped each other with problems, questions, and decisions. Students who were working with partners shared their expertise with each other. For example, two students working together on their activity identified each other's strengths, thus, placing one as the Corel Presentations technical adviser and the other, who had a better command of the writing process, as the writer of the text. Using computers during co-operative learning within our project-based environment offered many benefits to my students, such as greater quantity and quality of daily achievement, more successful problem-solving, more task-related student-to-student interaction, and increased control over their own learning. The community of learners in my classroom was not just about activities external to the classroom, but also about me as their teacher being a learner in the process also, and helping students recognize each other as technical experts. I did not allow my own lack of knowledge about technology to hinder them. I felt confident in knowing that most students learned to manipulate the computer quickly and we would help each other to learn. I told the students, "If we had waited until I had learned enough to teach it, we would not have done it." I liked being able to show them that I was a learner like they were and that we could teach each other. Throughout a project, their questions challenged me continually to broaden my knowledge base about computer technology. Learning and participation in this community was intertwined. Collaborative activities were a natural fit as an effective learning strategy. Project-based activities using technology provided the perfect context for students to work together and to capitalize on their strengths, whether curricular or technical, to develop teamwork skills, and to scaffold learning. For example, groups of three or four students gathered together to brainstorm in a session prior to starting on their group project. They also shared and divided the activity in such a way that all group members had work responsibilities so that each student had individual time with different technologies. Student experts surfaced in this type of environment and coached each other on a particular piece of software or participated in peer editing.

4. During technology-connected assignments, learning was regularly and systematically scaffolded for my students within the continuum between their actual and potential capability. Using this method, each student was provided with some type of assistance to complete an activity or learn a concept. Gradually, the scaffold was removed until the student was doing this on her own. The scaffolding strategies used in conjunction with technology included bookmarking websites, providing written directions for computer-related activities, graphic organizers, note-taking guides to use while gathering information from on-line resources, verbal reminders, and peer tutoring.

5. Another best practice related to integrating technology was the use of multiple hard and soft technologies. In answer to the question "What were the best practices to integrate new technologies to improve and enhance student learning?", findings from this study indicated that frequent computer usage combined with various uses of technology tied to student-relevant project-based learning strategies constituted best practices as related to technology integration . The most interesting and innovative uses of technology took place where multiple uses of technology were implemented; where technology integration was not limited to a narrow set of technology tools, but rather a variety of tools in relation to learning goals were chosen. These included soft technologies such as the Internet, Corel Presentations, word processors, graphics programs, spreadsheets, databases, and multimedia software. They also included hard technologies such as a digital camera, scanner, computers, printers, and a LCD projector.

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