Sunday, February 15, 2015

Technology Integration: Are we speaking the same language?

"The path of least resistance and least trouble is a mental rut already made. It requires troublesome work to undertake the alternation of old beliefs." John Dewey, 1933
I have had the great privilege this past week to meet with an amazing group of educators to discuss how we might best plan for seamless integration of technology in the IB programmes. At first glance this appears a straight-forward task, and among a group of like-minded educators it might be, but we quickly learned that there are still some obstacles that stand in our way.

The first, and in my view the most critical, is developing a shared understanding of what technology integration means. Too often when we (teachers, students, administrators, parents) discuss this term we are thinking about devices, apps or the implementation of a 1:1 programme. Focusing on how to use things moves us away from the conversation we should be having, that is to say, how will we best support and enhance learning? Living in 2015, this conversation will of course embrace a range of technologies, including digital technologies, for this is the world in which we live. As educators, seeking to provide relevant and challenging learning experiences for all of our students, how can we possibly discuss learning without considering our context? Moving toward a shared vision will allow us to define technological literacy1 rather than being bogged down in the current confusion of technology integration and implementation issues. In other words, this shared understanding will allow us to consider how to best foster technology literacy within in our curriculum - the written, taught and assessed.

If we agree that technology literacy is integral to a contemporary education, then we must also establish a shared understanding of what this actually means in practice. During the course of our discussions this week it is clear that there are some critical elements that need to be in place to enable schools to move forward.

The first of these essential elements is a mindset to engender technology literacy. Why are some people more naturally comfortable when confronting issues arising from technology in education? Carol Dweck's work on mindsets may explain why this is so. As educators we need to foster a growth mindset not only in our students, but in ourselves as well. It is crucial that we model the types of behaviours that will enable learners to try new things, take risks and think creatively as well as critically. Successful learners understand that when things don't work, they have made a discovery that will bring them closer to solving a problem. They seek feedback and are reflective, appreciating that the good ideas and successes of others' can inform their own work. With a growth mindset, learners are focused on how to solve problems and select tools to support and enhance their thinking. If the tools are inadequate or do not serve this purpose, learners develop a certain agility, an ability to reflect on their learning and select a different tool. It's all about the learning - not the technology.

Image: Everyone's Connected by Satish Krishnamurthy 
on Flickr CC-BY-2.0
Another element that we must acknowledge is that there are a set of competencies that learners must have in order to be considered technologically literate. Many of the transdisciplinary skills we identified during our meeting are already a part of our IB programmes, but their connection to supporting technological literacy is not always made explicit. We would all agree that the ability to think creatively, critically and reflectively are essential to learning, but it is important to take this further and provide learners opportunities to develop systems thinking and design thinking. Communicative skills are also an integral part of learning, but we need to expand upon our notion of self-expression, form and audience when considering the possibilities provided by technology. There are also many new skills that contemporary learners must develop, from managing online relationships and networking, to self-regulation and intercultural competence. Of course, research skills must also adapt to the readily available large data sets that students now have at their fingertips. Learners today must develop information processing strategies to enable them to evaluate, manage and use this information responsibly and effectively. Contemporary learners need to be discerning, curating content as well as contributing to the growth of ideas.

Finally, we can plan for the development of conceptual understandings that will foster technology literacy. Too often, technology integration becomes an add-on in curriculum planning, seen as a tool to help students understand the central idea of a unit. When we think of technology literacy conceptually, there is a shift, a need to bring these ideas into the initial planning stages. As PYP educators we plan backward, by design. We identify what we want our students to know, understand, be able to do, and which attitudes we hope they will demonstrate. We then think about how we might know what students have learned, what evidence will we be able to see. It is only when this is in place that we begin to plan for learning provocations and engagements, as well as accompanying formative assessments. Unfortunately, technology integration tends to happen only in this third stage which reinforces the notion of technology as simply a tool. If we consider technology literacy in the first stage of planning, we are empowered to seamlessly infuse the development of the mindset and competencies needed to become a technology literate person.

Having the opportunity to clarify my thinking in the company of other IB educators has been a great experience. I didn't fully appreciate the complexity of the task - the need for a paradigm shift (again!). Educators can no longer wait to see what will happen as policy makers and curriculum developers discuss technology integration issues. We have waited so long that the term no longer has any significant meaning. We must act now to develop relevant educational practices for the sake of our students - and teachers.


There are a number of organisations working to develop a definition of technology literacy as a concept much wider than digital literacy. The International Technology and Engineering Educators Association first stressed the importance of technological literacy in 2000 stating:

"In order to be a technologically literate citizen, a person should understand what technology is, how it works, how it shapes society and in turn how society shapes it. Moreover, a technologically literate person has some abilities to “do” technology that enables them to use their inventiveness to design and build things and to solve practical problems that are technological in nature. A characteristic of a technologically literate person is that they are comfortable with and objective about the use of technology, neither scared of it nor infatuated with it. Technological literacy is much more that just knowledge about computers and their application. It involves a vision where every person has a degree of knowledge about the nature, behavior, power and consequences of many aspects of technology from a real world perspective."
More recently, The National Academy of Engineering has worked to develop the conceptualisation of technological literacy and view it as a continuum of understanding the 'designed world' that are a domain of humans' existence. They have identified three interdependent and inseparable dimensions to technological literacy: knowledge, capabilities, and critical thinking and decision making.

Works Cited
Wiggins, Grant, and Jay McTighe. "Why Backward Is Best." Backward Design (n.d.): n. pag. Edutopia. George Lucas Educational Foundation. Web.

International Technology and Engineering Educators Association. "Technologically Literate Citizens.ITEA's Technology for All Americans Project. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Feb. 2015.

Committee on Assessing Technological Literacy, National Academy of Engineering, and National Research Council. "Defining Technological Literacy." Tech Tally: Approaches to Assessing Technological Literacy. Ed. Elsa Gamire and Greg Pearson. Washington, DC: National Academies, 2006. 29-40. Print.

1 comment:

Leanne SERCOMBE said...

Thanks for sharing your insights - would have loved to have been there with you all but was on the shortlist.
Do you have any further information on other discussions?
I really like the comment about technology being part of the early planning stages for it to be integrated and in terms of backward by design. So many times the technology is still seen as an add on with no focus on being technologically literate or being used to enhance learning.