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Top 5 Things Every Teacher Should Know

About Technology Integration

by Brandy Walker

1. Technology integration is about more than TOOLS.
First and foremost, every teacher should know that technology integration is about more than the TOOLS. It’s about people, community, engagement, acceptance, access, beliefs, and usability. The use of technology in education promotes community and connections among people as users, developers, learners, teachers, facilitators, as well as within those groups across the boundaries of space and even time. Technology integration is also dependent upon not only the technology itself, but also on the level of acceptance within the community of users, their beliefs about the technology and their personal access to and abilities with that technology (Straub, 2009; Ottenbreit-Leftwich, et. al. 2010). In addition, there are critical issues concerning usability of technology in specific situations that are tied to acceptance and beliefs, as well as the general applicability to the context (Taylor, 2004; Inan & Lowther, 2010). Read more here.

2. Tech tools come and go, so focus on mastering the FUNCTIONALITY to support 21st century learning goals: the 4Cs.

"Think of technology not as a tool, but as an environment."--Read this great blog!

In order to be a successful teacher using technology for your 21st century learning encounters, you need to be able to model 21st century learning and innovation skills in your encounters with technology. These skills are also known as the 4 C’s:

1. Critical thinking and problem solving
3. Collaboration
4. Creativity and innovation

21st Century Learner

Key basic functions to know: creation capabilities (document, spreadsheet, presentation, WYSIWYG website), collaborative capabilities (document sharing, interactive form building, wiki—collaborative website building). One free (so far) suite to explore for these functions, all under one banner, is GOOGLE.  Not just the mainstream search engine, but Google Scholar, Google Alerts, and the entire suite of Google products helps you become more effective and efficient in your search missions, and more. They are constantly adding functions to their suite of tools, so keep up to date by exploring the “More Google Products” page on their site: They organize their expanded tool set under the following categories:

  • Search
  • Explore and Innovate
  • Communicate, Show and Share
  • Go Mobile
  • Make your computer work better (beta versions of pack software to enhance performance)

Web 2.0 tools have something for everyone and are constantly changing. If you can imagine it, it is most likely out there in one form or another. The trick with web 2.0 tools is, though, that they rarely do everything you are looking for, so sometimes DIY mash-ups are necessary. Understanding the functionality of what you’re looking for helps you to choose the right tools to help you attain it, rather than relying too heavily on a specific set of tools. Focus instead on a class of tools based on functionality.

3. Search, Save, Share Cycle

“I may not know, but I know how to find out.”
Finding, saving and sharing is part of belonging to a community of tech-knowlogy. Knowing how to find things in the age of information can be more powerful than having instant memory recall to specific problem or questions. As a teacher, your strongest asset for your students, and for yourself, is the ability to model how to find answers. Don’t be afraid to tell your students when you don’t know the answer, but always follow-up with the confident declaration that you know how to find the answers.  Answers and resources tend to proliferate exponentially in our technology age, so efficient and collaborative saving techniques are required. Remember, there’s no use in having the answers and finding great resources if you can’t keep up with them. 

Social bookmarking sites and resource management tools are great ways to store all of the resources you find that are relevant to your teaching and learning. Many are web based so you can access them from any computer with an Internet connection. Technology gives us great tools for saving, organizing, sharing, and building off of other people’s efforts to make the most of the vast amounts of information and resources that are available to us.

Collaboration is the key to minimizing frustration in not knowing about the tool that does exactly (or close to) what you’re looking for, or efforts in redundancy--no one needs to re-invent the wheel. Collaboration is also key to helping you feel comfortable in a smaller network of colleagues with similar interests that can share their success and challenges with technology integration. Personal Learning Networks (PLNs) are the way to go. A PLN is a group of experts and colleagues that you exchange professional information with on a regular basis. Educators can receive information automatically from those they trust, and find new colleagues via various built-in sharing functions. 

4. Technology integration requires you to embrace LEARNING. 

Develop the disposition of a sponge—soak up learning opportunities and feed off of situations to learn more. Especially with technology integration, there will always be something new just around the corner, or even creeping up behind you. Don’t let it throw you off because you have the mindset of “expert” teacher rather than constant learner. There will always be things you don’t know, so model your response to this for your students so they can better approach learning new things. Rather than letting new knowledge throw you off, show your engagement with the opportunity to add to your knowledge repertoire, especially concerning technology. There are three ways to engage with this point:

1. Learn as a student.
Set personal and professional technology exploration goals that help you become familiar with tools that you can integrate into your teaching at your own pace. Model learning for your students by embracing opportunities to explore new technologies or new ways to use technologies already in your toolbox. 

2. Learn with your students.
Know that you never have to fully mastered a tool and all of its functions before using it. Don’t be afraid to introduce a tool and have the class explore it with you. 

3. Learn from your students.
Look at the tools students are using and that surround you in the social arena, and imagine ways they can be used to teach and learn in your classroom setting. As a teacher, you have the advantage of the pedagogical lens. Use that to see the new tools through from the perspective of education. Also, allow your students help you see new uses and purposes for tools in the classroom as well as in learning situations outside of the classroom.

5. Roll with it

Stuff happens. Adopting a flexible approach to technology in the classroom will help you achieve your goals in teaching and not go crazy doing so.  Be sure to have contingency plans for your technology use in the classroom. Never let a technology glitch ruin your lesson. Develop a range of responses to possible technology problems by having alternative plans, from the highest of high-tech to the totally unplugged. Also, keep an open mind when using technology to see both the flaws in and the promise of tools that you are using. Open your mind to possibilities that a tool you thought was perfect for one context might reveal aspects of use that make it better in another context that you had not previously considered. Model for your students a healthy engagement with technology that doesn’t reveal frustration, irritation, or despondency when things don’t go exactly as planned. Remember, the way you respond to technology in the classroom might teach your students more than you want them to learn.

Learn More About:

Exploring Functionality with Technology:

Social bookmarks, media, and management:


Inan, F., & Lowther, D. (2010). Factors affecting technology integration in K-12 classrooms: a path model. Educational Technology Research and Development, 58(2), 137-154.

Ottenbreit-Leftwich, A. T., Glazewski, K. D., Newby, T. J., & Ertmer, P. A. (2010). Teacher value beliefs associated with using technology: addressing professional and student needs. Computers & Education, 55(3), 1321-1335.

Straub, E. T. (2009). Understanding technology adoption: Theory and future directions for informal learning. Review of Educational Research, 79(2), 625-649. 

Taylor, D. S. (2004). Technology acceptance increasing new technology use by applying the right messages. Performance Improvement, 43(9), 21-26.