Thursday, July 30, 2015

Being 'Technology Rich' vs. 'Technology Integration' in the Classroom

At one of our district TILT (Tech Integration Leadership Team) meetings this past year, it was mentioned in a conversation about some of our classrooms being "Technology Rich" versus a classroom that is truly utilizing technology to where we could say "Technology Integration" was occurring. I've been thinking about this a lot over the summer so I thought I'd throw some thoughts out there and see if others have some ideas to contribute.

I work in Franklin Public Schools near Milwaukee, WI.  We don't have money growing on trees, but when it has been time to plan for technology, we have been pretty smart about our purchases (budgeting, seeking grants, etc).  I've been really proud of our planning for technology as we look at what we want to be occurring in the classroom and then work backwards to find the technology pieces of the puzzle that will get us to that full picture.  Not all districts do this. I have talked with others that just make a decision to go buy technology and then figure out where it will fit and I can't think that way.

We started our 1:1 program in Franklin last fall (2014) with a Chromebook for every student in grades 7-11 and are expanding this fall of 2015 to grades 5 and 7-12.  During my first year of 1:1, I focused on teaching teachers ways to manage their students digitally, collect work digitally and the like.  I also tried to teach more 'strategy' for using devices so teachers could think about ways to engage students differently.  That's the background on where I'm coming from as I get to what it means (in my opinion) to be 'Technology Rich' as opposed to full on 'Technology Integration'

Part of my trying to better define this stems from this graphic that was passed around online a while back from Bill Ferriter that centers on "What Do You Want Kids To Do With Technology?"

At times, I will meet with teachers during a team plan or other meeting and ask "What do you want your kids to do? To show? To prove their learning?"  Frequently, I will get answers from the left column.

"I want my kids to make an Animoto"
"I want my kids to make a flyer."  
"I want them to blog."  

Over this past year, our district has shifted to Standards Based Learning so this has forced us all to up our game during conversations like these where they are more streamlined because we have to talk about the standards that a unit of design is going to address.  The 'right' column is hard.  If you choose "I want my students to make a difference" as an example, there isn't just something quick and dirty you can point to as a solution.  We are all challenged to find the right tools, uses and learning to get us to the answers on the 'right' side of the column...or above the red line as has been a mantra in our district the last few years.

Back to my purpose for this blog post.  I want to hear from others what you think it means to be 'Technology Rich' in the classroom versus what you think it means to be doing 'Technology Integration.'  I'm not quite convinced I have the right terms there so I'm open to changing those.  Let me share what my thoughts are and then please respond in the comments.  As a caveat, when I say 'tech' -- I could mean both the hardware (Chromebooks, tablets, phones) and the tools (Google Apps, websites, media creation tools).

In thinking about this, I think my view of a classroom being 'technology rich' means some of the following:

  • Technology is readily available in classroom or environment (carts available when needed or students have devices at their ready)
  • Students appear ‘busy’ and using technology 
  • No clearly defined purpose or goal for using the technology
  • Not furthering student learning or deepening student understanding
  • Technology might be “babysitting” the students
  • More focus on completing a task as opposed to growth or reflection of learning

When I'm working in a class, I'm looking for the following to see engagement by students so that I know the technology is being used to almost all, if not all of it's potential.
  • Students using technology for a clearly defined purpose
  • Students could not get to the next 'checkpoint' of learning without tech
  • Tech is enhancing or transforming student work (SAMR)
  • Mini-lessons from teacher to model effective use (how to search, good design)

That's where I'm at...I'd love some feedback to help me make this more robust. I'm working with some school districts before school starts and I want to clearly define the difference between these two schools of thought.


  1. You're definitely onto something with the rich vs integration. I like to think of it as visible vs invisible technology. In the classrooms I visit, I like to think about integration and the level of visibility. For example, if I leave a 1:1 setting and the focus is on the technology, the product instead of process, and sometimes is a barrier to learning - that's visible integration. If I leave a classroom where students have used the technology when they need it, not when they don't, it's not a distraction but a tool to help in achieving their learning goals - that's invisible integration. I think the visible needs to happen before you can get to the invisible, but I think the organic invisibility is the goal.

    1. Very good insight. I like your 'visible vs invisible' reasoning.

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  2. We are thinking along the same lines. I like the 'visible vs. invisible' labels mentioned by Kristi in her comment. It's part of what I was trying to get to with my response on G+. Do we, as adults, notice what they are using or what they are doing? Do students? I hesitated in the SAMR point. I think I'm OK with it because you didn't just say transforming, but also including enhancing. There are times when we don't need to get to the modification or redefinition. Also for "Integration" I would add that the "mini-lessons to model effective use" are presented in connection to the applicable learning and not a stand-alone piece. I'm looking forward to what others have to say as well.

  3. I appreciate being the catalyst here, Chad. Thought-provoking blogpost. I think I was just hung up on the words before. Once I let those go, I don't think we're in disagreement. I think of Marc Prensky's "Verbs" and "Nouns": the Verbs are the learning - what we want students to do; Nouns are the tools, which will be ever changing. More on that: Focusing on the learning (not the tools) is essential, which is your "Technology Integration Classroom" - I couldn't agree more. it's just the English teacher in me that always parsing words : ) Maybe - "Technology Dense" classroom to describe the mere presence of much technology and "Authentic Technology Integrated Classroom" (yikes, too wordy) to describe a classroom that uses technology authentically, centered on desired student learning outcomes.

  4. I really like where you are going with this. Your reflections in your post are very similar to what I often see. I would define rich as similar to you. I might even simplify it more. Make it appear more negative. They have what all the technology they need but are using it to do the same things they did without it, only now it is digital and the tech is in the classroom and not used. I think of integration as a classroom that might be technology rich or not but the technology they have is intertwined and flows with the class. The technology is always used with intent and the focus and goal of including it is always linked to learning / skill teachers want students to acquire. It is there to enhance their learning but most of all empower and even more importantly enable them to access information, tools, resources, ideas, people ect that then can lead to the right side of the list. The students in an integrated technology classroom understand why they use specific technology, they understand what it does for them and each student might select to use different tech (apps) to meet their specific needs. Integration to me is like the technology is immersed and intertwined in the classroom and with learning. I hope this helps. It looks like you already have some great insight!

  5. First of all, thank you for this post! My school district is in a similar situation--the middle schools went 1:1 with iPads last school year and it was very strategic. We know that technology is a tool to achieve our objectives, not the objective. Yet, some of PD focuses on "cool tech tools" versus the "why" behind them...

    In my classroom, I followed a very similar path to what you described in your post. At the beginning of our 1:1 initiative, I had my students using Notability, Canvas, and Google Drive for substitution purposes--as described by the SAMR model--until we developed some consistency with those basic practices. By the end of the year, the use of technology in our classroom had moved from being technology "rich" to what I see as true "integration." The students and I began taking risks together to redefine the ways they can show their skills and understandings. Essentially, it moved our focus from the technology to the blend of curriculum, instruction, and technology (I'm a big fan of the work of Punya Mishra and Matthew Koehler on "TPACK").

    Our last unit was a multimedia campaign based in objectives involving the persuasive appeals (ethos, logos, & pathos), using textual evidence to support your argument, identifying your target audience, etc. The substitution route would have been having students work in a Google doc to type of their information in a list or essay format. Instead, I was amazed what was able to happen when students were given freedom and leadership to demonstrate such skills and understandings in which ever way they pleased. My 8th graders created Twitter pages, YouTube videos, blogs, StopMotion videos, collage-like or original logos. Better yet, they were app-smashing to use multiple modes to display their growth. While the technology aspects were "cool," my focus was on whether or not they met the objectives, which had nothing to do with technology!

    As I celebrate the success of that one project, I realize I still have a lot of room to grow this upcoming school year! I continuously ask myself: how I can extend my students' learning outside the walls of my classroom? Oftentimes, technology is the tool that will get us there in a practical way!

  6. I really like looking into this idea, my PDP goal deals with using tech as a way to help promote critical thinking. I think that through integration and teaching students how to effectively use tech allows them to really drive their own learning. I can give students a information through DI and then have them go make a power point or create something with tech but this just creates busy work for them and the tech is not working for them. I think to have tech be helpful and critical to the classroom it needs to be integrated in a way for students to dig deeper and find out more information that interest them on a topic.

  7. "No clearly defined purpose or goal for using the technology"--I don't see "technology rich" as an unambiguously bad thing, to me this does not have a stigma attached to it, it is merely a description of how much technology is in place, not how it's being used. In other words I don't see these as opposite ends of a spectrum, but potentially coexisting in a classroom. The presence of neither one guarantees the presence or absence of the other. Unfortunately a lot of teachers think that they go hand in hand.