In this day and age, with the unfathomably fast progress of technology throughout the last 30 or so years, our daily lives are getting more and more digital and, as a consequence, so is education from kindergarten to college. This educational symbiosis is called technology integration, which is the application of technology (such as computers, mobile devices, or the Internet itself) in the traditional schooling practices or in the actual management of a school.
Successful Applications of Technology Integration
Technology integration isn’t achieved by simply putting a digital whiteboard in a classroom and calling it a technologically enhanced day, no, because a spectrum is in place, and it’s divided by two sides: the successful and the unsuccessful. Now, how do we know which technology integration is successful? It’s simple, we just have to ask ourselves the right questions:
- Is technology a part of the routine and transparent enough?
- Is it accessible and readily available?
- Does it support curricular goals and does it help in achieving said goals?
If the answer is “yes” to all of the questions above, then technology integration at your educational institution is, in fact, a success. At this stage, neither students nor teachers question the technological methods they’re using, as it has become a seamless and more engaging learning process for all parties involved.
However, there’s a crucial requirement needed for all this to work, and that is the willingness to embrace change, as continuously evolving technology requires a continuous learning process.
When successfully integrated, technology as a tool extends and enhances learning methods. Teachers and students can rest easy knowing they have:
- Access to up-to-date, primary source material (like Wikipedia and its multiple sources);
- Methods of collecting/recording data;
- Ways to communicate with students or teachers worldwide (using applications like Skype or Zoom);
- Opportunities for expressing understanding via multimedia (like forums and FAQs);
- Relevant learning and authentic assessment;
- Training for publishing and presenting their new knowledge (using applications like PowerPoint or Microsoft Word).
Technology isn’t only beneficial in the classroom. The recent Covid-19 pandemic has – and continues to – show how beneficial and life-saving it is to always have a laptop or a smartphone at hand. Not only has technology kept us social, but it also prevented education from stopping completely. Students have been attending classes and performing tests online through platforms such as Zoom or Skype, sending assignments through email, asking the teachers questions through WhatsApp, and, in a general and definitive way, solidifying technology’s place in today’s education.
However, some say that students have become too dependent on technology to accomplish tasks, and using Google to research for an assignment, consulting digital dictionaries, or not having the need to handwrite their text is all taken for granted. If a, let’s say, global pandemic forced worldwide electricity to go down, nowadays’ students would have a monumental hard time studying and accomplishing trivial tasks, given that handwriting and physical research was never needed in their lives, even though their attention should probably be focused in their survival during the global pandemic, this is purely hypothetical, of course
Types of Technology Integration
Now, saying that technology is used as a tool and that it makes education easier and more engaging is a vague way of explaining technology integration and it doesn’t do justice to the capabilities of technological education. For that, here’s a list of some of the specific tools used to enhance and expand on traditional learning:
- Online learning and blended classrooms: combining online and face to face education;
- Project-based activities incorporating technology;
- Game-based learning and assessment: learning activities taking place in simulation games;
- Web-based projects, explorations, and research;
- Student-created media: podcasts, videos, slideshows, etc…;
- Collaborative online tools: wikis, forums or Google Docs;
- Using social media to engage students.
Levels of Technology Integration
As I said earlier, slapping a digital whiteboard in a classroom and calling it a day isn’t nearly enough to call it full technological integration, in fact, it’s considerably scarce as far as technology goes, so that’s why there are four different levels to it:
- Sparse: technology is almost unavailable and is rarely used to accomplish tasks;
- Basic: technology is occasionally used and students are comfortable using one or two tools showing understanding of content;
- Comfortable: technology is used in a fairly regular basis, students are comfortable with multiple tools, using them to accomplish tasks rather easily;
- Seamless: technology is fully integrated in the classroom, students are perfectly comfortable using a wide variety of tools on a daily basis.
These levels vary from environment to environment. For example, technology levels in Europe are much higher in general in comparison to Africa or Asia – it always depends on how a certain region is developed, how certain cultures go about their education, how much funding is spent on schools, how willing or unwilling teachers and students are to incorporate technology in their schooling, and other variables.
Technology has become a big part of our lives, we cannot live without it nowadays, it’s only natural that it’s now integrated with worldwide education since it makes everything easier: research, questions, help, writing, etc… The easier and more engaging the education, the better students learn. I personally believe that someday education is going to be through technology only, since it would be devoid of human error and misguidedness, and the need for a potentially biased teacher would be eliminated. However, who’s to say this automated learning process wouldn’t be used for questionable usage and, for example, propaganda dissemination?
With every advantage comes a disadvantage, but technology won’t stop evolving and it’s (probably) for the best.