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Integrating Technology into Content

Factors that Influence Effective Use of Technology

The Southeast and Islands Regional Technology in Education Consortium  (SEIR*TEC) has studied technical assistance and professional development to resource poor schools across the Southeastern United States.  Over a three-year period of study the consortium has been involved with many intensive site schools.  The following observations and lessons have been reported by the consortium.

There are nine lessons to be learned concerning factors that influence the effective use of technology in teaching and learning.

  • Leadership is the key ingredient
    • The leadership is the single most important factor affecting the successful integration of technology.
    • A vision of what is possible through the use of technology is essential at the school level.
    • Leading by example is another requirement.  Principals in successful schools are technology fluent and they participate actively in professional development opportunities in technology
    • Support of the faculty is another essential element.  Principals in effective schools highlight the efforts of teachers who attempt to use technology and attend and plan professional development with their teaching staff.
    • Effective leaders focus on reform initiatives and they ensure that the faculty has the resources, skills and time to accomplish the initiative.  Real reform takes time and focus is essential.  "Initiative-of-the-month" produces confusion, and eventually apathy on the part of the staff.
    • Shared leadership between the leader and that staff where group consensus is reached is another characteristic of effective integration sites.  Shared input and decisions are critical for success.
  • You must know where you are going--a vision and goals statement is imperative
    • A comprehensive plan is necessary but it cannot be the work of one individual.  The creation of the "technology plan" needs to be accomplished with input from the total staff
    • Evaluative criteria must be a part of the plan.  How do you know when you reach your goal if you don't evaluate along the way?
    • Implementation takes time.  Plans usually are short-term and do not contain detail for later stages.  Most plans never are completed.
  • Technology integration is a slow process
    • The process is slow and requires substantial levels of support and encouragement.  Long term support both with hardware and professional development is a key element if the integration is to be successful long-term.
    • Follow-up and support too frequently are missing which dooms the effort before it even begins
  • Computers by number are not the answer.  
    • Hardware access is not the issue.  Computer access has been available to some degree for the last 20 years.  
    • Focus on teaching and learning NOT skill development.  Teachers have a difficult time applying technology skills in the classroom unless there is a direct linkage with the curriculum, teaching strategies, or improvements in achievement
    • The train-the-trainer model has NOT proven successful with technology.  One shot training workshops will not create technology enriched teaching.  Problems include the fact that the one shot training is usually too complex, has no follow-up, and often the trainers did not have enough time to become proficient.  
    • Having the computer is not enough.  Teachers must have time resources, opportunity, and support.  Training must be followed with practice opportunities, support opportunities, and plenty of positive reinforcement if teachers are to be fostered to become technology integration practitioners.
  • Effective technology integration requires change in teaching strategy
    • Effective teaching with technology requires a change in teaching strategy.  Teachers must be more student focused.  Learning becomes problem solving and critical thinking and frequently project based.  
    • Matching effective teaching and pedagogically sound technologies lead to improved learning.  Convincing teachers that technology means change is the block.  Teachers must be convinced that a new teaching strategy will result in improved learning.  
  • Access to the experts is necessary
    • On-site and on-demand technical assistance for both the technology and the strategies of teaching with it are key elements to success.  
    • If the support is lacking the change process becomes lost and the final desired product, technology integrated into the classroom is not reached.
  • Barriers exist to technology that are not all tied to hardware acquisition.  One size does NOT fit all students.
    • Finding software that is appropriate for student use, interesting, and challenging remains a problem.
    • Language and reading ability dramatically impact on the use of software.  If students don't speak the language or read poorly, the software becomes unusable for them.  Making the match of age appropriate software to the reading and language ability of the students is another element that affects the effective integration of technology into the curriculum.
  • Infrastructure issues remain barriers to technology infusion
    • Electrical and networking issues must be met if technology is to reach optimum use.  Lack of outlets, not enough available power to a classroom, lack of connections to the Internet are all issues that influence the success with technology.
    • Security is another issue.  Protecting the heavy dollar investment while providing access to those who need to use it is a balancing issue that many schools deal with on a daily basis.  Easy access is essential.  Too frequently the cost pushes divisions to lock up and secure the technology so that it is not easily used.  The more barriers placed between the technology and the user the less impact the technology will have on the learner.  
  • Evaluation is imperative
    • Some method of objective evaluation must be part of any program.  How will you show the community that the dollars invested in technology had resulted in improved learning in the classrooms?
    • Technology is expensive.  Objective data showing the use in classrooms not only validates the expenditures, but also serves to spur the reluctant to begin use in their classrooms.  Proof that technology aids learning could potentially accelerate the rate of progress.  "I think we improved" is not sufficient justification.  Objective data collected in classes rich in integrated technology with improved achievement scores will cause others to take notice and begin the process in their schools and classrooms.

    Source:  Byrom, Elizabeth and Bingham, Margaret.  Factors Influencing the Effective Use of Technology for Teaching and Learning: Lessons Learned from the SEIR*TEC Intensive Site Schools.  SERVE: Greensboro, 1999.

This page was updated on:  04/10/02