Saturday, October 15, 2016

Benefits of Technology Intragration

The blog I happened upon this week was written about a year ago, and I was alerted by my Google Alerts to another blog.  While the redirected post is long forgotten, this post made a number of statements I thought resonated with me, and thus my reflection follows.  The article was written by Kellie Woodson for a blog sponsored by FluentU entitled “How to Use Technology Effectively to Transform Your ESL Classroom”.  While the title caught my attention as relevant to our learning, it was the contents that made me think.  Her blog post mentioned six different benefits as to why educators should integrate technology into their classrooms.  While this post was definitely an endorsement of the services provided by the sponsor FluentU, which most certainly met the criteria she presented, the meat of the post was a meaningful reflection on any educational technologies benefits.  She also focused on how these benefits directly affect ELL students in their learning of language.

To understand the benefits of technology integration, you must first set the parameters for the meaning of technology integration.  Technology integration into the classroom is more than merely using it as a remedial tool, or an extra activity one could do at home or when students have extra time.  As Woodson said, “simply put, technology integration is just that, the practice of integrating or interweaving technology into teaching and learning.”  Making technology a part of the learning process, instead of the driver, gives students the opportunity to discover the productive and create opportunities for self learning these tools offer.  Technology needs to be a secondary part of the students classroom experience, like that of a notebook and pencil.  While you can certainly learn from the contents of the notebook, it is most effective in conjunction with instruction and classroom interactions.  The same is true for technology, it must become a part of the learning experience, a part of the student toolkit.  

With the understanding of technology integration, we can look at the six different benefits that the author lists.  While going through these benefits,  I am going to share ways I, personally, can educate teachers methods for using these tools to see their benefits.  The six benefits to be addressed are:

1. Increases student engagement and motivation
2. Offers mobility
3. Teaches students valuable tools for the future
4. Can be a time saver for teachers
5. Promotes learner independence
6. Provides students access to target culture

Technology increases students engagement and motivation in a number of ways.  Woodson states that, “technology is exciting, fascinating and ever-evolving, and when used thoughtfully, it can transform even the most mundane lesson into one that is powerful and thought-provoking.” Technology allows students to go beyond words on the page, and opens a world of creative and innovative ways in which ideas can be presented and learned.  These methods may include using ebooks, which provide interactive videos, activities and other features that standard textbooks don’t have, to using digital libraries of videos, to collaborative interactive games.  All these methods gives students a new way to see and experience learning.  Just like technology in their lives is providing them with new way to experience life itself, it too can provide those same opportunities to learning. Using iPads as digital notebooks to reflect on learning by recording audio, videos, adding documents as well as written reflection shows one way in which you can accomplish this engagement.  Having students use the technology that is already present as an extension of learning, gives them additional value to these tools potential.

Technology is only getting smaller, which allows for nearly constant access and utilization.  By offering mobility, technology opens the door to learning whenever, wherever.  As Woodson says in her post, “this focus on mobility has eliminated the rule of course materials being confined to a textbook and/or classroom.”  Students can access anything by way of devices that most already have, or will soon have.  Not only is there access to this as a resource, but it also provides a platform to create your own understanding and document your own learning. ESL students could use this mobility to reflect on experiences  they had in the world outside of the classroom.  They can create audio journals that will give them a place to reflect on these experiences.  

By blending technology into the learning process, you are providing the opportunity for students to learn and experience valuable tools for the future.  In this day and time, we need to understand the basics of technology in order to function efficiently.  As was stated in the blog, “it is important to make sure that our students are well-versed in technological tools, skills and language.”  Students are a part of a very competitive world.  To keep them on par, we need to focus on engaging in these tools.  Schools going to Google Apps for Education, or similar services offered by Microsoft and Apple, are demonstrating this benefit.  Those that give students email accounts, and offer services like Google Apps are giving their students the space to flex this technological muscle.  They are giving them real world experiences with collaboration and virtual creativity.  Educators are opening a world  beyond the classroom for students to explore, share, and create learning. Therefore it is essential we  provide teachers access to essential tools to get their students to experience the 21st century mindset.

The fact that technology can be a time saver for teachers is one of the biggest selling points to educators I work with.  I certainly understand the initial implementation of integrating technology can be a process, and seems like a time consuming task, but once built, it can be maintained, updated, and administered with relative ease.  Building courses through tools like iTunesU can help to increase student engagement, provide opportunities for outside the class learning, and initiate and maintain conversation.  These tools, once built, provide the structure, and only needs to be managed and maintained.  Additionally, there is the assessment aspect of technology. With the aid of numerous tools, teachers can build new engaging, interactive and reliable assessments.  Data collected through these tools is graded immediately, providing a quick way to gage understanding.  

Using technology promotes learner independence through these deeply embedded practices of technology integration.  By using these technologies as a tool to support learning and creating, students will become accustomed to effective usage.  In fact, this is one benefit that students grasp quickly, especially if they are looking for Minecraft or video game tutorials.  They see technology as a tool to find answers. Students know if they have a question, they can most certainly find the answer online.  What we, as educators need to do is to have them appreciate the tool as an extension of the learning process.  

The final benefit noted is definitely one easily adaptable to ESL students, but certainly applies to all. This benefit is the fact technology provides students access to target culture.  You can find just about anything online, and videos and audio of people speaking in native languages is certainly one of them.  Watching and listening to exchanges in different languages is an excellent way to provide an experience for learning new languages.  Additionally, technology provides opportunity for students to engage in these languages with the use of communication tools, such as Facebook, Skype, Google hangouts and other social media tools.  Experiences like these go beyond ESL students, and provide all students with unique opportunities to explore cultures outside their own. Never before have we seen the world this interconnected, and we, as educators, need to to a better job creating more experiences with global connected opportunities.

Technology is not going anywhere.  It is a huge part of our lives, and it is becoming only more prevalent in the classroom, whether we like it or not.  Students will continue to grow and learn with these tools, and it is up to us, as educators, to find ways to integrate this tool into their learning.  We need to create the opportunity to blend technology that is in their pocket to more than just a clever way to communicate and entertain. We must help students see the potential that lies in the tool as one that can help drive connection, collaboration and creation of our own ideas and beliefs.  

Woodson, K. (2016). How to Use Technology Effectively to Transform Your ESL Classroom. Retrieved from

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