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For years, educators have struggled to define successful technology integration. Like many of my colleagues I, too, have worked with teams of other school leaders and teachers to determine how to effectively use technology inside the classroom. What I have discovered is both painful and encouraging because even after the integration of whiteboards, desk top computers, laptops and tablets, digital cameras, the Elmo projector, iPad, iPod, and other technology devices; we have lots of equipment at our finger tips but no clear vision about how best to use it. What is true technology integration? How do 21st century schools finally solve this complex issue?
I believe successful 21st century schools must look for ways to use technology to help expand the learning process inside the classroom for students while also helping students understand how to use technology to communicate locally and globally. While we have come a long way from the first interactive whiteboard in 1999, educators are still grappling with how best to integrate technology into the classroom. I believe the only way to do so effectively is to think about technology in the same way that we view pencils, paper, and textbooks in the classroom (here is something ironic – we are now rethinking the use of textbooks in classrooms as well).
Technology can never truly be integrated until it is seen as an everyday resource/tool not only for the teacher’s use but, more importantly, for students to actively select as part of their own learning. When done well, technology can help us to foster a child’s sense of self-discovery; providing opportunities for students to develop critical thinking and problem solving; effective oral and written communication; collaboration; agility and adaptability; initiative and entrepreneurialism; the ability to access and analyze information; and creativity and imagination. In order to accomplish this goal, schools must: a) find ways to weave technology into the fabric of the academic mission of the institution and b) establish resources to help train teachers in the latest advances in technology so that they can help to equip students in this evolving language. Here is the reality check. There is no escaping technology’s influence in our work with our students; therefore, I challenge educators to “lean in” (Sandberg reference) because our students are already natives. We need a blended approach that allows a connection between the brick and mortar classroom and the digital world. Ultimately, it is the personalization of the technology that I challenge schools to take on. tlb