Obstacles and Solutions to Integrating Technology

“I’m petrified that we’ll apply new technology to old pedagogy,” Professor Elliot Soloway at the University of Michigan said…. “We are not exploiting the affordances of the new technology to give kids new kinds of learn-by-doing activities….What a waste!” (Cuban, 2012).

In this statement, we find the obstacles to integrating technology in the mathematics classroom.  The question is, “Why?”  Why are we applying new technology to old pedagogy?  Why are we not exploiting new technology?  The answers can be simplified as lack of time and lack of resources, but that only begs more questions of “Why?” Therefore, it might be better to answer the questions of “Who?”  Who is responsible for these obstacles?  That is an easier one.  It is everyone involved in education.

Technology is ever evolving.  What is capable today was not available when today’s teachers were going through school as a student (Dickey, 1997).  For many of them, it is a foreign language and they feel comfortable with doing things they have always done.  They have also developed ideals that are contradicted by technology in the math classroom. One of the major ideals they believe is that students need to be able to do mathematics without use of a calculator (Roblyer & Doering, 2013).  Breaking through this barrier is necessary, but it won’t solve anything if we stop there.  Even if we could get every math teacher in the world to become educational technology experts, we still face other challenges.

In the 1970’s, “New Math” was introduced.  In the 1990’s, graphing calculators made their appearance.  Both of these events had a commonality to them:  professionally generated curriculum material came with them (Norris & Soloway, 2011).  Math teachers did not need to re-write all of their lesson plans; they were provided new ones to use.  Today, technology changes are coming so fast and without curriculum that the teachers are being overwhelmed.  I personally experienced this twice in the past 5 years.  First, when we received interactive whiteboards.   We were provided a week of training on how to use them.  However, designing activities was entirely left up to us.  I dived in and tried to create constructive lessons, but quickly saw how much time it took and was forced to scale back considerably.  You can imagine how the rest of my colleagues, who aren’t as technologically inclined, felt.  Then, this past year, they introduced a new GED test.  The test went under an intensive makeover from low-level skills on Bloom’s Taxonomy to one requiring higher-order thinking in Webb’s Depth of Knowledge.  All of my lessons became obsolete.  In this case, new curriculum has been developed, but it was not available until recently and my school has yet to purchase much of it.  All of this despite the fact that we are four months into the new GED Test.

What are the solutions?  Unfortunately, real solutions can only be accomplished at administrative level and require a complete reversal in educational philosophy.  This does not mean that a math teacher can’t have any solutions to the challenges of integrating technology into the curriculum.  The first step is to understand the limitations and work within them.  Select technology that can be used for long periods of time and develop it completely to create an active learning experience for your students (Roblyer & Doering, 2013).  Refine this technology before adding more.  Expand your network by subscribing to blogs of like-minded teachers, where you can get ideas.  If you don’t have the resources to replace your curriculum, look for technology to support your current one.  Most importantly, remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day and look how good that turned out.


Cuban, L. (2012). Integrating technology into a math lesson. Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice. Retrieved from http://larrycuban.wordpress.com/2012/04/04/integrating-technology-into-a-math-lesson/

Dickey, E. (1997). Challenges of mathematics teaching today. Retrieved from http://ed.sc.edu/ite/dickey/nassp/nassp.html

Norris, C., & Soloway, E. (2011). The 10 barriers to technology adoption. District Administration Magazine. Retrieved from http://www.districtadministration.com/article/10-barriers-technology-adoption

Roblyer, M. D., & Doering, A. H. (2013). Integrating educational technology into teaching (6th ed., New International ed.). Upper Saddle River: Pearson.

Relative Advantage of Hypermedia in the Classroom


Roblyer, M. D., & Doering, A. H. (2013). Integrating educational technology into teaching (6th ed., New International ed.). Upper Saddle River: Pearson.

Schroeder, B. (2010).  10 Reasons to Use Multimedia in the Classroom.  Global Grid For Learning.  Retrieved from http://www.globalgridforlearning.com/10-reasons-to-use-multimedia-in-the-classroom

Relative Advantage of Using Spreadsheets and Databases in Education

Charts and graphs are an enigma in Mathematics Education.  I say this because from my experience I find them to be so self-explanatory that they need a lot of explanation. WHAT?!?!?!  Hence the mystery.  Most of us look at a chart or graph and think, “Okay, I know what this is telling me.”  It is obviously right there.  I mean it’s like writing “2 + 2 = 4” on the board and asking a student, “what is two plus two?”  But, not to the mind of the adolescent.  Many times as educators we forget it isn’t that easy.  Charts and graphs need to be explained thoroughly like any other lesson.  They need to be dissected and created by the students.  Spreadsheets help eliminate some of the issues with doing that.  A lot of students (I was one) are not extremely artistic.  And, if they are also perfectionists (like me), they can be frustrated when drawing charts and graphs.  They also are very time-consuming to make, not just for the students but, for the teacher.  Spreadsheets allow for almost anyone to make a high quality chart in a short period of time.

Spreadsheets, a tool many teachers might be familiar with for recording information about their students, might be more beneficial providing information for their students.  Here is a short list of other reasons to use spreadsheets in the mathematics classroom.

  • Spreadsheets allow for easy data manipulation and the resulting effects to be quickly seen (Roblyer & Doering, 2013).

  • They are very useful when dealing with perimeter, area and volume problems.

  • Other formulas, such as temperature conversion, can be demonstrated.

  • The concept of proportions is more readily understood.

  • Data analyzing (mean, median, mode) isn’t restricted in sample size.

  • Data collection isn’t limited to the size of the class.

  • Patterns can be expanded to find the 50,000th term (or more).

As with any tool, students will need to learn how to use spreadsheets (Roblyer & Doering, 2013).  While you can use already created templates allow for students to enter in data and gather results, spreadsheets support a student-centered learning environment by allowing students to create their own manipulations.  Much like students can not be handed a calculator and expected to know the correct procedure for entering in data, they need to learn how to format functions.  For many students, there is an added barrier from a fear of mathematics that must first be overcome (Roblyer & Doering, 2013).  Remind them that although mistakes will be made, this give rise to the opportunity to problem solve.

While I have made it seem like spreadsheets are primarily a tool for the mathematics classroom because they are primarily used with numerical data, spreadsheets are effective in other content areas (Roblyer & Doering, 2013).  Instead of losing precious time doing all the math, spreadsheets can accomplish that task and allow for exploration of the lesson. Here are some non-math class uses of spreadsheets.

How old are you on Neptune?  I like that this one still refers to NINE planets (Go Pluto!)

It’s ‘Element’ary


Climate Data Workbook

How Much Tax Would You Pay?


Roblyer, M. D., & Doering, A. H. (2013). Integrating educational technology into teaching (6th ed., New International ed.). Upper Saddle River: Pearson.

Relative Advantage of Presentations in the Classroom

For many years, I sat trying to keep myself awake during a PowerPoint presentation.  I would be popping Vivarin, chased with Jolt, while someone droned on reading words on a screen that I could read myself if there wasn’t so many that they had to use negative four font size to fit them all on the slide.  Then, after forty-five minutes of my life that I would never get back, I had to sit through a half an hour of questions that basically had all the same information provided again.  I didn’t know there was any other way.  Not until I started in this program.

In my Online Teaching class, I created this Google Presentation.  Still, too wordy, but at least there was some interaction to it to keep a student focused.  Then, in YouTube for the Educator, I created this video using PowerPoint.  Since it was a video, it wasn’t interactive (though, I later learned ways to create an interactive video if I want to re-worked this).  It did have a lot more graphics and animation to go with the narration.  Maybe it won’t win a “Tubie” (which is what they should call YouTube Video Awards, if they don’t), but it shows why such presentations can be a valuable asset to the classroom.

Presentation applications have many features that give them an advantage in the classroom.  They can be interactive.  They are accessible for viewing by students who missed the class or re-viewing by students who need to take a second look. Presentations permit a diverse media display:  Images, videos and links to additional resources. Questions can be included, both full-length quizzes and spot checks.  SlideRocket will allow you to add interactive elements to your presentation.

Not every presentation program has the same features.  Currently, there is no ability to add audio to Google.  Searching on the internet, I found that you can work around this somewhat by creating a video narration and embedding the video.  Shrink it real small to hide, or just enough to look like you are TV news anchor in a PIP (Picture-in-Picture) format.  Adding narration will save your voice and ensure that everyone viewing the presentation will get the same information, regardless of when they view it or how many times.  Eliminates the possibility of forgetting something in one of your presentations to one of your classes.

Now that you are aware of the fact that presentations don’t have to be like this, but can be like this, you are well on your way to earning a “Tubie.” (Come on, people.  We need to get a grassroots campaign started).  Or, at the very least, be a reason for Starbucks’ sales to drop on one day.


Roblyer and Doering (2013) discuss six types of software in their book, Integrating Educational Technology Into Teaching.  These six are:

  • Drill and Practice

  • Tutorial

  • Simulation

  • Instructional Games

  • Problem Solving

  • Integrated Learning Systems

I discuss the first five here.  I would like to take time to discuss Integrated Learning Systems (ILS).  ILSs are network or online systems of computer-based instruction that both track and report on student progress (Roblyer and Doering, 2013).  In my current position at the Pittsburgh Job Corps, I have been asked to evaluate several ILS programs to use with our students who are preparing to take the GED 2014 Test.  The GED Testing Service has several partners, listed here.  So far, I have been in contact with three sites and received information on the services they provide.

While the specific details of each ILS are different, with respect to their GED 2014 Test preparation, they have some common basic features.  ILS programs can easily be individualized for each students.  Generally, when a student begins an ILS course, they will take a diagnostic test that determines which specific areas require remediation.  As students progress, the programs will adapt the difficulty level up or down depending upon student performance.  Teachers will receive reports on student performance and can even be alert when a student needs intervention.

While it is generally recommend that ILS be a supplemental teaching method to an entire program in  order to be most effective (Roblyer and Doering, 2013), we would probably utilize them as the primary method.  Our students have already attended traditional schools and been unsuccessful.  However, this does not mean that lack the knowledge to pass the GED test.  Under the previous version of the GED Test, we had students who were capable of passing without any preparation, those who needed some preparation and students who required expansive tutoring.  With the change of the GED 2014 Test to a computer-only test, there will be fewer students in the first grouping and more in the other two.  These students’ ability will span a vast range.  Therefore, in order to keep them motivated, specialized training is needed to prevent from going too slow or too fast and move at just the right speed for each student.  Plus, by becoming more comfortable with learning on the computer, the students will be on familiar ground when they take the GED 2014 Test.

Does this mean that teachers become unnecessary?  Quite the contrary, I believe. Teachers will be more important.  Students will struggle with learning some concepts with the ILS just as they did in the traditional classroom.  Since the teacher will be aware more often and quicker of these deficiencies, they will have to be ready to interceded and help the students overcome obstacles.  They will have to be capable of switching gears and go from one lesson to another (possibly, in a completely different discipline) at a moments notice.


Baker, Mark. (1997). Integrated learning systems – An introduction. Retrieved from http://atschool.eduweb.co.uk/mbaker/material/ils.html

Roblyer, M. D., & Doering, A. H. (2013). Integrating educational technology into teaching (6th ed., New International ed.). Upper Saddle River: Pearson.

Vision Statement

Vision Statement

The integration of technology into education dates back to the first use of rocks and clay tablets at Neanderthal High.  Okay, maybe not that far back but, if it did, I am sure some Cro-Magnon complained that their use was unnecessary.  If our ancestors bowed to their wishes back in the day, then we would not be here to argue about the integration of modern technology (like, ironically, tablets) into the classroom today.  Note, however, that not bowing does not mean not listening.  The concerns of those who oppose technology integration needs to be heard and alleviated for their children, as well as ours, are whose futures we must not confine.  Besides, the effort to do so will be fruitless for technology is progress, technology is everywhere and technology is happening.

When you hear of a celebrity tweeting something controversial for which they are compelled to apologize or read about how someone lost a job because of what they posted on a social media site, it is easy to dismiss technology as progress.  Then, a story will appear about how an online community has come together to raise money for a sick child and, just as Moses drops a brick on the scales in The Ten Commandments, the weight of the positive overwhelms the negative.

Throughout history, things were always done a certain way because there was no other way until somebody found another way.  These technological advances were often scoffed at initially, but we could not live without them today.  Streetlights were dismissed by Sir Walter Scott.  Thomas Edison said the phonograph has no commercial value (oops). Ditto on the telephone by Western Union.  Radio (Lord Kelvin) and television (Darryl Zanuck) are without future.  Henry Ford was told the automobile was a “fad”.  Nuclear power unobtainable according to Albert Einstein (double oops).  Wilbur Wright said man flying was 50 years in the future (triple oops).

It is easy to see that technology is all around us.  It is the product of change created by people who took, as Robert Goddard exclaimed, yesterday’s dreams and today’s hope and made them tomorrow’s reality.  In order to make this all possible, technology must be incorporated into education so today’s students will have the skills needed to survive and thrive.  Technology makes projects challenging and realistic.

Students are not the only ones impacted by technology in the classroom.  Teachers, who need to keep current with the ever-changing environment, are less likely to grow complacent.  They will find a bond between them and their students allowing for a healthy relationship to foster, thus curbing discipline issues.  To do otherwise would be, as Don Knezek, CEO of the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) might say, “silly”.

For years, educators have opined the need to move beyond the early stages of Bloom’s Taxonomy – knowledge, comprehension and application – and to challenge students abilities  to analyze, synthesize and evaluate.  Today’s (and tomorrow’s) technology provides the capabilities to make this happen.  The end result will be students who are problem solvers and creative thinkers who can collaborate with others and produce the next wave of technology that will be “the downfall of civilization” and return us to the stone age.


It’ll never work!. (n.d.). It’ll Never Work!. Retrieved from http://www.lhup.edu/~dsimanek/neverwrk.htm

Why integrate technology into the curriculum?. The reasons are many. (n.d.). Edutopia. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/technology-integration-introduction

Classroom technology integration. (n.d.). District Administration Magazine. Retrieved from http://www.districtadministration.com/article/classroom-technology-integration

Bloom’s taxonomy. (n.d.). Wikipedia. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bloom%27s_taxonomy

National association of elementary school principals:  serving all elementary and middle-level principals. (n.d.). NAESP. Retrieved from http://www.naesp.org/principal-januaryfebruary-2012-technology/technology-integration-new-21st-century-learner