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.

References

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.

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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.

References:

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