Lately when I work with teachers I have been hearing a lot of them say that they would integrate technology in their classes more if they had access to it. These same teachers admit that it is difficult for them to invest too much time and energy in learning how to integrate technology in their classrooms when access is limited. Whether this is true or not (often on random walk-throughs I see only 2 out of 5 labs in use) it has had me thinking today. What is the ultimate goal a district hopes to achieve by hiring a technology integration specialist?
When I started working as a tech integration specialist three years ago I largely got the job because I needed work and I had an unusually high interest in technology. At that time I did not really think much about this question and I know the district I worked for didn't either. In later conversations it was clear that they knew they had to do something with technology and teacher professional development but were unsure what that was or what it should look like. I think a lot of school districts adding a technology integration specialist position to their schools have been in the same boat. In part this is a "chicken or egg" and a "forest from the trees" type of issue. I was told, "We don't know enough about what we don't know to know what we need you to do for us." I have had three years working with all kinds of teachers, studying policy, interacting with a network of great minds, and integrating technology in all kinds of educational settings to reflect on this question.
What I have currently come to believe is that technology integration is not about using technology in your classroom, it is about adjusting to the world shaped by technological changes. You don't have to use a lot of technology in your classroom to be a great teacher but what you do absolutely has to be relevant. If this calls for using more or different technology in your classroom then so be it. Part of that relevance is knowing enough about the social and economic impact new technologies are having on both your own profession and the world you want to teach your students about. From a curricular perspective this means keeping abreast of how social media is influencing the news, how the read/write/web and remix culture are changing the nature of communication, and knowing how to access and assess information wherever you find it. From a pedagogical perspective this means no longer doing things in your classroom that students could do with a simple internet search. Ultimately this leads us to more constructivist classrooms where students are engaged in meaningful projects and where a great deal of a teacher's job is assessment, feedback, and environment design.
I fear that the reason a lot of school districts decide to hire a technology integration specialist is in response to declining enrollment. They see the exponential rise in online learning and think, "We need to do something to combat this." I fear they look at online schools and see technology as the disruptive force. I have this concern because I often hear people from different school districts I meet across the state make statements like, "We are getting into the online learning business to try to retain students," or "We are investing more in technology so we don't loose more students to online schools." This is an apple and oranges issue. The fact is, just as moving the newspaper online won't save the newspaper industry, just moving what we do online or just placing more technology in the classroom won't solve this problem. The answer to this problem is not always more technology but a re-purposing of our schools, a shift from a delivery model to a support model of learning. If you need to integrate more technology in your classroom to help support student learning then I am here to help you but I am also here to help you understand what impact technologies you don't use have on your classroom too.