By Dr. Ramiro Zuniga
A few months ago, I was asked to be a keynote speaker at a technology conference being hosted by a school district. What made this invitation extra special was that the technology conference was being hosted by my hometown school district. As a keynote speaker, I spoke directly to the teachers and administrators from across the district.
My mission was clear. I needed to deliver a message that would inspire an increase in the use of technology in the classrooms and administrative offices. Rather than focus on the group as a whole, I decided to challenge each individual to take on the responsibility of expanding their own level of usage.
Most people think having state-of-the-art technology is the most important thing when it comes to technology integration. I pulled out my smart phone. I explained that my smart phone allowed me to text, make calls, watch videos, and access the internet, among other things. I then placed my smart phone on a table and stood back. As we all watched for a few seconds, the sound of a chirping cricket played over the sound system. Everyone laughed, and the point was made. Technology in and of itself is not the answer; people are.
I went to expand on the following points:
- People have to care enough to learn new technologies.
- People need to make the time to learn new technologies.
- People need to continue to practice using the new technologies until practice becomes integration.
The pressure to learn new technologies is nothing new. When I was in high school, film strips were new technology. Although the technology was relatively simple to use, a lot of teachers were intimidated by the projectors and never learned how to use them. These teachers cleverly hid their lack of skills by asking for student volunteers to run the projector for extra points. Many who did learn how to use the projectors used them as a babysitter for students and not in any meaningful instruction. This same scenario plays itself out today in classrooms, just with different technologies.
Those that produce technologies always promise great things. In 1913, Thomas Edison proclaimed his technology, filmstrips, would change the educational system completely. He even predicted his technology would eliminate the need for books in 10 years. Obviously, he was wrong. Know too that similar promises were made of radio, television, and the Internet.
Learn a new technology because it exists. Disregard whether the technology would increase student performance because the technology will not make this happen. Our nation's educators will.
Here are the strategies I shared with them to begin the process of integration:
- Make the time to learn – Time waits for no one. In a year, you will either know how to use a new technology or you won’t. It’s your choice.
- Take baby steps – Learn one or two features of a new technology at a time. If you learn 5 new features in a month, you will have learned 60 features in a year.
- Collaborate – Learn with your peers. Hold working lunches where you can learn together or teach each other.
- Create step-by-step instructions or “cheat notes”- Use the instructions until you become comfortable with the new technology. Pass those notes on to someone who needs them after you no longer need them.
- Use the technology that makes sense to you - If you don’t think a particular technology will help you, don’t use it. Don’t worry about having the latest “apps.” Don’t worry about having the latest version of a technology.
- Technology should conform to your life - You should never have to conform your life to any technology. For example, if you don’t want your e-mail forwarded to your smart phone, don’t. You can always read your e-mail when you want to and not when your phones dings or vibrates.
- Practice, practice, practice - Continued practice is the only pathway to integration.
- Most importantly, don’t wait for someone to train you - Technology is here. Period. Use it. Take the initiative. You can’t hurt anything by trying.
A change of perspective is fundamental to this process. Technology integration is not about the technology. Technology integration is about individuals taking on the responsibility of learning new technologies and continuously using them.