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Teaching with Technology | Viewpoint

Enticing Teachers To Try Technology

Technology is a marvelous tool for enhancing the curriculum, engaging the students, and bringing life to an antiquated classroom. Most educators will agree this premise is true. But how do you get teachers to take the leap and dive into technology integration in their classrooms? One solution some districts have tried is to equip all classrooms with technology--interactive whiteboards, documents cameras, LCD projectors, etc. The expectation is that if they equip it, the teachers will use it.

At La Crescent-Hokah Public Schools in southeast Minnesota, we decided we wanted more of a buy-in to putting to good use whatever hardware was purchased. After researching other programs in our area, we gave birth to Educational Technology through Integration and Collaboration (ENTIC) in 2007.

A Committment to Technology
As with so many other districts around the country, our budget is limited. Equipping every classroom in the district is not an option. So teachers are allowed to apply to become ENTIC participants only ater they work out a budget for the following year and explain how they intend to use the requested equipment in their rooms. We do not make everyone fit one mold: Each teacher decides what hardware would work the best with his or her age group, content, and student population. Of course, there is a financial limit to what one teacher is allowed to receive. Applicants are asked to describe their experience with collaboration with other teachers in the district. A rubric is used to score the applicants to make decisions in an unbiased manner. The scoring team goes over the applications and decides, based on budget constraints, how many teachers will be brought into the next round of ENTIC. Some consideration is given to keeping the technology distribution equitable from department to department throughout the district.

Being accepted into the program means the teacher is agreeing to a two-year commitment to work with the integration specialist. The first year requirements are:

  • 15 hours of integration training outside the contract day, including orientation to the equipment, any other technology training (usually provided by the integration specialist and paid at a rate of $17.50 per hour), preparation and delivery of a 15-minute presentation to a group showing how equipment is used in the classroom, and six hours of lesson preparation outside the contract day;
  • Complete ethics training provided in the district;
  • Complete a pre-survey, post-survey, and reflection form;
  • Work with the integration specialist on a regular basis involving classroom observations and reflections;
  • Integrate new technology into teaching and student learning;
  • Create an implementation plan for the second year to involve district student technology standards;
  • Develop a teacher Web site using the framework provided by the district; and
  • Be responsible for the care and security of the equipment.

With this list of expectations, it is apparent the teacher must have a commitment before applying to the program. For year 2, the teacher works with the integration specialist to implement technology into the hands of the students on a more in-depth scale. Each teacher choses two goals from Minnesota's State Technology Standards for students based on the NETS standards. If needed, the integration specialist will team teach with the ENTIC teacher. The mentor relationship continues through the second year ending with a final survey of how the teacher's skill in technology has increased.

From this two-year commitment, teachers learn to feel comfortable with their technology and begin a shift in their lesson planning to incorporate more technology.

The following are some of the things our second year ENTIC participants completed:

  • Teachers creating a site on the SharePoint school site to house assignments, calendars, resources, and discussion boards for extending the class discussion outside of class;
  • Fourth, fifth, middle, and high school creation of Web sites;
  • Fifth grade creation of claymation animated videos;
  • Fourth grade audio podcasts for poetry;
  • Fourth grade through high school creation of Photo Story 3 projects with student narration;
  • High school art students creating online portfolios;
  • Social networks used for social connections outside the classroom with educational purpose;
  • Videos created at various ages;
  • Skype calls to connect guest speakers to class;
  • Educational games created to enhance review activities;
  • Students presenting lessons on interactive whiteboards;
  • Blogs created to encourage writing; and
  • Art students creating projects using their drawings and digital images.

And the list could go on. Teachers are helping students create digital content on a regular basis. Having a mentor to work with during the learning process reduced the apprehension about trying something new in the classroom.

Indications of Success
A survey was taken to learn the reaction of past and current program participants. Thirty-four out of a potential of 44 responded. The survey included the following three questions:

  1. Do you believe your participation in ENTIC (even a few years ago) was beneficial to you in adding technology to your content?
  2. Do you believe having the technology embedded into your curriculum has enhanced student achievement and/or engagement over not using technology previously?
  3. Are you satisfied/were you satisfied with participation in ENTIC from the standpoint of support, requirements, integrating technology into your classroom?

As illustrated in the graph below, the overall positive response to the program was high.

Could this have happened without the education technology preparation program?

In visiting with some of the ENTIC participants, the feedback was positive and indicated that the program had been helpful and, in some cases, instrumental. One of the "stars" of the program is our elementary art teacher who received a document camera. She was amazed early on in the program by how much classroom demonstrations were enhanced by being able to use the document camera to project objects on the screen rather than have students gather round a single location in the room.

In the second year of her commitment, she chose to have her second grade students create projects in KidPix, a digital drawing program, and to have her fifth grade students create claymation projects. She wrote a local grant to purchase digital cameras for the claymations. The first year of creating these animated clay projects, I was there to help with taking the pictures in the classroom and then taught the students how to create the videos using the series of still photographs they had taken. We used an open source application to render the individual photographs into a video and then video editing software to create the final video with sound effects, music, and narration. The final videos were uploaded to a video sharing site.

When the claymations were being completed, I stopped in the day they took the pictures (but mostly to observe) and then helped with the video project. She taught about half of the video lesson, and then I finished the teaching. I asked the teacher to describe the effect integrating technology has had on her content. She said, "It's huge. It's Huge. It's HUGE! The technology totally engages the students."

This star teacher was decidedly non-techie before the program. But she attended several technology classes taught over the summer and has committed many hours working with me. Without the support, she may never have attempted putting the technology into her curriculum.

In another case, one of our fourth-grade teachers had her students produce audio podcasts in which the students wrote and recorded poems. The benefit of this type of project for this teacher was that it differentiated the instruction, allowing the students to refine their use of the technology--by adding music and effects to their projects, for example--without developing a sense that they were "working." Her students also created online posters. The technology-enhanced projects, the teacher indicated, definitely raised the standards for what students created. Now she would not even consider going without technology in her classroom and wants to continually add more.

A high school art teacher had a great project for her second year in the program. The students created online portfolios of their work. When asked if she would have done this without being in ENTIC, she said eventually she would have, but this gave her the motivation to not put it off any longer.

So how do you ENTIC teachers to try technology? Simple, have them commit to a goal and give them all the support they need to reach it!

About the Author

Lois Cox is a technology integration specialist for La Crescent-Hokah Public Schools in La Crescent, MN, a small rural city in southeast Minnesota. She works closely with all staff in the district to help them with their technology needs. Her background is in the classroom as a high school business teachers and also bring many years of experience outside the classroom to her position. She can be reached at lois.cox@isd300.k12.mn.us, and her school Web site is here.

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