Teachers of the 21st Century Know the What, Why, and How of Technology Integration

So your goal is to be ateacher for the 21st century. The easy way is to stay in theprofession for two more years! However, if your goal is to be ateacher that prepares students for the 21st century, then yourobjective has to be more challenging. The teacher of the future mustbe not only accomplished in instructional techniques and technology,but also in the integration of technology into the curriculum. Thequestions arise of what is technology integration, why should weintegrate, and how do we integrate. The Jerome Joint School District#261 has spent the last 18 months trying to answer these questions.Although integration models and instructional practices are stilldeveloping and being assessed, following are some of the insightsinto technology integration and some examples teachers in our K-12district have found to be effective.

What is TechnologyIntegration?

Let's first define what itis not. Integration is not putting computers in the classroom withoutteacher training. It will not happen without training. Integration isnot substituting 30 minutes of reading for 30 minutes of computerskill development. It is, however, using computers to teach 30minutes of reading. Integration is not providing application softwarelike electronic encyclopedias, spreadsheets, databases, etc. withouta purpose. It is not prepackaged programs that are often unrelatedactivities clustered around a particular topic that address fewhigher concepts or goals. Nor is it teacher created programs thatcover special interests and/or technical expertise but do not fitcontent-area curriculum. Defining what technology integration is andis not is the first step in deciding how to integrate it into theclassroom.

Now let's define what itis. Technology integration is using computers effectively andefficiently in the general content areas to allow students to learnhow to apply computer skills in meaningful ways. Discrete computerskills take on new meaning when they are integrated within thecurriculum. Integration is incorporating technology in a manner thatenhances student learning. Technology integration is using softwaresupported by the business world for real-world applications sostudents learn to use computers flexibly, purposefully andcreatively. Technology integration is having the curriculum drivetechnology usage, not having technology drive the curriculum.Finally, technology integration is organizing the goals of curriculumand technology into a coordinated, harmonious whole.

Why IntegrateTechnology?

The next question is whyintegrate technology at all? This is a question the teachers in theJerome School District struggled with, especially in the beginning.However, we knew opinions among both the public and other educatorsare leaning toward the fact that students need to be proficientcomputer users. Here are a few but important reasons for integratingtechnology that we have come to understand in our efforts tointegrate technology: 1) correctly designed, more depth into thecontent-area curriculum is possible, 2) in the information age, thereis an intrinsic need to learn technology, 3) students are motivatedby technology, thus increasing academic engagement time, 4) whileworking in more depth with the content, students are able to movebeyond knowledge and comprehension to application and analysis ofinformation, 5) students learn where to find information in aninformation rich world, 6) computer skills should not be taught inisolation and 7) students develop computer literacy by applyingvarious computer skills as part of the learning process.

How Do You Do It?

Once we know what and why,we have the question of how. Michael Eisenberg suggests that thereare two requirements for effective integration of technology skills:1) the skills must directly relate to the content area and to theclassroom assignments, and 2) the skills themselves need to be tiedtogether in a logical and systematic model ofinstruction.[1]

Following are seven stepsteachers in the Jerome School District found to be effective in tyingthe skills to a content area:

  1. Choose a core area (just one to begin with), e.g., reading, writing, math, science or social studies.
  2. Decide what technology skill(s) you want to teach or could be best taught in this area.
  3. Choose one lesson or unit that could be enhanced or taught through the computer. Stick with an easy project in an area you are comfortable with.
  4. Develop that one lesson or unit in a software package or medium you know very well.
  5. Use it!
  6. Evaluate how it went (what went right or what went wrong). This important step should not be left out!
  7. Refine the lesson and/or start with the next lesson or unit.

Here are two examples ofthis process:

Project 1: I wantedto integrate technology into my sixth grade science curriculum on theperiodic table. Internet addressing, e-mail retrieval and sendingwere the technology skills I used for the project. After finding asite, I e-mailed my students this message:

Hi Guys and Gals!
Here is your Internet assignment on elements in the periodictable:
Print out this e-mail.
Go to http://the-tech.mit.edu/Chemicool/
Answer these questions on the paper on which you printed thise-mail!

  1. What element is represented by the symbol Ag?
  2. What is Ag's atomic weight?
  3. What are the characteristics of Ag?

Turn your print outinto the science box and e-mail your answers back to me.

Students learnedcontent-area curriculum (periodic table) outcomes and computer skills(retrieving and sending e-mail, Internet addressing and printing) allwith one 5-10 minute activity!

Project 2: Morecomplicated, but just as rewarding, is to create your own multimediapresentation. I created one on the ancient Americans for my socialstudies curriculum. The stack replaced the content from a chapter inthe textbook. Over a period of a week, the students worked throughfive stations, one of which was the multimedia presentation. I wasable to go into more depth than I had ever gone before and had moretime for one-on-one or small group discussions with the students.Without increasing the one hour slot I usually use for socialstudies, I was able to delve much deeper into the culture of theancient Americans. We studied hieroglyphics, social structures,legends, etc.

This same presentation wasoffered to other teachers to use. The only other teacher to use itwas one who also created multimedia presentations. He understood thevalue. Teachers need to have a sense of ownership in the materialsused for integration or they will not be used appropriately, if atall. Handing teachers materials outside their expertise or interestleads to materials that won't be used. Teachers need a sense ofownership in the choice of project, content area and skills to bedeveloped. Otherwise, they can't see or won't see the technologyapplication.

The second requirement tosuccessful integration suggested by Eisenberg is to have a logicaland systematic model of instruction. A successful model fortechnology integration we found in Jerome School District containsthree steps. They are model, practice, apply. Model the use of theskills and/or software program to be taught. Practice the skillsand/or program in a simple but similar project as modeled. Apply theskills learned to a project that helps the students use the computerwith purpose and creativity.

An example is a fifthgrade teacher who designed a HyperStudio[2] project for herstudents. As they worked through the project, students learned bothcontent and computer objectives (e.g., terminology: stacks, buttons,textbox, graphic, navigate, scroll, etc.). Second, she had herstudents practice the skills by creating small projects of their ownabout themselves titled, "All About Me." The skills they learnedincluded creating multimedia, storyboards, text and graphic boxes,and adding transitions. Finally, she had them apply the skills byresearching using electronic encyclopedias and the Internet (as wellas traditional methods) to create biographies of famous Americans,and then analyzed and synthesized that information into apresentation.

True integration comeswhen students learn through computers, not about them. There is novalue of learning word processing unless it is used to furthercontent comprehension. Since teachers are the key designers of theschool day, they are an integral part of the process of integration.How teachers of the 21st century implement computers into theirschools is critical to achieving the benefits of technology inchildren's learning. Well-trained and competent teachers of the nextcentury will define what integration is and is not for themselveswhether they are in pre-service or in-service situations. They willknow and understand why basic technology competencies are important.And they will know how to integrate technology using a consistent andwell-designed model of instruction. By understanding the what, whyand how of technology integration, teachers of the 21st century meetthe challenge of preparing students to become proficient informationand technology users.

Jolene Dockstader, M.Ed., is a sixth grade teacher in the JeromeSchool District located in Jerome, Idaho.


  1. Eisenberg, M. & Johnson, D. (1996), "Computer Skills for Information Problem-solving: Learning and Teaching Technology in Context," Syracuse, NY: ERK Clearinghouse on Information and Technology (ED392 463).
  2. HyperStudio, http://hyperstudio.com.

This article originally appeared in the 01/01/1999 issue of THE Journal.