Three Stages of Technology

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not really an expert when it comes to technology.  I’m more of a student.  I study it a lot.  I read about it.  I work at it.  At best, like my photography, I’m a hobbyist.  But over the years I’ve come to the realization that we may be shortchanging ourselves in the way we view technology in the classroom.  I think we get “stuck” in a place that is just short of what will make technology truly transformative for teaching and learning.  Let me see if I can explain.

Stage 1: Using Technology

This is the place most of us began.  I remember using DE Streaming videos back when they were UnitedStreaming.  Our principal at the middle school where I worked at the time invested a lot of money in computers, a projector, and an AV cart to set them on for every teacher.  The call was simple.  Every teacher was going to use PowerPoint to help teach their lessons.  And we did.  We used it.  We used it.  Not the students.  Just the teachers.

We even had remote controls so we could advance the slides from the back of the classroom!

Even today, this is where a lot of teachers live.  They use PowerPoint.  They use an interactive white board (to show their PowerPoints).  They learn to use Prezi (and upload their PowerPoints).

Stage 2: Integrating Technology

We have spent many hours learning how to move from simply using technology to integrating it.  We made a fundamental shift in our thinking that helped us realize the students really needed to be involved in the process.  And so we began to look for ways to insert/integrate technology.  We signed our kids up for Edmodo.  Kids showed their PowerPoint slides to the class.  We bought flipcams for paper slide videos.  We created accounts at sites like VoiceThread, Voki, Blabberize, Glogster, and more.  It became sort of a give and take between the teacher and students.

And integration is where we get stuck.  It is still sort of clunky feeling in our hands.  The students don’t really know when its going to be allowed or not allowed.  Its good practice, but it isn’t best practice.

Stage 3: Immersing Technology

Ask social anthropologists about their research and they will tell you that in order to get really good data by observing people they have to become immersed in the culture.  In other words, they have to be such a natural part of their own surroundings that they disappear.  Technology is going to have to be like that before it becomes a true game-changer for education.

Smart Phones have become so ubiquitous in the hands of teenagers (and me) they no longer are even aware they never let them go.  It is like an appendage at the end of their arm. They and the phone are one.  It is now used for everything: photography, messaging friends, telling time, posting to social media, scheduling activities, counting calories, tracking data, and a host of other things.  They even use them occasionally to make phone calls!

I’m not saying here that technology has to be used every single minute of the class period.  I’m merely suggesting that teachers have to get to a place where the technology is such a natural part of their surroundings that both they and the students aren’t even aware they are transitioning in and out of it.  Let me give you two versions of the same simple technology encounter:

“Students, I want you to get out your iPads. I’m going to send you an email with 3 questions I would like for you to answer in a reply email to me. Go ahead and begin when you receive it.”

“Students, I want you to get out your iPads.  While we were talking, I sent you an email with 3 questions I would like for you to anser in a reply email to me.  It should be waiting on you now.”

Subtle? Yes.  But it is the subtlety that allows the technology to disappear from view and just become a natural part of the lesson’s activities.

Which stage of technology are you in?  How can you move forward to the next?  Is there a 4th stage I’ missing?  I look forward to your comments!


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  1. Mark said:

    Well, Tim, I guess I becoming immersed. Last summer was a baptism by fire at DENsi. It was information overload at the hilt, but so many DEN members grabbed me by the hand (ok, ponytail) and walked me through each step.

    Now I am trying new things, and getting others excited about the technology around us. I have a BYOD policy in my class and they love it.

    Any DEN member that is afraid, DON’T. There are plenty of DEN members out here that will help you along (myself included). If I can’t help you, then teach me too!

  2. Alison Oswald-Keene said:

    I’m looking for ideas of how to set up email addresses for all of my students. Any suggestions would be appreciated. Is there any way that I can use Google and make accounts for the kids? I teach 7th grade Science and Computer Applications. I have a basic curriculum for Computer Apps, mostly how to use MIcrosoft office. I want to change that over the summer though, hoping District will allow it.

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