I facilitate online professional development for teachers on integrating technology in their classrooms, and one of the participants—a high school art teacher—came up with a powerful insight into the whole concept of integrating technology. He said:
The technology should be invisible.
In that one short statement, he was able to capture the essence of effective technology integration. We don’t want the tool to be the focus, nor do we want the tool to drive the learning. Rather, the goal is to put the learning first and allow the use of the tool to be so seamless, so natural, so smooth as a means to reach the objective, that it is…invisible.
For example, you may have just discovered PowToons or Quizlet. These are both fabulous tools! However, if you’re thinking, “Oh wow! I want to use those with my kids!” then you’ll want to stop.
If your goal is to use the tool, then the technology will not be invisible—it will be a glaring neon sign that reads
Heyyyy, We're Doing Technology Nowwww
Further, once the novelty has worn off, your students will potentially be turned off to the tool as they will not see its value of transfer. They’ll only know that they “did a PowToon” or “did a Quizlet” in class.
Maybe that’s how we can judge whether or not our integration of technology is effective. If you ask a student, “What are you doing in class?” and the answer is anything along the lines of “I’m making a video” or “I’m drawing a Bitstrip” then, your technology is too visible.
Rather, your goal is to keep the learning as the objective. You want the kid to say, “We’re trying to solve a mystery” or “We’re coming up with solutions to a problem in our community.”
HOW they look for ways to solve that mystery (through internet research) or share that solution (video, blog, infographic) shouldn’t be the focus.
So, the question is, how do we make our integration of technology invisible?
1. Ask big questions. What kinds of questions do you want kids to be thinking about as they move into the lesson/unit? Generally, the use of clearly relevant how, why, or what if questions tend to stimulate more thought.
Why is there still racial tension in the U.S., today? (high school)
2. Based on those questions and your state standards, create learning objectives. What should the student be able to do by the end of this lesson unit?
By the end of this lesson, unit, the student will be able to:
- Discuss multiple perspectives on the issue.
- Identify at least four valid reasons for the persistence of racial tensions in the U.S.
- Support their identified reasons with evidence from recent data and statistics.
- Posit two or more plausible solutions for easing tensions, based on research.
Standard: Students are able to develop well-reasoned argument, posit solutions with the
use of evidence from research.
3. Determine what technology tools will aid the students in reaching those objectives. Even better, offer students a choice of tools. In the examples above, the most logical technology tools are:
- A curation tool to gather and house research (Pinterest, Symbaloo, or other)
- A word processing tool (Google docs, Word, or other) OR
- Another publishing tool (Podcast, blog, Glogster, or other)
Nothing fancy. Hopefully, in response to the question, these kids would say, “We’re talking about why there’s still racism,” and not “We’re making a Glogster thing.”
Make it invisible.
You'll find more teaching strategies in our book, Transparent Teaching of Adolescents: Creating the Ideal Class for Students and Teachers. Some former students and I collaborated on the development of best strategies for secondary educators. Check us out!