Gaining a broader perspective on technology use in the classroom

As digital technology continues to be established in the classroom, more and more teachers, parents, and students see it as an integral part of education’s future. As educational technologies progress, there is an enchantment with its possibilities, and the ways it can transform teaching and learning.

Because each teacher approaches technology differently, it is important to understand their perspectives when integrating these tools in the classroom. Some teachers are eagerly pursuing technology, and discovering effective ways to use it, while others may be more hesitant or dislike the challenges it can pose in practice.

EdD graduate David Ikenouye used Integral Theory to investigate technology in education from multiple perspectives, in order to gain an overall understanding of the realities of technology use. Dr. Ikenouye surveyed 160 teachers, and worked with them in individual and group interviews, to get a sense of their ideas, concerns, and practice regarding technology. He also reviewed documents and policies regarding technology use to understand the school district’s position.

Understanding decisions about the use of technology, and the factors and perspectives that make teachers want to use them, can help school districts improve their technology use. Beyond the teachers themselves, the policies, infrastructure, and culture of technology in schools also impact how teachers approach using the tools. Considering these other aspects was therefore essential to this study.

Factors shaping technology use

The teachers overwhelmingly stated that technology was important for their classroom – for the future of students, and their own profession. Their responses recognized the great potential and capabilities of technology; however, many of the teachers were concerned with the access, quality, and availability of tools, as well as students’ appropriate use. To have success, the teachers discussed needing to go beyond these barriers – seeing students as capable users, and using teachable moments to help them to use technology for learning more effectively.

Adapting technology also means taking a different approach to teaching and learning – finding ways to connect the classroom to broader conversations, using technology as a rich part of the activity. The potential of social media, and discussions of the media, consumption, and truth were highlighted as powerful ways to engage technology.

Given the seemingly constant change in technology, many teachers noted that they no longer saw themselves as the technology experts in their classrooms. While it was important they knew enough to provide the students with a solid foundation, they recognized that they did not need to know everything about a tool, and that they could learn alongside their students.

Policy and official stances on technology were also important in shaping how teachers use technology. Many saw it as expected that they use technology, given how the school division promotes it. A more recent shift in policy towards students using technology impacted how these educators approach technology in their teaching: rather than the technology being in the hands of the teacher, they focused on designing learning environments that help students create knowledge, using technology actively and purposefully.

Bigger picture

With these various factors at play, technology integration is undoubtedly a complex and dynamic process. When approaching technology in the classroom, there is a need to be aware of these different aspects to make the process work effectively.

It is not just about supplying devices, but also being sensitive to how they are managed, used, and adapted in the classroom; additional work is needed to address teacher beliefs, existing policies, and classroom culture. Seeing the broader picture allows for a more nuanced way to plan and respond to technology integration in schools.

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