Years ago, the only real computer technology being used in schools was found in the computer lab, were rows of students would sit and learn how to manage files and type with some speed. In fact, computer classes at that time were optional. Students were allowed to decide whether or not they felt like taking ‘computers’, Art, or another elective subject.

We’ve come a long way in the last fifteen or so years! First, computer classes became mandatory. Then, students began learning much more than typing skills. Today, students don’t need to go to a computer lab at all, as many schools have computers right in the classroom, and even one-to-one device programs. Many older students even come equipped with their own smartphones.

Technology offers an incredible tool for both students and educators. When used properly, the wealth of information available in the digital world can serve to advance education further than it was ever possible to before. With a few quick clicks, students have access to almost anything imaginable. Research has never been easier, and student papers and projects now reflect a varied and rich display of information.

However, many classrooms are falling into less than desirable technological habits. With all the amazing things we are able to achieve with technology, it is rather consistently being used at only a fraction of its potential by teachers and students everywhere.

The first major shortfall happens when technology integration, be it laptops or tablets, becomes mainly used as a source of research in classrooms. Instead of learning with technology, students are using technology to gather information. There is a very specific difference between these two endeavors.

Using technology for gathering information is definitely more effective than doing so by searching through countless books and magazines in a library, but this is hardly the main purpose of technology in education. One of the biggest mistakes made when integrating technology in schools is that the technology only ends up being used for researching. Essentially, it replaces books, and not much more.

When students are learning with technology, the technology is being used to support them throughout the different skills and subjects they are working on. Programs are found and implemented with students to help them practice skills and create the types of assignments that were just not possible before they were given these more advanced tools. Apps for multiple subject areas are found and used to promote student understanding, and digital portfolios allow students to share their work and reflect on their learning with ease. Struggling students and gifted learners can each have their own set of programs or apps that support their specific levels of learning, as well as help them to advance and grow at their own pace.

Why do so many technology integration programs achieve less than desired results in schools? Click To Tweet

Why do so many technology integration programs achieve less than desired results in schools? Perhaps there are several reasons for these shortcomings. Overly complicated procedures can deter teachers from really embracing the new technology, as can a lack of resources in general. Some teachers remain hesitant about teaching with technology that they are not comfortable using in their own daily lives. Others fear that students will misuse the technology and lose focus on the tasks that they are supposed to accomplish. Some teachers even fear the loss of control that comes when students begin to turn to their technology for learning and answers instead of going to the teacher as an authority on all subjects.

Whatever the reason, all teachers and schools need to take a step back and evaluate their technology integration. Some serious questions need to be asked about how the technology is being used with students to support learning, and what changes can be made to use available technology as effectively as possible. These brilliant and powerful tools are just too valuable to be used as simple research tools or time-fillers for students to play on when their ‘real’ work is finished!

Jennifer Rita Nichols is a primary school teacher for a grade 5/6 class which has implemented a one-to-one iPad program and focuses on teaching students using methods based on research and results. Her goals are to support fellow educators by helping them to implement technology and new teaching methods successfully in their classrooms. You can read her blog at www.jennrita.com, or follow her on Twitter: @JennritaEdu

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