Sunday, October 7, 2007

Technology Integration and Interactivity

I'm back from the national economic education conference in Denver, Colorado (though it should be called an international conference with the number of attendees from countries outside the US), and thought I would use this opportunity to explore the topics of technology integration and student interaction with technology.

While technology integration and student interaction with technology are not new concepts for scholars in instructional technology, they remain important and many times new topics for classroom teachers at both K-12 and post secondary institutions. One thing that stands out in my reflection on this past week is the lens with which I look at technology -- it has changed -- I've shifted from a content specialist/practitioner to an instructional technologist.

Several weeks ago, Dr. Zeitz's blog addressed the issue of technology integration (see by noting "Technology integration is not about using technology. Technology integration is about providing the materials and opportunities through technology that are necessary for student-based learning. The trick for making this a reality is to provide a common vocabulary to identify the levels of integration and application." I've also written on this topic and would highly recommend that you take a look at the technology integration matrix from the University of South Flordia that includes video clips with examples of technology integration in action at

One of the things I've concluded about the process(es) of technology integration is that step one has to be for the classroom instructor (regardless of level) to be open to defining technology as a learning tool rather than viewing technology as simply as a substitute mode of presenting information. I've thought a lot about this idea of fostering a mindset about technology as a student learning tool and I come away from the conference after having served on the NAEE Technology Committee for ten years that we have a lot of work to do.

Some of the uses of technology in conference sessions were examples of using the technology as a substitute mode of presenting information -- IE PowerPoint presentations instead of an overhead transparency/overhead projector. PowerPoint slide handouts inside of a paper outline (or actual research paper).

Yet, other sessions were using technology as a learning tool, but were wrestling with the issue of how to define the level student interactivity. Is clicking on a web-link, listening to a podcast, viewing a digital video, or taking a quiz a sufficient level of interactivity for the digital natives in our classrooms? Do these activities meet the threshold to be classified as active learning? It appears to me that these examples remain passive and that we must strive to define student interaction with technology as a learning tool in different ways. Can digital immigrants do this successfully? I don't know, but I know more thought and discussion is required on these topics.

And, other sessions were employing more "low tech" approaches with either lecture/discussion methods or hands-on activities/demonstration methods being modeled.

In all of the sessions that I attended I found examples of instructional strategies at either end of the passive/active learning continuum and several in between regardless of whether the technology tools were "high tech" or "low tech" in nature. I find myself though continuing to wonder about where we are at with our use of technology as a student learning tool and just how far along the passive/active learning continuum we need to move to be truly interactive.

If you have comments about my random thoughts, please feel free to share them so that we can keep a dialogue going...

...still the digital immigrant. Lois
Note: Colorado Convention Center Photo from

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