Evaluating Technology Integration in Schools
Technology has become a staple in classrooms these days, both in K-12 and higher education contexts. Such a close relationship with technology has allowed districts, schools, administrators, and educators more effectively meet the needs of students, students whose skillsets vary greatly. Technology has also allowed data on student progress to be collected, making predictive analysis, and planning more feasible. However, even with the significant teaching, learning, and research potential living within educational technology, schools do not always deploy it as effectively as they could. To ensure appropriate integration, evaluation of technology use should be completed periodically.
How are Teachers Using Integrated Technology?
In some schools, teachers work alongside administrators when deciding which technology to use and how to integrate it best. In other schools, teachers are told which technology they will be required to use. Regardless, simply because technology use is implemented in a school, this does not mean that teachers are using it effectively or are even enjoying its use. For some, the use of technology may be an obligation to a top-down mandate; these teachers may therefore use only the bare minimum required. Others may not be fully trained on how to use the chosen technology, making its potential effectiveness null and void. For teachers who are using technology regularly, there is still the question of whether they are creating a teacher-centered or a student-centered virtual environment.
Is Content Aligned with the Technology?
Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for schools to become blinded by fancy bells and whistles that often come along with various educational technologies. Rather than adopting technology that has the latest and greatest tools, however, it is more important than the technology aids teachers in helping students learn the content being taught within their classrooms. Does the technology, for example, provide opportunities for the appropriate assessment of student understanding for their grade and skill level? If a course is developmental, does the technology provide adaptive or personalized learning paths that can steer students towards mastery of content? To determine the answers to these questions, and more, schools should evaluate the alignment of the integrated technology with their specific content standards.
Is There a Seamless Integration and Student Access?
One of the biggest mistakes schools can make when integrating technology into their classrooms is not appropriately assessing whether the technology can seamlessly work with the devices and platforms they are currently using, or will be using. Furthermore, some schools do not always have enough devices to go around, meaning students may have to share the technology. This may become problematic if these same students do not have access to technology at home either. Schools should thus evaluate their current technology holdings, as well as their student population, to determine whether technological integration is helping or hindering student success.
Developing Best Practices for the Future
Once schools become familiar with their content, learning, and technology needs, as well as with the technology they currently have, assessing more technology integration will be easier and more impactful. Periodic evaluations will then simply help schools stay on track in terms of how or if they are effectively reaching students. Technology that does not further learning progress should be carefully assessed and potentially replaced. Ultimately, it is not enough to have technology at our fingertips within our school systems; seamless integration and proper use are critical to learner and educator success.