The Benefits of Integrating Technology into Today’s K–12 Classrooms
19 Sept 2022
Technology integration is no longer about whether tech belongs in classrooms. In today’s education landscape, it pertains to how technology is chosen and used for learning.
Schools have received waves of government funding for educational technology. Administrators and IT leadership still have until September 2022 and September 2023 to obligate ESSER I and ESSER II funds, respectively. To get the best return on investment with this funding, districts must ensure technology integration is done effectively.
Students benefit from technology integration when it is done well. It can lead to a more equitable educational experience and give students the tools to be successful in life.
What Is Technology Integration in Today’s Classroom?
Technology integration is the use of technology in teaching and learning to achieve academic goals.
“I don’t use tech unless it solves a problem I have in the classroom,” says Lisa Highfill, a technology integration specialist at Pleasanton Virtual Academy in California.
For example, Highfill says, she’ll use a Jamboard where students can post their responses instead of calling on them one at a time. “Then, when they’re all quiet, what are they doing? They’re reading each other’s comments.”
Meaningful tech integration should be done thoughtfully to enhance a learning experience. “You don’t want to use technology just for technology’s sake,” says Melissa Lim, a technology integration specialist at Oregon’s Portland Public Schools. “We recommend using the Triple E Framework as a simple tool to help determine if it’s worth using technology or if you’re just using it as a substitute.”
The Triple E Framework was developed by Liz Kolb, a clinical associate professor of education and learning technologies at the University of Michigan. When K–12 IT leaders evaluate new tech based on this framework, they can determine “how well technology tools integrated into lessons are helping students engage in, enhance and extend learning goals,” according to Kolb’s website for the framework.
“It’s all about the learning first,” Lim says.
Why Is Integrating Technology Important in Education?
Technology integration in Education is important for multiple reasons. It makes learning more equitable for K–12 students, and — when used in lower grades — it sets them up for success in school and, moving forward, in their careers.
“If you’re a teacher who doesn’t use a lot of technology, your students aren’t getting equitable access to learning experiences that another teacher who uses technology is giving to their students,” Lim says.
Now that many students have devices and access to technology, educators and school leaders must work to narrow the digital divide through equity of use. If students aren’t exposed to technology and taught how to use it, they will fall behind their peers.
“Educators should make sure logging in is a really easy, smooth process,” Highfill says. “Once I get everyone logged in, the No. 1 thing I have to get students to learn how to do is share their screen.”
This not only helps her work through problems with students, she says, but also helps students take a more active role in their learning. Students will find new ways to achieve a goal or manipulate a technology and can show the class — and the teacher — how they’ve accomplished it by sharing their screen. “You empower them and put them in the teaching role,” Highfill adds.
What Are the Benefits of Technology for Students?
Through technology, schools can support all students. There are roughly 60 grade school students and nearly 250 high school students enrolled at Pleasanton Virtual Academy. “I’m so excited our district put in that investment,” Highfill says. “We’re a public school virtual academy. They invested in a quality virtual academy to meet the needs of all students.”
Even students who are learning in an in-person environment are using technology in their daily lives. Integrating it into the classroom gives them an opportunity to learn to use tech in a meaningful way.
“If you have the skills and know how to research and find information and discern whether that information is true or not, that’s going to help you not only in school with your schoolwork, but also with life in general,” Lim says.
“I watch the kids, and they’re very addicted to their devices,” says Highfill. “So, it’s my new teaching point: How can you take a digital diet, and how can you identify when tech is not doing good things for you?”
Highfill says that anytime there’s a fear about introducing technology to the classroom, educators should use that. “We have to teach students how to take care of themselves if they’re going to use technology,” she says.