If the idea of squeezing even one more thing into an already jam-packed curriculum — and teaching day — seems daunting, the prospect of having to integrate technology into lesson plans is enough to put some teachers over the edge.
But the need to make new technology as easy and familiar to students as pencils and calculators will only grow stronger. It’s an important task that all educators must not merely accept, but embrace.
Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the International Society for Technology in Education recommends that integrating technology be made a focal point of preservice teacher preparation. According to ISTE’s National Educational Technology Standards, “…candidates must continually observe and participate textcafe join-from 3 in the effective modeling of technology use for both their own learning and the teaching of their students.”
By investing the time in creating that model, not only will educators infuse their lesson plans with technology, but they’ll be creating a tool that they will use again and again.
As with any investment, you need to invest sweat equity. If you’ve never used technology in the classroom, it makes sense to take a workshop to familiarize yourself with IT tools and their use in education. Even without additional training, you can divide your project into manageable steps and develop the model for your new lesson plan before you know it. The process of creating models of
technology can be broken into six steps.
STEP 1: ANALYZE THE BENEFITS
You may be able to infuse one of your long-standing lessons with technology, but you must first determine whether doing so will benefit students’ overall achievement. Schools have high standards that their technology curricula must meet, so familiarize yourself with those standards to ensure that your lesson plans meet them.
If, in your selected lesson plan, students will learn curricular objectives and achieve a new skill while meeting those objectives, you have a win-win situation, and you should go to the next step.
If you have difficulty determining whether this will be the outcome, sit down with a technology expert, who could be another teacher excited about using technology, a technology instructor or coordinator, a media specialist or even a highly skilled, technology-savvy student looking for a new challenge. The tech expert can help match a technology to your project needs and goals.
STEP 2: START BRAINSTORMING
Ideally, you won’t be on your own in developing your project. A team approach (with teachers working either on individual lesson plans or on an integrated, multidiscipline lesson plan) can add megawatts to your collective brainpower, especially if some of those colleagues are experienced technology users.
Webbing is a useful tool at this stage: Beginning with a central topic, then brainstorm to build out subtopics and related ideas to create a visual map. Concept webbing software, such as Inspiration from Inspiration Software, can help get ideas flowing. A visual map of ideas lets you select lesson elements, such as related ideas or suggested activities, and ensure their integration in the lesson plan.
Check out resources available online, such as quality educator resource materials and software. Why reinvent the wheel? Useful materials, including software recommendations, may already be available.
STEP 3: MAP THE PROJECT
You and your team have selected the ideas, concepts and activities that you want to include in your lesson plan or plans, and you have the information needed to select the hardware, software and skills that will be used to complete the plan’s tasks and produce the end product.
Next, create a rough sketch or a storyboard of how the project will flow. If your project entails making a Microsoft PowerPoint presentation or shooting a video, use a simple template that lets you lay out what you would like on each page.
The storyboarding process is equally important for your students to do when they’re producing their projects. By plotting out the project step by step, you ensure the students have the content to do the project and don’t get hung up on using the extraneous features of multimedia.
STEP 4: CREATE THE TEACHING TEMPLATE
One of the most difficult tasks in planning a new technology project is to accurately predict how much time it will take. The best way to do that is to create a sample project. This crucial point in the modeling process is not the time to skimp on your investment. In fact, it’s probably the most important step toward ensuring the success of a new technology project.
You can select a basic project — for instance, how to prepare a five-minute speech. It’s a wonderful way to introduce students to public speaking, as well as to teach them how to use informative writing skills to develop a process model for doing a particular task, such as baking chocolate chip cookies.
If you or your students are new to the technology, a good subject for your sample project is a step-by-step presentation on how to do the project — say, a PowerPoint presentation on how to do a PowerPoint presentation or a digital video on how to create a digital video.
By making a model project yourself, you gain the needed background knowledge for instructing your students and fine-tuning the project’s parameters. You’ll also gain a clear sense of the time, materials, preparation and personnel needed to make the project a success.
An instructor who is uncomfortable using the technology may be tempted to bypass this step. One word of caution: Don’t! Asking students to create their projects without proper direction or modeling will cause frustration and outweigh any potentially positive results.
In the “see one, do one, teach one” model, you’re at the do-one stage. So just do it!
STEP 5: DEVELOP ASSESSMENT TOOLS
With the process still fresh in your mind, it’s time to reflect on the skills and information the students will be responsible for demonstrating in their project. Create a rubric to construct a means for performance-based assessment of the students’ work. Identify how much weight you’ll give to grammar, spelling, content, specific technology skills, layout and presentation.
By giving the rubric to the students before the project begins, you clearly lay out your expectations. Many resources are available online to help you create an ideal rubric.
STEP 6: EVALUATION MODE
Having finished your sample project, it’s time to evaluate what worked and what didn’t. What resources or technology were missing or unnecessary? What did you learn along the way that you would have liked to have known when you started? Is there any way to streamline the process of using the technology to achieve the lesson’s goals or make the project more effective?
By reflecting on the process, answering these questions and incorporating their answers into the model for your new lesson plan, you’ll find that you have the experience to work confidently with your students and cope with future glitches.
With each additional class, your experience will deepen, and your horizons will broaden. Think of it as a sort of unofficial Step 7, in which you and your future students get to collect the dividends of your investment.
Laura Stockslager is the technology coordinator of Old Trail School in Bath, Ohio.