Role of Teachers Integrating Technology into the classroom

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With the advent of the internet and mobile technology resources such as laptop computers, mp3 players, cell phones, and now smart phones cultures throughout the world have became increasing dependent on technology in their day to day lives. Since everyday life is now linked by technology, educators must adapt their classroom instruction to integrate available technological resources. There has been much research conducted on integrating technology into the classroom. The importance of implementing technology development programs within today's classrooms is best reflected by a quote from the Academy of Holy Angels Principal Heidi Foley who said, "Being able to use technology will separate the 'haves' from the 'have nots' in our future (pg.7), (Nosek, 2010). This paper will explore specific methods of integration of technology into the science classroom and the role teacher's play in the implementation of these resources into the actual classroom environment.

Urhahne, Schanze, Bell, Mansfield, and Homles (2010) suggest the role of the teacher in implementation of a technologically integrated learning environment is often neglected in the science classroom. Urhahne, et. Al., (2010) included analysis of five principles to judge the effective implementation of a computer based learning program in the science classroom. These five principles included 1) envisioning the lesson, 2) enabling collaboration, 3) encouraging student participation, 4) ensure learning, and 5) evaluation of achievement. These five principles take into account web-based inquiry, modeling curriculum, collaborative laboratory experiences, and resources for collaborative inquiry learning (Urhahne, et. Al., 2010). Each of the principles Urhahne, et. Al. (2010), reviewed are critical to the development of 21st century skills in today's

learning environment so students can have the learning experiences they need to develop necessary problem solving skills in order to be successful in and out of the classroom.

Many times teachers need professional development opportunities such as workshops and hands on demonstrations to fully adapt themselves to the use of available technological resources in the classroom. Each school district may have training opportunities for teachers and other staff members in their schools. However, to fully understand programs used in today's classrooms teachers need one-on-one instruction themselves to become comfortable with the program they are trying to implement in their classrooms. Nosek (2010) conducted a case study at the Academy of Holy Angels (AHA) in Minneapolis, Minnesota exploring AHA's newly implemented 1:1 laptop program in which the Academy brought in professional consultants to initially train faculty and staff. The Academy then implemented an ongoing training program involving those faculty and staff members who attended the initial training to help mentor other faculty and staff members after the first year of operation for the program in their classrooms. This professional development technique could serve as a viable model for technological implementation programs throughout the country especially in today's constrained fiscal environment.

Zucker and King (2009) explored the use of technology at the Denver School of Science and Technology (DSST), where laptops are used in day-to-day instruction (pg. 22). The use of integrated technology programs in the classroom require teacher's to develop differential instructional plans for each individual student, or plans for each group of similarly skilled students within the classroom. At DSST teachers developed weekly lesson plans and post these plans to class websites which include laboratory and online research inquiry activities (pg. 23)

(Zucker & King, 2009). The use of online plans, assignments, and resources require extra preparatory time for each teacher. DSST also requires each teacher to follow the same planning framework to allow cross-curriculum integration of instruction to occur. A student from DSST said, "I believe that the most helpful uses of technology has been the use of technology to give us interactive lessons. It makes it so much easier to understand a concept if you can see it happen in an animation," (pg.25) (Zucker & King, 2009). Each student reacts differently to the curriculum that is presented to them within the classroom and through technological means which demonstrates each teacher must be able to determine what information is going to be most beneficial to that particular student or class and be able to deliver the information using differential instructional techniques.

The perspective of the DSST students indicates there is a relationship between the teacher's selection of material and the teacher's ability to use the available technological resources to make their lessons engaging for their students. In development of the DSST program the most important factor was not the availability of the technology, but the ability of the teacher's to use the laptops as a medium to engage their students in an interactive classroom setting. The use of technological resources such as interactive white boards, laptops, blogs, online communities, and other software such as Blackboard require the teacher to become intimately familiar with the resources and the institution to have the information technology expertise on staff to problems that arise within the school. However, the 21st century learner must become familiar with using all the available technological resources to be successful after high school and/or college due to the demands of the workplaces they will be entering. In addition, today's learners are much more dependent on audio visual learning and technological problem

solving methodologies than learners in previous generations. Therefore, educators need to integrate all available technological resources available to them into their classroom learning environment and planning processes.

The pedagogical ideals and knowledge that teachers have play a large role in the implementation of technological resource use programs their classrooms. Becker determined that computers serve as "valuable and well-functioning instructional tool" (p.29) in schools where teachers have: 1) access to computing technology 2) adequate preparation 3) have freedom to make curriculum decisions 4) and hold pedagogical beliefs that support creative thought (Becker, 2000). While the first three items that Becker proposed are easily satisfied with support from the school's administration, the fourth item is more difficult to address due to today's educational environment, individual educators must adapt their own learning styles in order to understand the current resources available to their students. In addition, educators have had to change their classroom from teacher-centered to student-centered activities allowing themselves to let their students use the available technology such as the internet and online databases to gather information and develop solutions to the problems that have been presented to them (Ertmer, 2005). Differing pedagogical beliefs between educators within schools can lead to issues in delivering a true cross-curriculum technologically diverse learning experience to their students. To truly deliver an integrated learning environment, containing the necessary level of differential instruction for the 21st Century learner, teachers must break away from the belief that tutorial and drill type instruction is the best method to deliver information. Teachers must buy into the belief that high level problem solving exercises are best suited to be delivered using today's advanced technological resources (Ertmer, 2005). The need for diversity in the delivery methods

of technologically rich high level student centered problem solving activities, results in the need for individual school districts to now offer more technologically diverse professional development opportunities for their faculty and staff. The availability of technology centered professional development programs will ensure that teachers are exposed to information that will help them to change their pedagogical beliefs and to develop the expertise needed to implement the necessary technology to allow their students to develop the skills necessary for the 21st century learner.

The role each individual teacher plays in the integration of technology into their classroom instruction depends on many factors such as pedagogical beliefs, the availability of resources, the availability of professional development programs that support differential uses of technology in their classroom, and the support from others teachers and administration in order to develop a cross-curriculum technologically diverse learning environment that supports the necessary high level problem-solving their students need to succeed in and out of the classroom in today's society. One constant factor throughout all the research is that ultimately the individual educator has the biggest impact on the delivery of material and development of students within their classroom. In addition, the way a teacher processes information and integrates it into class activities depends on their ability to adapt their owning learning styles to fully understand the multitude of available technological resources to help their students learn.