Expert Opinion on Technology

Technology Integration: What Experts Say

“One of the reasons why people are interested in video games and technologies related to them is because they transport you to worlds where you are required to find solutions to problems. One thing that video games don’t really do is separate the learning process from the grading process. They don’t tell us to study some material, and then later we’ll have a test on it. They are constantly providing you with feedback regarding the learning curve that you are currently on. As you work through a challenge, all that you do is get graded on your progress at every stage. The game will tell you that you have failed and that you need to try again before it will let you solve it. You then have a boss, who acts as a test, and you are successful in passing the test. (Games are) a component of the solution to the problem of getting children to learn not only information in the form of facts but also information in the form of something that can be produced. Additionally, in today’s world, production is typically done in teams.”

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“How are we really going to reform schools when the people going into teaching are not really digitally savvy — even when they’re young — not as savvy as the kids? The first thing that the teacher needs to do is understand what kids do and the range of it; she needs to understand what her own children do. This is the most important thing that the teacher needs to do. Give them the opportunity to share with you how they interact with games and other forms of digital media. It will be beneficial to their education for them to discuss it and think about it, so encourage them to do so. Having them develop a meta-awareness of what they do, how they do it, why they do it, and what else they could do with it is a useful teaching tool in and of itself. Therefore, the first thing that you’ll need to do is act as an anthropologist toward your own children, respecting their expertise and allowing them to share it with you while also appreciating the variety of pursuits that children are interested in. The second thing that you can do is that you can find the resources and other people all over the internet who are utilising a variety of digital tools in a variety of settings and schools. You can find these resources and people all over the internet by using the internet. You may be living in a very restrictive environment, or you may be living in a very liberal environment, but you can still go out and find other people who are doing it.”

Mary Beth Hertz is a frequent contributor to the Edutopia blog and works as an elementary computer teacher in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. You can find additional examples of her work on her personal blog, which can be found at Philly-teacher.

“When we talk about “technology integration,” what exactly do we mean by that phrase? When I hear this term, I think of a classroom in which technology is not treated as a separate subject but rather as an integral part of the curriculum. Additionally, it implies that students make use of technology in order to learn content and demonstrate their comprehension of said content rather than merely demonstrating their skill with a tool.”

“But how do we get to that point in the first place? In spite of the widespread use of the term “digital native,” we must not make the assumption that our students are proficient in the application of technology to the production of high-quality projects that demonstrate a profound understanding of subject matter. Because of this, the integration of technology might not look the way we want it to until our students are able to move beyond a simple familiarity with tools and into the ability to select the appropriate tool for the task at hand. Students need some time to get familiar enough with a tool before they can utilise it effectively for learning that goes beyond the tool itself. We can, however, ensure that your classroom will move closer to true integration if we take the time to let our students explore different tools through guided practise.”

“If we do not give our students enough time to thoroughly investigate not only the material, but also the tool itself, we cannot reasonably expect them to jump right in and create a meaningful piece of work that demonstrates their applied understanding of a concept by making use of a technological tool. Even though it will add some extra time to the total amount of time needed to finish a project, it will be well worth it in the end to know that your students have had the opportunity to investigate any questions or concerns that they may have had, that you have addressed any misconceptions, and that students have a solid understanding of the material and/or the tool before being asked to apply what they have learned. If you invest some time up front, you will have more time for yourself while the students are working on their projects. They will be able to concentrate more on the topic at hand rather than the tool that is being used.”

Read Mary Beth Hertz’s blog on for practical advice on technology integration at the elementary school level.

Donald G. Knezek

Donald G. Knezek is the chief executive officer of the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE). He is widely recognised all over the world for his leadership in the areas of collaboration, planning, and the development of standards related to the use of technology in schools.

“Young people are given the opportunity to participate in meaningful experiences when they are educated in an environment that is highly connected and replete with technological resources. These young people can interact with their peers, celebrities, relatives, and subject-matter experts all over the world. They are able to connect with both formal and informal learning communities to communicate the results of their work — be it new proposals, new knowledge or solutions, persuasive advocacy (in a variety of interactive media formats), or creative ideas and expression — in ways that previous generations could only imagine. The educational opportunities that technology gives to students are not only amazing, they are transformative!”

Angela Maiers

Angela Maiers is an award-winning educator, speaker, consultant, and social-media evangelist. She has helped to define new literacy and Web 2.0 technologies. She is coauthor of The Passion-Driven Classroom: A Framework for Teaching & Learning

“Learning in the 21st century is all about social learning — working on a goal, idea, or project with a group of diverse learners. In a culture organised around learning through projects, we have a whole different way of organising time, instruction, even the language in the classroom. Learners need to be able to cooperate, to manage tasks together, to accomplish goals, to contribute. Technology allows a community of learners to do those things together.”

“Imagine trying to manage your own information stream today without your RSS, without Twitter. Imagine doing your research in isolation. What if you were unable to run an idea by your online community and ask, what do you think about this? Curating, managing, and connecting would be impossible without the integration of technology. In the same way, how can we expect our students to reach standards at even a basic level without integrating technology into learning?”

“The most important thing is to consider how various forms of technology can enhance the educational environment. In what ways does it make it possible for individuals to assume a greater share of the responsibility for making contributions? How exactly does this make them more responsible shoppers as a result? In what ways can their commitment be increased through the use of technology to make audiences or experiences more real? The potential of all of those things can be increased with the assistance of technology.”

Andrew Marcinek

Instructional Technology at Burlington High School is overseen by Andrew Marcinek, who is a member of the Marcinek family. In addition to that, you can follow his consistent blogging at You can keep up with him on Twitter at @andycinek.

“Why are we so concerned about utilising “new” tools before we have mastered the ones that we have already? I don’t want to advance my students to the next set of skills until they have proven that they are proficient in the current set. As educators, we demonstrate this on a daily basis; however, we are so eager to discover the next tech tool or to coin the next buzzword in the field of education. At this rate, we are splintering ourselves into too many pieces and failing to meet the needs of our students. It is not the way to integrate technology or learning skills appropriate for the 21st century.”

“The rate at which educators move at should not be the same as the rate at which technology advances. It comes on way too suddenly and far too quickly. When you buy a piece of technology, it is already outdated. On the other hand, content and skill sets have been thriving, albeit evolving, for years. We will be able to produce a lively atmosphere in the classroom if we combine the two separate paths. We will be able to provide our students with a curriculum that is both rich and dynamic if we concentrate on just a few technological tools at a time and then continue to develop those tools on an annual or semesterly basis.”

“Consider implementing a lesson plan and schedule similar to this one in your own classroom this year. Before you start yelling “Wiki! MOODLE!” at your coworkers, give them some time to learn, develop, and master the new tools. GOOGLE! Twitter, Diigo, etc. in front of their eyes Remember that it’s a marathon, not a sprint, my uncle advised me in the birthday card he gave me when I turned 21.”

You can get some useful pointers on how to implement technology at the high school level by reading the blog that Andrew Marcinek maintains on

Marc Prensky

Marc Prensky is a prominent figure in the fields of education and learning, contributing as a speaker, writer, and designer. It is credited to him that the terms “digital native” and “digital immigrant” were first coined. He is the author of three books on the topic of digital game-based learning. In addition to founding Games2train and Spree Games, Prensky is also the founder and CEO of Games2train.

“Even though many schools have computers today, Luddite administrators (and even Luddite technology administrators) lock down the machines and refuse to let students access email. This is because Luddites believe that students should not be exposed to new technologies. To add insult to injury, many block instant messaging, cell phones, cell phone cameras, unfiltered Internet access, Wikipedia, and a variety of other educational resources and technologies that have the potential to be extremely helpful. This is a major source of annoyance for our children. Even in regions where access to technology is not restricted, the majority of the digitised educational materials and records are simply examples of using computers to collect old information (such as data or lesson plans) in the same way that it was done in the past (by filing). However, there are some educational benefits, such as making it simpler for educators to access student data and providing parents with greater opportunities to do the same.”

True one-to-one computing, in which each student has a device that they can work on, keep, customise, and take home, is the technological component that is lacking. It is essential that each student have their own personal computer in order for there to be any genuine technological advancement. These computers, when used appropriately and effectively for educational purposes, transform into extensions of the students’ individual selves and brains. In case you haven’t noticed, kids love to customise and make technology personal, and that is something that sharing just doesn’t allow. They need to have each student’s stuff and style all over them, and sharing just doesn’t allow for that to happen. Any arrangement that requires people to share computers, even if it’s just two children working together on one machine, will slow down the progress of the technological revolution.

“There is no question that some individuals will be concerned that the education of our children will suffer as a result of all of this experimentation.”

They will ask, “When will we have time for the curriculum, and for all of the standardised testing that is being mandated?” If we really offered our children some great content that is oriented toward the future (for instance, that they could learn about nanotechnology, bioethics, genetic medicine, and neuroscience in cool interactive ways from real experts), and if they could develop their skills in programming, knowledge filtering, using their connectivity, and maximising their hardware, and if we were able to provide them with the resources The children who moved more quickly would assist the children who were falling further behind, and they would pull them up to speed.

It is recommended that you read two articles written by Prensky for in 2008: Shaping Technology for the Classroom and Programming Is the New Literacy.

Are you Will Richardson?

Will Richardson is a former educator who now speaks and consults about the potential of Web 2.0 technologies to reshape the educational experience on a national and international scale. Learner in chief at Connective Learning, cofounder of Powerful Learning Practice, and author of Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms, he is also involved in the educational technology industry.

If our children are equipped with modern technology and have access to the Internet, they have the opportunity to engage in “real work” for “real purposes” in front of “real audiences” in today’s world. This is not to say that my children, ages 11 and 13, are incapable of performing important and meaningful work without the aid of a device. However, as a great number of 11- and 13-year-olds are already demonstrating, any child can now participate in activities that can change the world in ways that simply weren’t feasible even ten years ago. The key is the audience, the connections that they can make with others who want to share in that work. These are the action networks, learning networks that my kids will be swimming in online all of their lives. And we need to teach them how to flourish in these spaces.”

Robert Simpson

Robert Simpson is the instructional technology specialist at Ferryway School in Malden, Massachusetts. He has the led the staff and students on a number of rigorous technology-infused projects, including the Saugus Ironworks Project profiled on, and a digital media class for middle school students through Adobe Youth Voices.

“These students are really digitally connected. We do pre-surveys with our students, where they fill out questionnaires on how they use technology in the home and here at school. And what we found is, even here at the Ferryway School with fifth graders, 90 percent of them are connected to the internet at home — so these are digital kids. These are 21st century learners, and they demand 21st century learning in school and so that’s what we’re trying to do in these projects.”

“All of our project-based units that are web-based. So the teachers have done all the really good research and constructed the different components. They’ve tapped into really rich resources that are on other people’s websites, but they constructed the structure of how the students are going to navigate through that unit. And ultimately what that does is it empowers the students to make decisions. So when they’re researching rocks and minerals they get to pick which website they want to go to, to select their rock or mineral because we give them four. On the simple machines (unit) there’s a really clever website that’s like a simulation game site. Some students have asked us, “Hey can I use this site at home?” And the teacher says, “Of course you can. That’s the idea behind the project is that we want to make this curriculum accessible to the students at home.”

“The Ferryway School is where we pilot test all the new ideas. There are five K-8 schools here in Malden, and they are using the online unit. They’re getting some training but they don’t have the intensity. They don’t have all the resources. They don’t have me downstairs. But in 2004 we got a grant where we got to spend four and a half days trying to solve this problem, of how do we take this innovative thing here at the Ferryway School and share it with the whole district? So we came up with an action plan to do that and the grantors gave us $5,000 to implement it, and so we implemented the plan, so all the teachers in the district got the training. They got access to the unit. They got the strategies and they began to implement it and at different levels of competence. And the result was that when we looked at the data for the state science exam, all schools made progress, not at the same rate, but all of the sub-groups also made progress, and that kind of had light bulbs going off that this was really having an impact on student learning.”

Read Simpson’s article about the Ferryway School’s Ironworks Project.

Kappy Cannon Steck

Kappy Cannon Steck was named South Carolina Principal of the Year in 2010. In the city of Columbia, South Carolina, she serves as the principal of the Forest Lake Elementary School. Even though the majority of her staff began their careers as technology novices, they are now able to tailor lessons to the specific requirements of a wide range of students by making use of adaptable software, interactive whiteboards, digital cameras, and other technological advancements.

“Invest in the people who work in your establishment who have a natural interest in technology. You can find those people by asking around. However, you really need to be strategic with that, and you need to choose teachers who are experts in their field. That doesn’t mean veteran teacher. What it means is that a teacher who is well respected by their peers and who can stoke the flames of excitement among other educators. And then once it starts to grow, it is your job as a principal to provide what it is that they are asking for because before you know it, you have a school full of instructional leaders, and your instructional leaders have to be those people that are in the classroom, knowing what kind of tools they need to do the job that they do every day. “And then once it starts to grow, it is your job as a principal to provide what it is that they are asking for because before you know it, you have a school full

It’s not about the technology,” the speaker said. You need to begin by analysing your institution as well as the requirements of your pupils. You are aware that technology is going to be an instrument and a component of what your students are going to need in order for your teachers to be able to teach, and you also know that this is going to be the case. You need to give some thought to the kind of infrastructure you have available. Which initiatives will receive financial backing from our district? What are the consequences of something breaking? It is not acceptable to take the stance that either we do not have it, we are unable to obtain it, or that our building is too old. It is imperative that you adopt the mentality of “not only can we do it, but how do we do it?”

“Forest Lake is a fantastic illustration of this. Our structure has been around for fifty-three years. There are a significant number of children living in impoverished conditions. Our transient rate is significantly higher than average. We have a very wide range of backgrounds. There are children in our midst who were born in a total of fifteen different countries and speak thirteen distinct tongues. It’s a beautiful setting to call home. It is a true microcosm of the world, and if you keep your sights on the prize—that is, your students and doing what is in their best interests—you will figure out a way to make it happen. If you do not keep your students in the forefront of your mind, the world will pass you by. It is possible to do anything.

Check out the Schools That Work package on for more information on how technology integration and differentiated instruction are being implemented at the Forest Lake Elementary School.