Teacher Magazine, January 2005
Has your principal been after you to “integrate technology into your curriculum?” Seems to be something of an obsession in more than a few schools that have used the ready, fire, aim method of technology planning. “We got “stuff” and now we need to use it!”
Overwhelmed by an increasing emphasis on test score improvement, ever growing curricular objectives, and increasing class sizes, many teachers see “technology integration” as just one more mandate from the central office. But don’t throw in the tech towel yet.
Here are a few simple ways to “integrate technology into the curriculum” that are fun, educationally effective, and have a short learning curve.
1. Digital cameras. Good digital cameras, those with at least 3.2 megapixels, an optical zoom, an LCD preview display, and a PHD mode (Push Here Dummy), are now readily available for well under $300. Every school library media center should have at least a few to check out to classrooms. Snap a picture, download it into your computer, and edit it with simple software. (Both WindowsXP and MacOSX automate importing pictures into the computer and both operating systems have built in simple photo editing software.)
2. Kid Pix/Graph Club/Kidspiration. Each of these proven software packages for elementary students uses the computer in its most powerful form – letting students explore and create in a visual environment. Each is accompanied by a wealth of lesson plan suggestions. And most importantly, kids love using them
- Kid Pix <www.kidpix.com> is a simple drawing program that can be used to illustrate stories or create diagrams.
- Graph Club <www.tomsnyder.com> allows the student to input data into a chart which is converted to a variety of graphs. Conceptualization of numbers is made clearer for many students.
- Kidspiration <www.inspiration.com> is the simplified version of Inspiration, software that bills itself as a “visual organizer.” It can be used to create mind-maps, brainstorming webs, and timelines to help students organize their thoughts, see relationships, and plan papers and projects.
3. The web for everyday inquiry. Not every “research project” has to result in a ten-page term paper. Ask your students to use the classroom’s Internet connected computer to:
- Check the weather forecast and make a recommendation about dress for the next day.
- Search and report an interesting fact about the author of the next story being read by the class.
- E-mail students in another class to ask their opinions on a discussion topic.
- Recommend a movie or television show to watch using a critic’s advice.
- Find two science articles related to the current science unit and evaluate the credibility of the sources of information.
- Locate a place from a current news headline or class reading on an online map resource like <www.mapquest.com>.
- Recommend a book to a classmate based on other books that classmate has read using the school’s library catalog or an Internet source.
- Estimate the number of calories and fat grams in the meal served in the cafeteria that day.
- Find a “quote of the day” on a specific topic and use a graphics program to illustrate and print it out.
4. Video cameras. This old technology is still a power means of helping students improve their oral communications skills. Watching one’s performance is always eye-opening and as powerful as a teacher’s critique. (Look for old video cameras that use VHS tapes. These are easier to use than digitl video cameras and the tapes are simple to show.)
5. Parent e-mail lists. OK, this is not exactly “integrating technology into the curriculum” but it is a simple use of technology. Collect the e-mail addresses of your students’ parents and set up a “group” in your e-mail program. Send a weekly summary of classroom activities each Friday. Parents will be thrilled and say nice things about you to your principal. This is also a good way to send home forms that need to be signed, if you attach them as an Adobe Acrobat .pdf file that can be read on any computer operating system.
As a rule, look for activities you are already doing, that have sound educational value and see if you can add a technology “upgrade” that motivates students, reinforces the learning, and reaches kids who may not respond to the traditional activity. (See “The Technology Upgrade” <www.doug-johnson.com/dougwri/upgrade.htm> for more ideas.)
The pragmatic reason for learning and using these technology may well be to meet a school mandate. But its use can make good pedagogical sense as well. Satisfy the bureaucrats and do something worthwhile. It’s a two-fer!