All teachers should be integrating technology into their curriculum now. But technology integration is sometimes an illusive target. What thought process should they follow as they work to more effectively integrate technology into the core subject areas? How can they ensure that the technology selected is the best fit for that particular lesson? How can teachers include differentiation in both process and product with the technology chosen?
Let's look at the thought process that a TCEA member, Rebecca Cooper, a U.S. History teacher at The Kinkaid School, went through as she brainstormed ways to integrate technology into her curriculum. Rebecca first began with what her students needed to know and be able to do for the year and then broke those skills and content down into lesson units. She crafted an essential question or theme for the year that would tie all of the units together; this theme was "What does it mean to be an American?" She decided to have the students write an essay at the beginning of the year answering the question. Their final exam essay question would be the same question, with them illustrating their answer with examples they learned throughout the year. This would provide a way for the students to see how much they had learned.
Rebecca next looked at some of the typical lesson pieces that would come in each unit of study, such as vocabulary development, primary source documents, and timelines of events. She looked for ways that technology could reinforce the learning of those pieces and better engage students. She thought carefully about the best tool for each need. She chose to have students use PicLits to take a photo and place vocabulary words or descriptors over the picture for historical events, places, and people. She selected Prezi to use in creating timelines of events. She liked Prezi because students could get away from the "death by PowerPoint" slideshows that they had created in the past.
To address the complex vocabulary of many primary source documents, Rebecca decided to us Wordle as an introduction to the texts. She would create Wordles of the documents and then ask students to determine their main ideas. She also hoped that this tool would help students better use context clues to figure out word meanings. In addition, she would have the students create their own Wordles looking at famous events through the eyes of two different participants and asking them to compare and contrast the main ideas of their viewpoints.
To tap into student interest of technology in their daily lives, she made plans to create a Ning online social network to simulate the Constitutional Convention. Each student would be assigned to be a delegate and have to create a profile based upon this historical figure. The students could then role-play debates, discussions, and even vote on key constitutional issues within the "cyber convention." Finally, she decided to have students keep a continuous Google Map trip of all of the events studied for the year, presenting their "History Virtual Field Trip" in May as a culminating project. She believed that this would help students to tie the events together and not view them so much as happening in isolation.
This thoughtful process ensured that the technology supported the learning and was not just something "added on." The goal was to make students more engaged and to hopefully master the content more easily. Ideally, it would also allow them to see the entire year as a connected whole instead of disjointed units. What process do you use to integrate technology into your curriculum?
Rebecca Cooper is an eighth grade U.S. History teacher and dean at The Kinkaid School in Houston, Texas.