The Covid-19 pandemic forced many schools to view technology integration through a new lens. There were many successes and, for most of us, even more stumbles along the way. The effective implementation of technology integration in schools, despite the seemingly common understanding of its positive impact on learning, is faced with many obstacles. And even now, some schools and educators still struggle to overcome them.
Technology is everywhere and is a catalyst for change. It has been impacting not only the business world but also the educational sector. While technology is actively present in many aspects of our lives, pre-pandemic studies found (e.g., Christensen, 2011; Edutopia, 2014) that many schools were still lagging behind. In fact, a huge number of schools around the world are just starting to discover its use, partly initiated by the pandemic. Although there has been growth in the number of technology devices (projected to be as much as 363 percent in many schools), pre-pandemic research (Genota 2018) revealed that professional development and pedagogy were not keeping up with the advancements in technology. Since the pandemic, has that reality changed?
Technology integration is defined as “using technology including computers, digital cameras, compact disks, held devices, probes and related technologies to deliver and enhance the curriculum already in place” (Pitler & Bartley, 2004 cited in Bataller 2018). In an effort to expand the understanding of technology in education, the International Society of Technology in Education (ISTE) developed a set of standards that can drive innovation in the learning environment across different roles (e.g., educator, student, coach, leader, etc.) at school. The ISTE standards for students, for instance, pointed out seven areas that can help better prepare the students for the demands of the 21st century such as empowered learner, digital citizen, knowledge constructor, innovative designer, computational thinker, creative communicator, and global collaborator; each standard has a set of criteria to further help the educators learn how to implement the standards. There are also many models used to understand how to integrate technology. The most popular ones are: 1. The Technological, Pedagogical, Content, and Knowledge Framework (TPACK)
2. The Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, and Redefinition (SAMR) Model
(Photo source: Lefflerd, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons)
3. The Technology Integration Matrix (TIM)
(Photo source: The Florida Center for Instructional Technology, fcit.usf.edu)
Obstacles to Technology Integration
Many researchers say that integrating technology in the classroom can help the students attain skills needed to succeed in a diverse, complicated, and highly innovative world, driven by access to many different types of information. Expanding access to different cultures, when implemented successfully, can lead to developing authentic learning both for the students and the teachers (Edutopia, 2014; Ito, 2013; Luckin, Bligh, Manches, Ainsworth, Crook, & Noss, 2012).
Because of the fast-paced nature of technology, teachers who are viewed to be the change agents sometimes find themselves unable to understand which application is truly effective in their classes (Fullan, 2013; Bataller, 2018). And considering the high cost of implementing technology at schools and the time it takes to train the teachers, it is important to find out the different obstacles that might hinder the successful implementation of technology (Greenridge & Walcott, 2020).
There are many surrounding debates as to what can prevent technology in education from being integrated successfully, despite the presence of many technological devices. Among the many identified factors are the teachers’ attitudes, knowledge and understanding, personal characteristics, the school’s overall mission and vision, and school support.
One theory is that teachers’ attitudes are the reasons why technology fails (Christensen 2002; Teo 2008; Yalcin, Kahraman, and Yilmaz 2011). Some teachers don’t approve of or appreciate the value technology can offer a classroom and their behaviors directly impact the level of success they have with integration. Some other teachers feel that integrating technology should be optional instead of recognizing it as a normal part of the curriculum (Nicholas 2018).
Knowledge and Understanding:
Another theory, (Yalcin, et.al. 2011), however, identifies that teachers will only be able to impart to the students the usefulness of technology when they themselves understand how and when to use it. Therefore, if the teacher has only general knowledge of computer use, it will be challenging both for the teacher and the students to feel that it has enriched the lesson (Greenridge & Walcott 2020).
Other studies (e.g., Buabeng-Andoh, 2012; Elsaadani, 2013; Rana, 2013 as cited in Greenridge & Walcott, 2020) showed that teachers’ personal characteristics could be a factor. They posit that age, gender, prior experience in the use of computers, and years of teaching affect the success of technological integration.
Overall Vision and School Support:
A number of other studies pointed out additional factors that impacted integration. Schools lacking in an overall vision for technology obstruct programs to support teachers in using technology (Hew & Brush (2007). Teachers’ tight schedules give them very little time to learn emerging educational technologies (Kopcha 2012) and without school support, it is difficult to make the time. Limiting policies and regulations (Alenezi 2017; Ihmeideh 2018), institutional structures, scarcity of resources and funding (Bataller 2018; Liu & Pange 2015), and the digital divide (LEAD 2012) are also all contributing factors.
Overcoming the Obstacles:
Although many researchers have attempted to explore this topic, the construct of effective technology integration is still “vague and complex” (Bataller 2018). The ISTE standards and different technology integration models are still the best source of knowledge to guide the educators to integrate technology effectively; however, they will need support from their organizations to overcome obstacles, like shaping the school’s overall vision with the technology in mind, creating responsive policies and procedures, crafting matched professional development programs to develop teachers’ competencies, and creating opportunities to increase the level of comfort and confidence of educators in the use of technology. The research-based frameworks, TPACK, SAMR, and TIM, are a way toward overcoming the current challenges in technology integration. These frameworks provide practical approaches for integrating technology into the existing curriculum of an international school.
The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the way many schools and educators view the importance of using technology. No matter where you are along this journey, it is vital to understand that technology integration will continue to be our reality well into the future. As more educators join the conversation, we will be able to support each other in overcoming the obstacles and have more effective technological integration in our schools.
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Roselyn Pastorfide Baronia teaches AP computer science subjects, is a whole-school content leader for IT instruction, and is the school-wide technology integration coordinator at Tsinglan School in Dongguan, China.