Can we move beyond Integrating Technology as a tool?

Can we move beyond Integrating Technology as a tool?

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When talking about lifelong learning, I often reference Project Integration and how we need to get away from this model. I refer to project integration as what many others describe as integrating technology as a tool. This is a little misleading ... I want to be very clear that I am not against utilizing technology as a tool to improve content based projects, but I do believe this is the step prior to truly utilizing technology well in classrooms today. Technology needs to enhance the learning process. My experience tells me that we need to refocus professional development or education will continue to get small returns on the overall investment in technology.

Now, I am proud to say that I have helped many teachers and student's improve their learning through creating projects with technology that expand upon their knowledge in a variety of curriculums. Here is a short list of examples that I quickly put together to highlight some recent projects and I do look forward to adding to this moving forward. This is just the tip of the iceberg so to speak. While this isn't meant as bragging rights, I do want to emphasize the breadth of my experience with helping teachers improve teaching through integrating technology as a tool ... There have been some fantastic projects that I am quite proud to have helped develop with some amazing teachers and students over the years.

Voicethread Linked Here

While many of these projects are very worthwhile, I still believe there has to be more to it. Basically, the difficulty that I have with simply focusing on technology as an integration tool is that we overlook the imporatnce of technology as part of the learning process. I firmly believe in what Chris Lehmann says, "Technology in education needs to be like oxygen - ubiquitous, necessary, and invisible." How can we really get there? How can teachers, current and future, get there? What does this really mean? The answer lies with moving beyond this idea of integrating technology and that technology is simply a tool.

We need to focus on learning how to learn. Regardless of whether or not you buy into my model of the Lifelong Learning Approach, the discussion needs to take place. The most important skills necessary for our student's future are the skills to help them learn when they need to, where they want to, and how they want to! Isn't all the rest just smoke and mirrors? We have to change our focus on professional development. We have to emphasize with our teachers and preservice teaching programs the importance of learning how to learn with technology more than integrating technology as a tool.

As a former social studies teacher, I know first hand how difficult it can be for teachers in this curricular to make decisions on content. How do you decide what content to teach? How do you decide what is important and not important to focus on? If history is continually expanding, "how can I fit more into my current curriculum?" Should we teach one year of United States history in middle school or split it into two years? How much time should I put into teaching the Civil War? At first glance, these questions appear tough but yet they are rather easy when put into different context. The tough question to be answered that we are not answering well is what is the purpose of teaching social studies? Fortunately, I learned quickly that skills trump content every day of the week and twice on "Movie Fridays". Students will not become better citizens by getting jam packed with basic civic knowledge. Students become better citizens by taking part in the learning process and by improving their personal skills on filtering information, synthesizing data, formulating a good argument, and by presenting their own thoughts, arguments, and beliefs clearly and effectively. These skills are not embedded in technology but technology is embedded in these skills. The real problem is that we have too many teachers who are jam packed with knowledge and content and not enough skills themselves to teach these overarching learning skills.

While I evangelize to some, I need to come clean as well. I assigned my fair share of PowerPoint projects over the years. I can still remember some specific slides from presentations that stood out. Interesting...They are all slides that followed the 3 to 5 maximum rule that I talk about with students today. Yes, there was content value in many of these projects, but I quickly realized that the return of investment on content through these projects is not as a great as the return on investment when focused on skills. The value of gathering information, filtering information, formulating a good message, and properly structuring their message with good presentation skills trumps any and all content value. The difficulty is in teaching proper skills and not delivering content.

As stated on, “Learning is at the center of the whole plan,” said Ms. Cator, who took over as the head of educational technology initiatives for the department in November. “Technology allows us to create more engaging and compelling learning opportunities for students and allows us to personalize the learning experience.”

The key is personalizing the learning experience. Learning how to learn with technology allows us to personalize our learning experience more than learning how to use iMovie, Microsoft Office, and KidPix.

As part of the discussion, I would like to open up discussion on the course that I am putting together on the Lifelong Learning Approach. I am working with some local regional offices of education and a local university to get this approved. My school district has allocated time for me to work with teachers again this summer and I have one week scheduled through one of the regional offices of education (ROE). Hopefully, other school districts and ROE's pick this up as I hope to really make a difference! This is a working document and I want to really improve the assignments and assessments. Your feedback is appreciated.


I have been building this approach slowly over the past few years. This began with my experimenting with some of my workshops and presentations into a volunteer action group during the summer of 2009. This volunteer group reinforced my strong belief for this approach to become much more formal. Here is a quote from one of my colleagues as a result of his experience. Jason is a very good teacher who has always had an interest in technology. experiences this summer have taught me one thing for sure so is transformative and transparent. When this is truly realized, it no longer becomes an add on, rather a necessity for accomplishing "best practices" for educational and personal growth. Transformation indicates growth, which is what I am accomplishing far more through the use of technology then I was able to without. How does anyone achieve growth? By reading, writing, analyzing, problem solving, and practice, etc. This is blogging, pln's, social bookmarking, commenting, etc. It can be done on a continuous basis at all levels through the use of technology far better than I believe anyone can do without these tools.

- Jason Hahnstadt

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Systemic change is unrealistic until we begin to move beyond integrating technology as a tool. We will begin to get a better return on investment when we begin to utilize technology better in the learning process. We will begin to use technology better when it is ubiquitous, necessary and invisible as Chris says. We will finally be learning how to learn. If integrating technology as a tool is the final end all be all of using technology in education, than perhaps we should ask for our money back.

Can you share some examples of a model that is focused on "systemic" change? Are there models out there that are helping us get a better return on our investment?