If you are a teacher or educator, you know that technology is the future of learning. But perhaps you are unsure how to apply it.

It’s one thing to know about different types of technology in the classroom. How do you best utilize them?

OK, so the student has an iPad. What can it be used for beyond web browsing or a way for a student to surreptitiously goof off?

How Can Classroom Technology Be Best Applied?

One of the biggest challenges with integrating technology into modern classrooms is uncertainty by teachers as to how to apply the technology.

In many ways, we are at the infancy of educational technology. Right now, the default is to use classroom technology as just another way to download and consume information. It’s often still the same information as before, just in another format.

While it is convenient to have textbooks in electronic form, technology can do so much more. It is best when it is engaging, interactive, and transformative.

For this reason, educators at the Florida Center for Instructional Technology (FCIT) have developed the Technology Integration Matrix, which is now in its second version.

A Look at the Technology Integration Matrix

The Technology Integration Matrix (TIM) is a multi-dimensional outline of how to use technology in the classroom in a positive way. It is a blueprint of sorts to help educators set reasonable goals for applying technology to the classroom.

TIM is called a “matrix” because it isn’t just a one-dimensional list. It is actually a table with five levels of technology adaptation at the top and five positive attributes of learning on the left. When the two are combined, a new level of educational mastery with technology is achieved.

The top (horizontal) list (the technology integration “Level”) includes the following categories:

  • Entry – This is when a teacher starts to use new technology in the classroom.
  • Adoption – The teacher and students are comfortable with and use the technology in a conventional way.
  • Adaptation – Now the teacher helps the students use the technology more creatively and independently.
  • Infusion – Students are empowered to choose the appropriate technologies based on learning context.
  • Transformation – Innovative uses of technology are being actively applied.

The left (vertical) list (the type of “Learning”) includes the following descriptions:

  • Active – Rather than just consuming information, students are actively engaging with technology.
  • Collaborative – Community learning instead of just solo work is encouraged.
  • Constructive – Instead of passively receiving information, students build upon their previous knowledge with the technology tools.
  • Authentic – Students are inspired to connect their use of technology to real-world applications beyond the learning environment.
  • Goal Directed – Students leverage technology to plan and set goals, as well as monitor their progress.

The power of the matrix is in combining the concepts at the top with those on the left. For example, upon combining “Adaptation” with “Constructive” you get the “Constructive Learning, Adaptation Level,” which offers the following:

“Students begin to use technology tools independently to facilitate construction of meaning. With their growing conceptual understanding of the technology tools, students can explore the use of these tools as they are building knowledge.”

On the bottom right of the matrix, we achieve the “Goal-Directed Learning, Transformation Level.” Here, students have mastered technology and are able to achieve more with it:

“Students engage in ongoing metacognitive activities at a level that may have been unattainable without the support of technology tools. Students are empowered to extend the use of technology tools and have greater ownership and responsibility for learning.”

Can Technology in the Classroom Truly Transform?

The Technology Integration Matrix provides a new way for teachers to view technology and how it can truly help and enlighten students. Still, the challenge is to figure out creative ways to apply today’s technologies to these lofty goals.

Depending on the school district and the technology tools available, teachers might be able to bring their students only to certain levels. A simple computer with a locked down web browser might be good for delivering curated educational content to a student, but it is not likely to empower them that much.

Interactive whiteboards, 3D projectors, and accessible iPads may also make learning more engaging and fun, but it may take more sophisticated tools and software to truly bring education to the next level.

How to Use Technology in the Classroom

Ultimately, as technology in education is still evolving, teachers will have to be creative to get the most from the tools given to them. Future technologies will certainly become more interactive, engaging, and fruitful for fully empowering students to excel and thrive.

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