The Way of the Future: Embedding Technology in 21st Century Schools

April 12, 2010

Why is it so important that we integrate technology?

“I would rather stick to the same lessons I have taught for the last 30 years, thank you.”

“ If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

These are clichés that just won’t cut it…if you want to survive in the 21st century. That’s right, I said, “Survive.” Darwin’s Survival of the Fittest  can be applied to our connected world and once again, educators are responsible for ensuring that our children, our future, are equipped with the skills they need to keep our world safe, healthy, and peaceful. We will evolve, our schools will need to evolve, if we want to survive in today’s digitized world. Integrating technology isn’t just about handing out toys to students and teachers, “It’s about unleashing the powers that students bring with them into the classroom” (A Vision of 21st century teachers ).  Technology enables teachers to plan, teach, and assess in more creative, engaging, and authentic ways than ever before. Technologies enhance the learners’ multifaceted, multi-sensory, exploratory experiences and facilitates a constructivist approach to learning.

Making It Happen

There are a couple of ways that technology integration can be implemented in schools.  One is at a personal level with small pockets of digital pioneers  who are risk takers and life long learners. This is the method I feel is most effective as teachers and students see you working alongside them, in the trenches, slugging it day in and day out. I believe teachers will be more willing to follow their tribal leader  if  they respect and trust that leader, a relationship that is more likely to be accomplished through continuous collaboration.

There is also School Wide Educational Technology Integration, which usually requires a more sophisticated and structured approach. There are several models that can be used when implementing the use of a technology on a wider scale.


One is the Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge or TPCK (McAnnear 2008). This model provides a clear look at the need to ensure that the technology, content, and teaching practice are not separated, but rather considered simultaneously when planning the integration of a new technology.

Summerville and Reid-Griffin (2008) provide the Instructional Design Model, which focuses on learning about technology through the use of technology.

I like Walters’ 5W/5E  model for schools that are not yet progressing together, but all have a common goal: to enhance the student and teacher learning experience.  I see this model as clear cut and non-threatening. It is linear, and could easily be adapted so that it can be embedded in unit/lesson plan templates. I also think that this model has the potential to be collaboratively revised by the teachers who use it after 1or2 years of its implementation. There are many different models out there, but what  is most important is that you adapt, reflect on, and seek the input of teachers before implementing a model. Regardless of the model you choose, it is important to have a visual representation of that model for your teachers to keep technology integration focused and purposeful.

How does this affect me as a teacher-librarian?

Now, my role in the explicit instruction of digital citizenship  is more crucial than ever before. As students and teachers become more frequently exposed to life online, both formally and informally, codes of conduct are necessary to maintain order and peace in physical and virtual worlds. I also feel like it is important that I have already learned whatever technology is being implemented, so that I can differentiate instruction and offer mentorship for the different learning styles and needs of my teachers. Does this mean that the library will become obsolete? Definitely not. Students and teachers still need the face to face instruction, encouragement, and support that a teacher-librarian provides. Students still need their teacher-librarians to teach the how to locate, analyze, and evaluate information online.  The library still holds valuable print resources, computers, and a place for people to gather and community to be built.  And the library is still a great place to become enveloped in a good book The role I see myself playing in the technology integration at my school, is one of instructional leader, support person, and Professional Learning Network facilitator. A Teacher-Librarian with a flexible teaching schedule enables this vision to become a reality. One person can make a difference, but it takes a team of people, working towards a common goal, to make CHANGE. The excitement for all the possibilities that technology provides is contagious, and slowly, more and more teachers are joining my “tribe.”

These are web2.0 tools one might want to suggest to teachers looking to embed technology in their instruction.

Video and Photo Sharing Sites:

TeacherTube.com, SchoolTube.com, United Streaming, flickr, goanimate.com

Video and photos can be used to teach concepts directly, to extend or support concepts already taught, to facilitate authentic understanding, and as a platform for creating new content.

Digital Storytelling:

Movie Maker (Microsoft), Audacity, VoiceThread

These tools help students to more clearly express themselves, represent in a variety of ways, and to learn to use different media.


Blogger, MyBlogSite, Edublogs, LearnerBlog, Worpress

These create authentic writing platforms, and platforms for communication.

Social Networking:

http://k12online.ning.com, Twitter, Diigo

Current events:

Teacher Centre: A collection of lesson plans and activities to accompany FRONTLINE documentaries in the classroom.

The resource I have found to be most useful when advising teachers on which web tools would enhance their students’ learning, is this one because it lists online tools and how they can be  used to address curricular content.

Where to from here?

Katie Ash provides a hopeful glimpse into our future in her article,  where she describes the plan set forward by the Obama administration. I am hopeful when I read that the plan calls for a change in the infrastructure of schools, a change in the way we view academic success, and change in assessment, as well as a focus on using technology to taylor the learning of individual students. I am hopeful that people in positions of power, policy makers, administrators, are all on the same page: It takes more than throwing computers at teachers. Technology integreation takes training, time for play and exploration, expertise, and mentorship.


  1. Ash, Katie. (March 5, 2010) “U.S. Ed-Tech Plan Prods K-12 to Innovate.” Education Week. https://vista4.srv.ualberta.ca/webct/urw/lc654516289031.tp654516310031/RelativeResourceManager/sfsid/863392021051
  2. McAnear, Anita. (February 2008). “School-wide Technology Integration.” Learning and Leading with Technology. Pg.5.
  3. Mullen, Rebecca and Wedwick, Linda. (November/December 2008  ). “Avoiding the Digital Abyss.”  The Clearing House.  82;2 Pg.66-69.
  4. Summerville, Jennifer and Reid-Griffen, Angelia. (Sept/Oct 2008). “Technology Integration and Instructional Design.” TechTrends. Proquest Education Journals. 52;5 Pg45

5. Wang, Christine; Jaruszewicz, Candace; Rosen, Dina; Berson, Ilene; Bailey, Mark. (2008). “Meaningful Technology Integration in Early Learning Environments.” Young Children. Proquest Education Journals. 63;5 Pg.48

6. http://www.techandyoungchildren.org/ 

7. http://content.yudu.com/Library/A18dcc/TwelveEssentialsforT/resources/index.htm?referrerUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.yudu.com%2Fitem%2Fdetails%2F59772%2FTwelve-Essentials-for-Technology-Integration


  1. Thanks Natasha! You wrote “Technology enables teachers to plan, teach, and assess in more creative, engaging, and authentic ways than ever before. Technologies enhance the learners’ multifaceted, multi-sensory, exploratory experiences and facilitates a constructivist approach to learning.” Being a teacher right now is so exciting! Reading your comments (and the thoughts of others in this class) makes me wish I could be back in the classroom or school library again because it is such a great time to be working with kids. That said, you also make an excellent point–that is that teachers who want to embrace these new ways of teaching and learning must be risk takers (sometimes a hard thing) and lifelong learners (which can also be hard, particularly when there is little support for teachers to to do this within the structures of their jobs).

    • Hi Joanne,
      Thanks for responding to my posts with your ideas. I must admit that while juggling work, extra-cur, family, and this class was overwhelming at times, I couldn’t think of a better time to take the EDES 545 course. You’re right – this is an exciting time to be a teacher and being able to apply all this new learning has made this course so much more meaningful not only for me, but also for my students and colleagues, as my new learning has impacted those around me.

  2. The more things change, the more they stay the same! I heard the same cliche’s almost 20 years ago when working as an Apple Education Consultant to integrate technology into 150+ Connecticut schools. Teacher’s today have many more resources available to them! Thank you for sharing several here.

    • Hi Tracy,
      Well, I guess the good thing is that the people using those cliches are on their way out. I think that the best educators are those who share their experience and expertise, but are still willing to learn and try new things.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: