Students’ Views of Technology Integration

Recently in one of my Instructional Technology courses, I asked my students to reflect on their experiences with educational technology.    Specifically, I asked them to describe a specific episode where an instructor effectively demonstrated or modeled combining content, technologies and teaching approaches in a classroom lesson and to discuss how the technology was used and how it helped them learned.  My goal with the assignment was to create a starting point in their development in understanding how technology is effectively integrated into the classroom environment and to provide mini-case studies that they could revisit when we discussed the Technology Integration Matrix later in the semester.

Looking across the reflections, however, I saw a definite pattern, not only in the way technology was integrated but also in the teaching styles that instructors employed.  Most of the students discussed having instructors who would use technology “to show a Powerpoint” or “show a movie.” Looking at the Technology Integration Matrix (TIM), most of the examples cited by students utilized technology to transmit information to large groups of students efficiently.  In the TIM, this would be characterized as an Entry level integration on most of the learning environments characteristics, especially with respect to the Constructive and Active aspects outlined in the TIM.

While the Technology Integration Matrix offers a lens to examine how instructors’ utilize educational technology, a recent blog post offers another point of view.  Writing on the Faculty Focus, Professor Paul Thornton discusses the “Three D’s” of teaching styles:  Directing, Discussing and Delegating.   The directing teaching style promotes learning primarily through lecture and demonstration.  The discussing teaching style promotes learning through interaction that is organized and facilitated by an instructor.  The delegating teaching style, however, promotes learning through empowerment.  Thornton argues that good teachers utilize all of the different teaching styles to foster student learning, build student independence and enhance interest in the course.

Looking at the reflections from my students with the three D’s in mind, it seems that technology is more readily integrated into “directing” classroom experiences than in the others.  I wonder whether the ubiquity of presentation applications (like Powerpoint or Prezi) makes it easier for an instructor to integrate technology in lecture-based environments.  I also wonder how many instructors use collaborative applications (Google Docs, wikis, etc) to support their delegated classroom experiences or online tools (discussion boards, Skype, etc) to extend their discussions beyond the classroom walls.  I’m sure faculty are utilizing other teaching styles besides “directing” but I wonder why students only remember seeing technology being integrated into lecture-based instructional settings.  While I understand that the reflections are based on students’ memories of their classroom experiences and may not accurately reflect reality, the assignment has made me reconsider different classroom teaching styles and how to support my students and my colleagues with integrating technology across the teaching & learning spectrum.

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