“Seamless Integration” isn’t possible with neon-yellow thread

"the badass Hippo :-)" by Malada on Flickr

“the badass Hippo :-)” by Malada on Flickr

As I continue my reading in GSU’s Fundamentals of Instructional Design and Technology, there seems to be a theme.

As Deborah L. Lowther and Steven M. Ross point out in Chapter 21 of Trends and Issues in Instructional Design and Technology , “The goal is to seamlessly integrate these new competencies into the curriculum rather than using “add-on” activities and courses” (213). That seems to be an argument for computer literacy as well as for instructional technology.
Yet, I wonder to what extent we, tech-enthusiasts, pop culture, the media, and education work against this goal.

As I understand it, technology tools (“the computer as a tool to solve problems…” p. 211) and instructional technology are means to an end. We use tech in schools because that is what students will need to use as adults. We use tech because that’s what our culture and society use. Not to mention how efficiently computers perform calculations, store information, and make data accessible. This echoes previously made arguments that technology is effectively integrated when we no longer think about it.

Yet, we don’t treat technology like it’s a tool. We gossip about improvements and new features (iPhone 7, Twitter, Facebook). We debate whether and to what extent technology impacts our behaviors, makes us more or less social, human, stressed, or happy. We stress coding languages and coding boot-camps without focusing on computational thinking. We agonize over STEM (or STEAM), praise innovation, and give little credit to maintenance or the service industry. Finally, we idolize successful technology sector CEOs and CIOs to such an extent that they are almost our modern-day super-heroes, and those who develop new products are geniuses. Even those who fix our broken gadgets (isn’t that maintenance?) work at a “Genius Bar.”

Is it any surprise then, that when we try to bring technology into classrooms, that some teachers reject it because they believe it will be too hard, too time consuming? We make it seem hard partly because we talk about technology in elevated terms and partly because we place unrealistic expectations on technological solutions. We can’t have “seamless” integration if we insist on using neon yellow thread to hem dark slacks.

One thing that’s missing from discussions about integration is toning down the rhetoric around technology. “Let’s not talk about technology, let’s talk about teaching. Oh, and by the way, here’s the gizmo we’ll try out.” Whichever integration model one selects should include some guidance on implementation. As Jacquie McDonald writes, “the ability to interact effectively with faculty staff, and ‘sell’ ID theory…is a key ID skill” (221).

To help teachers, schools, and districts teach 100% of the future (thank you James for that video!) using technology, we should consider personalized learning and competency-based standards. Both strategies acknowledge a continuum of learning and allow learners to pick and choose the tools they are comfortable using.

My question: What might personalize-technology integration and competency-based computer literacy look like in professional development? (other than perpetual head-aches for the school’s IT)

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