So what is Technology Integration?

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I was asked by a colleague in another school the other day if I could give her a snapshot into what I actually do, and what the role of an ICT Integrator actually looks like (from my perspective anyway). Apparently she wants to talk to her school leaders about having an integrator on their staff and was trying to get an idea of what the role would entail from someone who does it.

Whenever people I meet ask me what I do, they have often never heard the term “ICT Integrator”. It’s another one of those jobs that didn’t exist when most of us were in school. We say all the time that we should be preparing our students for jobs that don’t yet exist, and this role is a good example of that.

I have a couple of  simple “elevator pitch” descriptions that I often use to tell people what my job involves…

  • “I look at the stuff kids are supposed to learn in school and help teachers figure out where technology can help make that learning richer and more meaningful.”
  • ” I look at technology and curriculum and try to mash them together so that learning becomes more relevant and interesting.”
  • “I help combine technology that changes all the time, with schools that don’t.”

Basically, the role of a tech integrator is all about finding ways that technology can assist learning, and helping teachers and students make the most of it. To do that we try to think about things like the SAMR Model, the TPACK Model, Blooms Taxonomy, Multiple Intelligences, Visible Thinking, Dweck’s Mindsets, etc, etc, and figure out how technology can assist to make them work even better. We need to be able to identify opportunities in the curriculum where technology can help make it richer, and I think we also need to be wise enough to recognise when technology is not the right answer too.

To be a tech integrator requires a lot of dealing with people, both big people and little people. We work with kids of all ages and adults who sometimes act like kids of all ages. We have to be able to push people out of their comfort zone enough that they will take risks and try new things, but not so hard that they get their back up and refuse to play. We have to deal with the natural human tendency to resist change, while helping schools redefine themselves as they adapt to new ways of learning and teaching. We have to be teachers, learners, psychologists, trainers, guides. We need to be techie enough to understand how technology works and what we might do with it, but we need to play it down so that we don’t appear to be too geeky and nerdy. (Even if we secretly wear our nerdiness like  badge of honour)

We need to understand that 95% of the teachers we work with will never even think about changing the default settings on their computers, while 95% of the students we work with will refuse to leave the default settings alone.

We need to understand new technologies and be able to see the potential they offer for learning. We need to understand not only what’s new and hot, but also what’s solid and fundamental. We know about iPad and Apps and Chromebooks and Tablets, and we don’t just know what terms like Web 2.0 and the “Internet of Things” mean, we also know about Flipped Learning and the Jigsaw Classroom. We need to be as comfortable with new operating systems as we are with the new curriculum, and we need to know how to deal with both of them.

If you’re only a technician, you probably won’t make a good ICT Integrator. If you love devices and gadgets more than you love kids and learning, this job is not for you.

As an ICT Integrator you create an important interface between the teaching staff and the technical staff in a school. Each of these groups seems to think the others are obstructionists who just don’t understand what truly matters, so you need to be able to straddle both worlds and act as the interface between them. Integrators need to be able to talk tech and mean it. Although the people who speak all the technical mumbo jumbo are critically important in a school,  for god’s sake don’t let them make curriculum decisions! Too often in schools the technology decisions are  based on what’s convenient for the technical team, not what’s best for the learning of the kids. That happens way too often, in too many place, so don’t fall in to that trap. Schools are about learning. Let’s keep it that way.

As an integrator, you need to be flexible, creative and know a little about a lot. Good general knowledge really helps. You need to stay current with technological trends as well as educational shifts. You often work across grades and faculties, so you get to see the big picture across the school. But because you’re so close to the action in the classroom you also see the real picture. Your school might spin good PR, but as an ICT Integrator you get to cut through the crap and see what actually happens in classrooms. Sometimes it’s awe inspiring, and sometimes it ain’t pretty.

You understand that technology changes things in a classroom.  As Seymour Papert observed long ago, something very special happens when you put kids and computers together. It changes student motivation and enhances student engagement. The learning changes. The nature of the teaching changes. Or at least it should. When you put technology in the hands of kids, suddenly having them sit in rows and work at the same rate on the same problems doesn’t seem to make as much sense. Some teachers are not prepared for that shift, and that’s what the integrator is there to help with. To reassure them that learning can come from chaos and that they really don’t all need to be doing the same exercise in the same way at the same time.

It’s a pretty unique role.

Photo by Chris Betcher CC BY-SA

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11 thoughts on “So what is Technology Integration?

  1. Thanks Chris – you’ve got it summed up there perfectly! My response is far less eloquent, albeit alliterative: “I (try to) teach teachers how to teach with technology’ or sometimes I just have to say, ‘“I’m the laptop lady”.

    Being an high school technology integrator is a challenge as we compete with content and exit high stakes examinations with the IBDP. I love one integrator’s recent suggestion on the ease of being an integrator in a high school setting, ‘It’s like pouring water on rocks and watching them grow’.

    Fortunately, the IBMYP is perfect for leveraging technology to personalise the learning. With that said, I have no more time as I need to edit our third student-created, 24 chapter IBMYP History interactive book – World War Two: More Illustrated Histories – available soon in the iBookstore. Students as published authors – who would have thought it?!!

  2. Another great post Chris. There is something about ‘technology’ that I feel confuses things. Although you might hear of a Literacy or English Co-ordinator, there are so many different names and ideas for those co-ordinators who help facilitate technology (e-Learning, 21st Century, ICT, Technology Integration). Maybe it simplifies things to either say that they are all related or that they all embrace technology. An important point that Ian Guest made in his post ‘So what is eLearning’ (http://ianinsheffield.wordpress.com/2014/03/11/so-what-is-elearning/). Do you consider these to be responding to the same thing or does your school have a 21st Century Learning Co-ordinator and how is it different?

    • HI Matt,

      Thanks for the feedback and I take your very well expressed point.

      Just like you, I like to think that I’m capable of being able to straddle the “technical mumbo jumbo” and the needs of the classroom… In fact, I think part of the success of a good integrator is that they can make technology less scary for others by demystifying it into terms that non-technical people can understand. A good customer-focused technician can do that too. We need more of them.

      Obviously, when I write stuff it is often based it on some of my own personal experience. And I’ve known quite a few technicians over the years that are brilliant technicians who amaze me with their technical prowess, and their ability to solve complex technical problems. Too often though, those people have very little sense of relating to their “customers”, and are unable to even talk with them in terms that they would understand. It’s sad, because their technical brilliance is often overlooked because they just can’t relate to the people they are supposed to serve.

      And I’ve worked with others who are both brilliant technicians and great people persons. They pre-empt problems before they happen, they think about the design of the systems they deploy and work out ways that they can be made simpler and easier to use. They make their own jobs easier by coming up with ways to better serve their customers, make things easier to use, and connect the dots to resolve issues before they become issues.

      My point in the original post was that technicians – the gadget loving, server maintaining, cable connecting, hard drive optimising geeks that don’t like making eye contact or talking with other people, should not be the ones that make decisions of technological convenience that impact – often quite seriously – on the daily educational operations of the real costumers of the school, the kids.

  3. Great Post Chris (once again)
    I prefer the name to be technology coach, I work as an integrator but I see myself more as a coach. Rather than forcing integration, I coach those who want help, those who need help and sometimes those who are directed to get my help.

    I find out the individuals strengths and weaknesses and work with them, providing support, showing the new stuff, adding encouragement and giving feedback on what they are doing in the classroom.

    I think might change my elevator pitch from
    ‘I have the hardest job in the school, I teach the teachers’
    to one of yours.

    keep up the great work.

  4. Chris, thank you for taking time to summarize what you do and how you see it. My title is similar and the job I do is the same.
    The two worlds I have to live in (IT and Curriculum) are coming together, slowly. I believe it is my team pushing the conversation, breaking down barriers, and getting each side to see what the other has to do.
    Question, What has helped you progress in working with teachers and students to shift their thinking?

  5. Brilliant blog, thanks for sharing this. My job title is ICT Technician a role I fell into 6 years ago at my school while I also took on an HLTA role. I was covering PPA time and always got the ICT lessons as was, because teachers were scared to teach it and I loved integrating the use of tech with the children. I realize that I am not just the techie, but also help and advise the teachers as well and my job role is as much about trying to integrate as well as repair hardware and load software. This was developed alongside my wonderful ICT coordinator and together we “integrated” and trained and supported and counselled staff and pupils on the use of tech to enhance teaching and learning, motivating pupils to learn and encouraging IT confidence and competence in the staff. It was very much a team effort in our school, we had another HLTA also doing her part in this process.

    Sadly my ICT coordinator left for pastures new this term and our new head and SLT not as supportive with tech in teaching and learning as the previous one (and it is really important that your SLT and head teacher supports this type of initiative), I already sense I will be spending this term pushing a rock up hill with regards to encouraging staff to continue all our good work. But push I will, we cannot afford to go backwards now.

    In my opinion, an ICT Integrator is going to be an increasingly important job role in schools in the future.

    • Thanks Mrs T. Keep fighting the good fight. It’s sad to hear that your new SLT (I’m not even sure what that acronym stands for, but I assume it’s someone who has the authority to make decisions that affect others) is not as supportive of the integration of technology as the previous person.

      It actually makes me quite angry to hear that there are still teachers who base their decisions and actions on what is comfortable for them, and not what is best for the students. I get that some people are not comfortable with technology, I really do, but that does NOT give them a free pass to ignore the needs of the students they are supposed to be serving.

      At the end of the day, schools should be about meeting the learning needs of students, not the teaching preferences of teachers. I’ve had so many teachers say to me over the years that they are not really comfortable with technology, or that they don’t like using technology… The answer to those teachers needs to be THIS IS NOT ABOUT YOU! GET OVER YOURSELF.

      Keep challenging the status quo, and don’t let up. The kids need you.

  6. Great stuff, Chris. I know I asked this question of you last year when I begun this role and your pointers were invaluable. It really is a great job – the best part is being in so many different teachers classrooms to see how they work. What great PD for me!

  7. Thanks for the great post Mr Betcher!
    Really helps to join the dots on what I am looking for in my job search in ICT related field of teaching and learning.

    Thanks for your inspiration. I hope I can put my skills to use soon and I’ll think back to this post whenever I’m asked about what it is that I do or have done in the past.

    Kind Regards,
    Nathan Ho

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