Technology integration has well passed the “buzzword” stage in the schools I’ve been working with, with discussions of SAMR often making an appearance in collaborative planning meetings. In fact, those discussions are becoming less common as the philosophy and model becomes less controversial and more embedded into school culture. Does that mean these schools have reached a “fully integrated” utopia? Has a new philosophy won a victory over the old?
As a technology coach, I am the vanguard of deliberate integration strategies in our school, and I’d like to think that modification and redefinition are typically the drivers behind the technology choices I make. Admittedly, that’s not always the case, because sometimes compromise is the tool that builds confidence in those that I work with, confidence to try new things in the future. I’ve learned to pick my battles, model when I can, and encourage small victories even if a small substitution exercise gets my foot in the door (gasp! Tech coach blasphemy!).
During a recent accreditation visit, collaborative planning involving tech and the philosophy underpinning teachers’ use of technology were well lauded for their presence and obvious implementation, yet from my perspective we were just getting started. I realize that true integration is an ideal that may never be fully achieved within a school culture that is growing and changing as the bodies within it also grow and change with each passing year, especially in an international school. It’s easy to imagine the scenario as an ideological battle waged between the old mindset and the new, but it’s more subtle than that. While new staff and students arrive, and those who have long been mainstays of the community move on, there is more to the scenario than progress and regression. I reflect on my experience not as a battle, with technology tools brought to bear upon the naysayers and tactical pedagogy turning the tide with a cavalry charge of scaffolding and differentiated learning. Instead it is more akin to diplomacy, of building relationships of respect and treaties of balanced understanding, equal parts trepidation and bravery.
SAMR and TPACK provide a foundation from which to start a discussion, and analyze our relationship with the technology we might employ and the learning we strive to achieve. They provide an anchor, grounded in reason and valuing sound pedagogy over the esoteric wonder that new and exciting gadgetry might elicit. Their value for me in practice has been to provide a retreat when enthusiasm has waned, a place to go and discuss the rationale and ambition of new technology in a way that is accessible to critics and traditionalists. SAMR and TPACK are my voice of reason when I get carried away with new technology, or when another distrusts it despite clear evidence of it’s potential. I treat them like mediators, both internally and when working with others.
When I reflect on technology integration in my work, I can see there is a long way to go. I can see teachers take risks they would never have considered two years ago, revel in their success and learn from their failures. I can see others intimidated by the limelight this brings, and resist to prolong comfort in the things they know and understand well. Technology integration has had little to do with savvy know-how or hacker skills, and everything to do with balance, understanding, and building a community of like-minded learners who support each other in growth and failure. I’ve often been advised to focus on the “middle of the pack”, letting front-runners run and providing hope to those in the back rather than focusing efforts directly on them. When resources and time are limited, it is about making the most of what you have. As a coach, I believe it’s about giving others ownership of the tools in their possession, and encouraging them to apply those tools even when you are not there to support them. That includes the philosophy, and the ability to reflect on where you are using the models that exist. Learn from our mistakes, celebrate our victories, strive for integration, even if you might never reach integration utopia.
For a balanced execution including the elements of SAMR and TPACK, I found the Technology Integration Matrix full of potential. Although I’ll hesitate to introduce a new model into my current environment just as others become comfortable with those they have, I encourage you to explore this model if you’re starting your integration journey.