What I'm Thinking

Technology Integration: It Should be Messy

Last week I flagged down a parent as she and her son were leaving the parking lot at the end of the school day. “What did your son think about the learning management system? Has it helped you as a parent be more involved in his school experiences?” We talked about how her son likes the system, but there were problems with the log in process. It wasn’t said, but I also suspect that more scaffolding from staff involved might be helpful. This is a new tool (Epiphany Learning) that guides students to document and facilitate self-directed projects. It’s a step in the right direction from your typical LMSs toward more personalized learning. We tried it on a small scale, only a couple of kids.

I am getting a sense from school leaders and educational articles online that the more fluid and streamlined the process is for integrating technology in schools, the better the outcomes. The most recent entry I’ve read on this topic comes from an article in the District Administration magazine. The writer, a digital integration specialist, talks about how smoothly handing out the 750 Chromebooks went to ensure all students had 1:1 access to technology in their classrooms. They cite evidence from the classroom to support the success of this initiative:

The level of engagement and collaboration for students—in and out of the school environment—has increased significantly. In the first month after device distribution, utilization of our learning management system to distribute and collect electronic assignments—as well as to facilitate classroom discussion and collaboration—increased more than 65 percent.

I’m all for a smooth rollout of technology in education. The last thing I would want to do is frustrate teachers and students when introducing something new. Yet…are these outcomes the results we would want? For example, how the LMS is being used (I suspect Google Classroom) seems more about paper chasing and facilitating conversations that could just as easily happen in the classroom, face-to-face. I don’t want to assume, but this seems like technology integration lite, in which a digital veneer has been laid over traditional instructional practices and then calling it 21st-century learning. In addition, my suspicions peak whenever I hear about a one-device-only rollout. If Chromebooks are the tool of choice, will that make every learning challenge conform to Google’s platform?

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I believe technology integration should be a bit messy. True change in education is a hard process, digital or otherwise. This is primarily because we are asking adults to change their habits for the better as much as our students. Examining beliefs about teaching and learning, creating a vision for what’s worth learning in schools today, and exploring different technologies to make that vision a reality should be occurring before going digital at a schoolwide or districtwide level. It’s an arduous process, something I have personally gone through and documented in my first book on digital portfolios. In my experience, it’s a 3-5 year process. Mistakes and hiccups are a prerequisite for success.

As we think about next year, I hope we consider a value-added approach to technology integration in our classrooms. A primary question might be: How can digital tools help us realize our school’s mission and vision on behalf of our students? Parents, students, staff, and the community should be involved in the planning. One way to measure the effects is by developing indicators of success. I list several guiding questions as indicators in my last book, 5 Myths About Classroom Technology (ASCD Arias, 2015, pg. 48-49):

Figure 2. Technology Benefits: Necessary or Nice?

  • Are learners an active part of instruction through modeling and guided use of technology?
  • Does the technology accommodate and differentiate for all learners’ needs?
  • Can the technology help facilitate reflection and deepen student understanding?
  • Are students and the classroom part of an authentic learning community?
  • Can learners create content and develop new ways to present information?
  • Does the technology bring in an audience for learning, both near and far?
  • Are students provided both voice and choice with technology, thereby increasing ownership and engagement?
  • Are there opportunities for students to engage in peer feedback and collaborative work?

Technology integration is not about ensuring the sailing is smooth; it should be about successful navigations of uncharted waters in the name of improving student learning.


If you are in the southwestern or western part of Wisconsin this summer, I am facilitating technology workshops through CESA 3 and CESA 4. Check out my Workshops and Events page for more information. I may also be available this summer and in the future for personalized learning experiences for teacher teams and schools. There is a contact form on the page previously linked.

What I'm Thinking

End the Electoral College

Today I posted the following message on Twitter:

Reflecting on that tweet, I felt it was a bit too Pollyanna-ish. Frankly, I did not speak the truth about the realities of our presidential election procedures.

I followed up with a short post on Facebook:

All “teachable moments” aside, it is time to get rid of the Electoral College. We now have two presidents (Bush, Trump) in this century who did not win the popular vote but nonetheless were elected due to the Electoral College. This is not “the will of the people”, but function following form. With today’s technologies, there is little reason not to go with a popular vote for president (like we do with every other elected position). The Electoral College is an antiquated construct, even resisted by some of our founding fathers such as James Madison, that needs to be retired.

I am not a history major, but my undersanding for the rationale for the Electoral College was created within the context of the 18th century. There were concerns that, due to the fact that not all U.S. citizens could vote, a true election for President was not possible without an Electoral College. Makes sense…200 years ago. Don’t get me started with the fact that women couldn’t vote until 1920. #embarrassing

Consider this: I am not asking for the United States to move from the standard system to the metric system for universal measurement. I am simply suggesting that the Electoral College has far outlasted its purpose. Imagine if there was no such thing as a “swing state” anymore. How could CNN survive? More importantly, I believe that many people feel disaffected about our presidential election. In a state that historical votes Red or Blue, the will of the majority is what matters. A person’s vote may not. They would not be wrong. If I supported a Democratic candidate in Mississippi or a Republican candidate in New York, my vote would not have counted. Why is this not more alarming for people in the U.S.?

We are smarter than this: We need to end this outdated process for determining our country’s leadership.