Tech Integration Study Protocol

It takes some effort to fully understand the technology curriculum of a school. Sure, it is easy to list the computer skills classes that we teach — the overt curriculum. However, these courses have become fewer in number over the years as we have moved to a more authentic model of technology instruction. We look for courses in which teachers have integrated technology into particular course units or activities. Computer technologies are being used as a tool to support course-specific objectives of various sorts. Some technology uses are easy to spot from a distance: digital photography class and computer science, for instance. Others take some investigation to find, for example computer use to support writing, research, or analysis. We also may find evidence of computer use in online communication systems that belong to the course, such as online assignments, forum discussions, or wiki projects.

The hardest uses to spot are informal or student-generated. Students learn from what happens during their school experience. Students sometime Google a discussion topic during class and then contribute new information to the group. During the evening, students IM and email each other regularly to collaborate on work. We should include such ad-hoc uses as we document our technology curriculum, as they are often the most authentic, useful examples of technology applications we have.

With the input of the Technology Advisory Group school committee, I am engaged in the process of collecting data on the technology curriculum at our school. I chose small-group interviews to collect this information. Given the above context in which technology use happens in school, it was essential to collect information as part of a discussion. I needed to be able to ask follow-up questions and let the conversation move toward the areas in which computer use was happening the most. In the lower school, this meant grade level teams (two teachers plus their teaching assistants). In the middle school, it was subject area teams. In the upper school, it is academic departments.

Interviews are extremely time-consuming, but they are leading to a higher quality of information collection than I have typically seen from surveys. I actually understand the data, because I collected it during a conversation in which I was able to ask for elaboration. Now, I have to transfer all of the data from note form to a structured database. The fields in this database reflect the kinds of questions I try to ask. Notably, as I moved into grades with more technology use, I was not able to get through all of the questions for each technology use. I sometimes had to sacrifice depth for breadth in those cases.

    Title:
    Use the course’s term or make up a short, descriptive title for this event.

    Grade level(s):

    Teacher(s):

    Time required:

    Location:
    Where this event takes place.

    Initiator:
    Who introduces this event to the class.

    Objectives:
    What pedagogical and curricular objectives exist for this event?

    Goals:
    How does this event tie into the broad goals for the course?

    Skills:
    What technical skills does this event require of students?

    Outcomes:
    What work do the actors produce by the end of this event?

    Path:
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    Successes:
    To what extent does the event accomplish the desired objectives?

    Challenges:
    What obstacles exist to the success of this event?

    Evidence:
    What facts exist to support the understood successes of this event?

    Attachment:
    Optional file attachment

Already, interesting patterns are emerging, such as the difficulty of teacher collaboration when individuals have access to different peripherals. This seems to be a smaller version of the problem we used to find when some teachers had access to computers and others didn’t. I have also found varying teacher approaches to resources such as Wikipedia — some teachers encourage its use, and others forbid it.

I will continue organizing and analyzing data through the summer and put together a presentation for the school division in the fall. I hope to be able to pull together a timeline showing curricular events in different technology skill areas from grades three to twelve.

One comment

  1. Peter Zingg says:

    Thanks for posting this, Richard. I’ve been frustrated in my ability to use surveys to elicit and evaluate the tech-related activities our teachers are doing. Knuckling down and doing interviews will be the next step. Your post is a great starting point.

    Another question I would add is:

    What technical skills does this event require of *teachers*?

    In our school district, the proficiency and interest of our staff varies widely, and we have a very thin allocation for staff development.