In Search of Instructional Technology Utopia

By Joe Robinson, K12 Development Executive, Apple Education

Best instructional practices paired with meaningful, seamless technology integration is the elusive, but worthwhile goal of educators looking to provide the best learning opportunities for students. It’s no easy task. Keeping current with best practices is difficult enough, but staying current with the tools, resources, and ideas for implementing technology can be overwhelming. Here are some strategies I learned during my years as a classroom teacher.

The first time my 7th grade science class used laptops was in 2005. I, like my students, immediately wanted to find more ways to integrate them into our lessons. We learned how to search for answers to our questions and utilize the array of new digital tools to demonstrate learning in authentic, transformational ways. It was invigorating and contagious. We didn’t use the laptops for every lesson and didn’t want to, but we loved the options and opportunities the technology unlocked.

This student used the Explain Everything app to draw, label, and narrate the anatomy of a bean.

Given a rubric, tools to create, and freedom of choice, the classroom exploded with collaborative ideas and activities. Students created board games to help learn the different organelles and their functions within plant and animal cells, video conferenced with college graduate students to learn more about sedimentary rock layers ahead of an outdoor education field trip, and created videos with green screens to match interests in parkour and skateboarding with Newton’s Three Laws of Motion.

These students use a green screen to create videos with authentic backgrounds to better tell their story.

As I learned more about best practices in instruction and the technology tools available, I refined my skills for layering technology into my lessons. It’s not easy to take existing technology, measure its value to curriculum and instructional practices originated in a non-digital world, then adapt and differentiate it to students and their wide spectrum of experiences and capabilities.

Making the shift was more than merely adding technology to existing lessons. I needed to change how I taught. I couldn’t be the primary resource for content acquisition, technology assistance, and feedback in the classroom. I found myself unprepared to navigate these new challenges, and I, like many teachers, needed help.

That type of help was difficult to find in the early-2000s. That’s not the case any longer. We have research such as the Visible Learning Affect Sizes gathered by John Hattie to help inform us of which instructional strategies impact students most effectively. We have coaching models to guide leaders in bringing about change in teachers thanks to work around Lesson Studies by Diane Sweeney and Impact Coaching Cycles by Jim Knight. And, we have helpful, free guides to learning technology, understanding how to implement it into learning opportunities, and evaluating its use through Apple Education.

One such tool, Apple Teacher, aims to increase teacher capacity for building lessons with creative technology options for demonstrating knowledge. Apple Teacher offers free resources and ideas from other Apple Teachers and is a great place to start.

The goal isn’t to reach instructional technology utopia. No such state exists. Instead, take steps toward expanding the opportunities students have to create by adding knowledge of new technology tools and their capabilities to your toolkit.

If you have any questions, ping me anytime. I’ve been there. Heck, I’m still there!

Joe Robinson
Apple Education Development Executive

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The views expressed here are the writer’s and are not necessarily endorsed by the Association of Alaska School Boards. AASB welcomes diverse perspectives and civil discourse. To submit a Guest Column for consideration, see our Guest Column Guidelines and email your 400-1000 word submission HERE.