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Integrating Technology in the Classroom 

A diagram of technology being Integrated in the classroom by students.

Educational technology can do wonderful things for students when it's used well. But even a great piece of technology can fail to realise its promise if it's not integrated into the classroom in a way that fits with and complements other components of the education system.  

In this piece, we’ll discuss how to integrate technology in the classroom coherently so that you and your students can reap its maximum benefits. We’ll cover what instructional alignment and curriculum coherence are and explore how different types of educational technology can be implemented successfully.  

Table of contents

What other components of education does educational technology need to work with? 

In general, curricula and education should be coherent. This means that classroom activities, homework, the curriculum, textbooks, assessments and students’ learning levels all have to fit together and work together.  

In other words, these elements all need to be aligned. The process of ensuring that they’re aligned is called instructional alignment

Technology integration in teaching and learning needs to be aligned to all of these components as well. 

Let’s consider an example in practice. Say you’re a science teacher using augmented reality to allow your students to hold a water molecule in their hands and examine it. 

What curricular components does this activity need to align with in order to be fruitful? 

  • The curriculum: Atoms and molecules should be a part of the science curriculum (as they are for Key Stage 3 students in the UK). Ideally, this concept should be part of a larger curriculum that builds ideas and skills thoughtfully over many years. The goal for this individual lesson should also build toward the understanding expected in the curriculum. 
  • Students’ learning levels: In order to understand the molecule they’re looking at, students must already understand foundational concepts such as atoms, elements and molecules. They’ll also need to know terminology such as the term “compound.” 
  • Homework: Ideally, homework after this lesson should be related to it. Perhaps it could build on the water molecule concept to help reinforce ideas or help students to understand this concept in a deeper way. Obviously, homework can also serve as a formative assessment for teachers. 
  • Textbooks or learning materials: Textbooks should cover this concept as well to give students a reference for learning more or revising later. 
  • Assessments: Of course, it seems obvious to say that students should be assessed on what they’re taught, and not assessed on what they’re not taught. But in the hectic world of education, it can happen that, for example, an old exam from ten years ago is given at the end of the term after newer content has been taught during termtime – resulting in a mismatch. As well as covering the same content, assessments and classroom activities should also cover the same skills. If students practice recall of the structure of a water molecule in class, they should be tested on their recall in the assessment. 

Successful integration of technology in education also means ensuring that the technology you’re using fits with more concrete aspects of your classroom context, such as the physical capabilities of the classroom, training of teachers, and school IT support. A typical challenge here might occur in the school that buys laptops for each student but has a shaky Wi-Fi connection, preventing children from doing the tasks they’re asked to. 

Benefits of integrating technology in the classroom 

What are the rewards of integrating technology in the classroom skilfully, in a way that’s aligned with other components of instruction and the curriculum? Since there are so many kinds of classroom technologies, the benefits are equally wide-ranging… 

Cultivating learning for students with disabilities and different kinds of learners 

For students who struggle with reading or text, a visual or interactive learning experience like virtual reality or a video can convey information in a meaningful and rich text-free way. Some students also enjoy learning more when they can see or touch. 

Additionally, a student with a long-term illness who has to miss school often can benefit from technologies like Zoom that allow them to see and experience lessons as though they were in school. For a student with a short-term disability like a severe concussion, a recorded lesson can be helpful in catching up later too. 

Providing engaging learning experiences 

In a visual world, video and images can be more engaging and meaningful for some students than text. Gamification in learning apps can also spark enjoyment for students.  

Most importantly, students enjoy truly learning. A lesson that allows them to succeed and feel pride in their skills and improvement can help to boost their confidence and change their relationship with school. If a student struggles to understand the text of Macbeth but is able to watch a filmed version and take part in a discussion about what happened in the video, this may help improve their self-esteem, giving them a ‘win’ that helps them to feel engaged in the future. In this way, the benefits of integrating technology in the classroom can extend far beyond just one lesson. 

Polling and discussion tools within platforms like Zoom or Teams can also help quiet students to make their voices heard – not to mention serving as a quick formative assessment for the teacher. 

Personalisation 

Adaptive learning tools can help to personalise learning and allow differentiation in the classroom. This means that students who are ahead of the pack aren’t bored with repetition, while students who need more support or reinforcement can receive that too. In situations where there is a wide range of learning levels in one classroom, integration of technology in education through adaptive learning tools and programmes aims to ensure that each child receives the right level of challenge.  

Duolingo is one example of an adaptive learning tool that modifies the exercises presented to the learner based on their previous responses. An example of a more complex adaptive learning software would be Ei Mindspark, used in India. 

Getting off to a smooth start 

Ready to get started integrating technology in teaching? There are some best practices that hold true for nearly all technologies, whether high-tech or not. 

Set expectations 

Seeing clear expectations for technology integration in teaching and learning not only helps avoid unwanted behaviour, but also gives students a sense of security in the classroom because they know what to expect. 

Depending on your students’ ages and the technology you’re using, you may want to write expectations on the board or hang them on the wall as a visual reminder. 

Expectations should ideally be phrased in a positive way: “The laptop should be used only for classwork” rather than “Don’t use the laptop to play around,” for example. 

Anticipate problems and plan ahead 

Before your lesson using technology, imagine what might go wrong and what you’ll do if it does. If the Wi-Fi goes down or the YouTube video has been removed, what will you do? If an individual student’s laptop isn’t turning on or if something gets broken, how will you adapt?  

Have the contact information for tech support at hand so that you can get help quickly if you need it. Whenever you’re integrating technology in teaching, it may be wise in general to have an alternative low-technology activity to do in case of unexpected calamity like a power outage.  

Make sure students know why it matters 

To keep students focused and on-task, make sure that they know why their work in the lesson will matter.   

Firstly, they should know what the learning goal is and how it’s part of the bigger picture of the unit. They should know how their work will build into skills they’ll need later on in the classroom, in assessments and even in life.  

There are other ways to encourage focus during lessons, including cold calling, pop quizzes or technology that tracks where students are looking or whether their laptop has gone idle. Ideally though, the first line of defence against distraction is to prevent it before it starts – by making the work feel urgent, meaningful and important. 

Getting off to a smooth start 

Ready to get started integrating technology in teaching? There are some best practices that hold true for nearly all technologies, whether high-tech or not. 

Set expectations 

Seeing clear expectations for technology integration in teaching and learning not only helps avoid unwanted behaviour, but also gives students a sense of security in the classroom because they know what to expect. 

Depending on your students’ ages and the technology you’re using, you may want to write expectations on the board or hang them on the wall as a visual reminder. 

Expectations should ideally be phrased in a positive way: “The laptop should be used only for classwork” rather than “Don’t use the laptop to play around,” for example. 

Anticipate problems and plan ahead 

Before your lesson using technology, imagine what might go wrong and what you’ll do if it does. If the Wi-Fi goes down or the YouTube video has been removed, what will you do? If an individual student’s laptop isn’t turning on or if something gets broken, how will you adapt?  

Have the contact information for tech support at hand so that you can get help quickly if you need it. Whenever you’re integrating technology in teaching, it may be wise in general to have an alternative low-technology activity to do in case of unexpected calamity like a power outage.  

Make sure students know why it matters 

To keep students focused and on-task, make sure that they know why their work in the lesson will matter.   

Firstly, they should know what the learning goal is and how it’s part of the bigger picture of the unit. They should know how their work will build into skills they’ll need later on in the classroom, in assessments and even in life.  

There are other ways to encourage focus during lessons, including cold calling, pop quizzes or technology that tracks where students are looking or whether their laptop has gone idle. Ideally though, the first line of defence against distraction is to prevent it before it starts – by making the work feel urgent, meaningful and important. 

Integration of technology in education: Tips and examples 

Now that you’re ready to start, let’s delve deeper into specific tips and examples illustrating how to integrate technology in the classroom. 

Videos 

YouTube has been a good educational resource for many years now, and channels like Khan Academy are continuing to produce good content that’s helpful for students. 

Obviously, showing videos in the classroom is an older but still useful way of integrating technology in teaching. Some teachers like to pause videos fairly frequently for discussion, depending on the subject matter. 

But videos can also be used effectively in a flipped classroom. In a flipped classroom, students watch the video at home for homework, and then during the lesson they discuss the video or do more active work with the material they’ve seen. 

Videos can also be a good tool for differentiation and encouraging students to take ownership of their own learning. Teachers can provide a number of video links as a resource and ask students to choose one or two to watch depending on their interests or the areas in which they need help. 

As with all educational technology integration in teaching and learning, it’s just as important to ensure that videos shown are deeply connected to the curriculum and learning goals – and that the skills or knowledge developed via the videos feeds into later learning and assessments. 

Smart whiteboards 

Smart whiteboards in smart classrooms can be used in a broad variety of different ways, but one especially helpful way is to save whiteboard annotations. If you write on the board a lot, using a smart whiteboard can allow you to save what you’ve written as a resource for students who are away that day. This works especially well if you are a teacher who works from PowerPoint slides, as you can project or display the slides and annotate directly on them. 

Alternatively, students can work collaboratively, writing notes on the smart whiteboard to create a learning resource produced by the whole class.  

Used in this way, smart whiteboards can be a great tool for formative assessment by the teacher. You can also look at collaborative work later if you’re crafting a summative test based on what was covered. This helps you to know for certain that the material you’re testing on is exactly what was taught. 

Zoom, Teams or Google Classroom 

A common challenge with Zoom is students who want to turn their cameras off, resulting in a teacher speaking to a screen full of blank squares.  

The remedy to this may not be to enforce that cameras are turned on – some students may have a good reason to turn their cameras off or may just resent being obligated to turn them on. If you’re worried about students who are not watching the lesson, more interaction may help. Use polls or class discussions with raised hand functions. The flipped classroom might be useful here too. Rather than lecturing on Zoom, provide a recorded lecture and then try using Zoom for active discussion. 

As always in education, you also want to make the lesson material feel urgent and important, something the students will need later on. Ensure that the lesson and its activities feel clearly connected to both the curriculum goals and the assessments. 

Lastly, allow students break time to stand up and stretch during a long lesson period, even if the break is very short.  

Augmented reality and virtual reality 

VR & AR are a newer integration of technology in education. With augmented reality and virtual reality, students wear a headset that allows them to see virtual 3D objects (augmented reality) or entire virtual landscapes (virtual reality).  

When you’re incorporating virtual reality into your lesson plans, you’ll want to ensure students keep skill goals in mind while they’re enjoying their virtual surroundings. For example, if students are walking through a virtual art gallery, remind them that they have a specific goal or task to accomplish, such as: 

  • Learn to identify the traits of Baroque art. 
  • Compare and contrast different depictions of Judith beheading Holofernes. 
  • Consider how Romantic paintings reflect the same Romantic sensibilities they have seen in Romantic music or literature. 

Students should always understand how their virtual reality or augmented reality adventures fit into the big picture of the unit and why they need the skills from that day’s lesson. 

The same rule applies to augmented reality too, as we saw earlier with our water molecule example. 

Integrating technology in the classroom: a summary 

Like many effective tools, educational technology can work wonders when it’s used in the right context and in the right way. Just as you wouldn’t use a hammer to try to cut a birthday cake – even if it’s a great hammer – a high-quality piece of educational technology won’t be of use in the wrong context. But when EdTech is used in a way that aligns with the curriculum, assessments, other classroom activities and students’ abilities, the benefits of integrating technology in the classroom can be great. 

Curious to learn more about how to integrate technology in the classroom via augmented reality and virtual reality? Take a look at ClassVR’s virtual reality resources for a host of examples, or learn more about our curriculum-aligned virtual and augmented reality content

Whether you’re thinking of taking your students to the moon or letting them hold an ancient Roman gladius in their hands, we have thousands of resources aligned to the UK curriculum and US state standards, ready to be expertly integrated into your classroom. 

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