In our eBook, Building a Digital Literacy Program that Nurtures Future-Ready Students, we discuss the process for building an inclusive and aligned digital literacy program. An essential element of this is empowering teachers to address these higher-order skills with students – to move them from passive users of technology to creators, innovators, and global learners – through impactful technology integration in the classroom.
Ultimately, empowered teachers empower learners. The success of any program, including a digital literacy program, rides on the ability of teachers to effectively implement it in their classrooms, which means that teachers must be well-supported in order to achieve the program’s vision.
The Levels of Technology Integration
More and more we hear about technology integration in the classroom. Districts are pushing for it. States are creating funding options to make technology more accessible. And at the national level, both government and non-governmental organizations are developing programs for it. Heck, we even talk about it a lot (Exhibit A, B, and C). But what does it mean to effectively integrate technology in the classroom?
Kim Mattina – teacher and technology education enthusiast – uses the SAMR model as a gauge for measuring the efficacy of technology integration in the classroom. As she explains:
The SAMR model is a framework created by Dr. Ruben Puentedura that categorizes four different levels of classroom technology integration. The acronym ‘SAMR’ stands for Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, and Redefinition.
- Technology is used as a direct substitute with no functional change.
- Example: students type a research paper into a Google document instead of writing it on paper
- Technology is used as a direct substitute with functional improvement.
- Example: student include videos and links to resources in their research paper
- Technology allows for significant task redesign.
- Example: students share and collaborate in a Google document
- Technology allows for new tasks that were never created before.
- Example: students virtually connect with other classrooms nationwide or worldwide to present their research
Ultimately, the goal is to get to those deeper levels of technology integration in the classroom – modification then redefinition – rather than just substitution and augmentation. Recent studies, though, have concluded that the majority of technology use in classrooms exists only at those lower levels.
The State of Current Technology Integration
A study by PwC found that nearly two-thirds of technology integration in the classroom is passive (watching videos and reading websites) with less than a third of technology use being active (producing videos, coding, and analyzing data).
Another report affirmed that, when using technology in the classroom, teachers are likely “digitizing traditional learning instead of enhancing it." The survey’s respondents revealed that digital learning occurred through the following formats:
- 90 percent use PDFs and Word documents
- 70 percent use online videos
- 42 percent use games
Similarly, an AdvancEd study that performed classroom observations determined that only:
- 47 percent of classrooms showed evidence of using technology to gather or evaluate information for learning.
- 35 percent of classrooms used technology to communicate or work collaboratively.
- 37 percent showed used technology to problem solve, research, or create projects and original works.
Finally, in her thesis, Dr. Delnaz Hosseini assessed the barriers to digital literacy instruction in K-2 classrooms. She explains:
“Overall, results indicate that students are provided with opportunities to develop basic computer literacy skills…but they seldom engage in activities that promote the development of information literacy skills…which focus on the students’ ability to gather, analyze, and effectively apply information acquired through digital sources.”
From the Teacher’s Perspective
These results, though, shouldn’t come as a surprise. In the same study by PwC, only 10 percent of teachers surveyed feel confident teaching higher-order digital skills. And eSchool News found that 78 percent of teachers feel underprepared to integrate technology into their teaching.
What does this indicate? Teachers do not yet feel comfortable teaching digital skills, which is reflected in the passive use of technology in the classroom. This is likely because teachers lack the training and instructional resources to do so.
Barriers to Tech: In Dr. Hosseini’s research, teachers were asked to identify the most significant barriers to teaching digital skills. Unsurprisingly, lack of time, which includes competing priorities for limited classroom time and planning time to devote to technology lessons, was a resounding response.
Teachers also expressed student-related barriers like self-management skills, reading and writing abilities, age, and student-to-teacher ratio. These hindered the ability for students to meaningfully engage in digital literacy instruction and activities.
Supports for Tech: Aside from barriers to digital literacy instruction, teachers also cited enhancements, which included knowledge sharing about technology standards, demo lesson observations, district tech coaches, onsite tech monitors, and access to technology.
Interestingly, teachers expressed they were more knowledgeable about 21st century skills and digital literacy and less about adopted technology standards. This indicates that teachers understand the value of teaching higher-order digital skills but need the resources to address them in ways that align with grade-level expectations.
Teachers also ranked confidence to design technology lessons highly on the list of enhancements. Confidence really gets to the core of what teachers need to incorporate digital literacy in their classrooms. Tech monitors, tech coaches, and lesson observations help reinforce effective technology integration, allowing teachers to enhance their practice and grow through feedback. And knowledge of technology standards gives teachers the confidence to meaningfully address digital literacy within curriculum.
Similarly, participants in PwC’s study rank their biggest needs for improved technology integration in the classroom:
- 79 percent want more professional development
- 81 percent want more funds to attend professional development
- 81 percent want more ‘release time’ to attend professional development
- 81 percent want more resources and other course materials
So, teachers need professional development, professional development, professional development, and resources.
Reimagine Technology Integration in the Classroom
If we return to the earlier listed barriers, a lot of these dissipate with training, support, and resources. With classroom-ready resources and an understanding of how to integrate technology into core curriculum, time problems are significantly reduced. Appropriate grade-level materials that are developed to maximize learning allow for a seamless integration of digital literacy. And ongoing support empowers teachers to grow as technology does, to also become creators, innovators, and global learners, too.
Digital literacy is not just another program in a long list of them; it is the program. At its core, this program aims to transform the ways students learn by empowering them with digital skills to succeed in their future. Teachers are the key achieving this vision.