Today computers, pads, cell phones, and other electronic devices are becoming a ubiquitous part of the classroom. “Technology Integration” has become the new buzz-phrase, and many teachers are relying more on these devices to help deliver content to students of all ages. But what exactly does “technology integration” mean, and are all these digital gadgets helping provide students with a better, more effective education than they would receive with traditional materials?
According to the National Educational Technology Standards for Students, International Society for Technology in Education, “Effective integration of technology is achieved when students are able to select technology tools to help them obtain information in a timely manner, analyze and synthesize the information, and present it professionally. The technology should become an integral part of how the classroom functions – as accessible as all other classroom tools.”
However, how we define the term can also depend on what kinds of technology are available, who is using the technology, and how much access is available, both for the teacher and for the students. For example, in a classroom that contains just a single, interactive whiteboard and one computer, learning will most likely remain oriented around the teacher, not the technology. And while the board and computer can be turned into tools, any integration that occurs will most likely be related to the teacher’s needs and not the students’. Willingness to embrace change is also a major requirement for successful integration, as technology is continuously evolving at a rapid pace.
Advocates of technology in the classroom indicate that using computers will make students more excited to learn, as well as enable them to absorb new concepts and skills at their own pace and stay focused for longer periods. By providing more content at a rate the students can follow, they believe that computers could serve as an effective substitute for a lack of basic learning and fundamental skills acquisition.
Edutopia.org maintains that when technology tools are effectively integrated into the curriculum, they have the potential to extend learning, providing both teachers and students with:
- Access to current, primary source material
- Means of collecting and recording data
- Ways to collaborate with students, teachers, and experts, no matter where they are located
- Opportunities for expressing understanding in multiple formats
- Training for publishing and presenting what they have learned
However, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD, a global group with 34 member countries interested in progress and world trade) has found a different scenario playing out in schools in their member nations. According to the results from a recent study of digital skills and learning environments, the group found that “students who use computers very frequently at school do a lot worse in reading, even after accounting for students’ background.” That led them to conclude that difficulty in reading could also interfere with achievements in mathematics and science. The group found “no appreciable improvements in student achievement in reading, mathematics or science in the countries that had invested heavily in information and communication technology (ICT) for education.”
Also, according to the study, while 96 percent of 15-year-old students had a computer at home in 2012, only 72 percent had access in school. Some countries reported an in-school rate under 50 percent, and Germany, Italy, and Japan had only one computer for every four 15-year-old students. And even where schools did have computers available, the computers’ impact on educational results was “mixed at best.” Students who made moderate use of computers at school had “somewhat better learning outcomes” than those who rarely used them, but those who used computers for a great deal of time actually had worse outcomes, even considering economic and social backgrounds and demographics.
Related to this, some cases demonstrated that classroom technology wasn’t necessary at all for student achievement. South Korea ranked in the top three countries in mathematics and reading, yet only 42 percent of Korean students said they used computers at school.
Perhaps more importantly, the OECD study found that technology did little in bridging the skills gap between economically advantaged and disadvantaged students. More effective in creating equal opportunities than pushing technology was to ensure that all students had a “baseline level of proficiency in reading and mathematics.”
There are technological tools, though, that address reading and math proficiency. For example, the AceReader platform is designed specifically to improve reading efficiency and fluency, and it requires little more than a computer with an internet connection. In addition, with 13 complexity levels and a fully adjustable presentation, it is geared toward students of all ages and levels, and it requires only 15 minutes/day two to three times a week to be effective. It is currently being used in K-12 schools, learning centers, all the U.S. military academies, and hundreds of individual users, with fantastic results.
While the debate over technology integration in the classroom continues, many feel that, as we move toward a more technologically oriented word, bringing computers to the classroom will help ensure that the students are ready for that world. These technologically savvy children will grow up to become adults who will be able to find their place in an advanced society. Not only do computers in the classroom assist teachers with individual lessons and expanding students’ knowledge, but they are also preparatory tools for the future.
Teachers, students, and parents: What are your thoughts about the use of technology in the classroom? We would love to hear what you think. Please leave us a detailed note in the comments section below.
 Edutopia.org. (November 5, 2007). What is Successful Technology Integration? Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/technology-integration-guide-description
 Sherman, Erik. (November 16, 2015). A Warning about Computers in the Classroom. CBS.com. Retrieved from https://www.cbsnews.com/news/a-warning-about-computers-in-the-classroom/