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Education Technology Integration – You’re Doing it Wrong


Knowing What NOT to do can be as Valuable as Knowing What TO do

Do you want to really get the most out of using technology in your classroom and courses?

Or maybe you're new or still in the early stages of adoption and want get ahead of the game by learning what NOT to do.

EdTech-You're Doing it Wrong

In most undertakings, we can all use a few pointers and learn from others' observations about what to avoid and what to sharpen our focus on if we wish to succeed. With this in mind, I spent some time researching and compiling common causes of technology integration failures, across a spectrum of approaches. I found plenty of good insights to share, both in terms of administrative mistakes to avoid and things that teachers should keep in mind as they seek to implement various teaching approaches that are reliant on technology.

There are a lot of good lessons here. These cautionary tales of what not to do offer sage guidance in a wide variety of disciplines from the technology smorgasbord we call “ed tech”.

Insufficient or Inadequate Professional Development

Failing to plan for and provide professional development is a pretty surefire way to limit the effectiveness of a technology integration effort. You probably won't find many teachers who don't support this assertion, and likewise, there are plenty of documented resources backing it up.

  • In the 2012 paper Professional Development for Student Centered Technology Integration, Damian R. President, “analyzes fourteen research studies to identify what makes technology-related professional development effective for student-centered technology integration.” The study states that, “In order for teachers to grow professionally and modify their instruction, they need to engage in adequate formal professional development (PD). Formal professional development is essential for teacher learning to affect practice“.
  • This “Critical Issue” post, Critical Issue: Providing Professional Development for Effective Technology Use, developed in part by North Central Regional Technology in Education Consortium, asserts, “Lack of professional development for technology use is one of the most serious obstacles to fully integrating technology into the curriculum (Fatemi, 1999; Office of Technology Assessment, 1995; Panel on Educational Technology, 1997).”
  • The 10 Principles of Sustainable EdTech Implementation states, “The principal must provide appropriate professional development time and resources to support effective classroom implementation of technology.”

Forcing Teachers to Adopt Technology En Masse

The hard-assed, “you're all going to do this because I said so” approach is not prone to success. You are far more likely to succeed and achieve majority adoption if you gain success with a small group and have them integral to gradual on-boarding, supported by what the first article below refers to as “social proof”. The following pieces support this assertion from various perspectives:

Project Based Learning – True PBL vs. Projects

The common thread I find when looking at challenges with Project Based Learning is understanding the difference between Projects and true PBL.

  • The article Main Course Not Dessert by the Buck Institute for Education, digs deep into the difference between one-off small scale projects (i.e. “dessert”) and “main course” projects that provide deeper learning experiences. This is an excellent resource for further exploration. One excerpt that insinuates the potential of true PBL is the statement, “If we wish to prepare a generation of students who can solve real-world problems, we must give them real-world problems to solve.” Contrast the idea of real world problems like lack of clean water or childhood obesity with small scale assignments like creating a presentation or visual, and you begin to appreciate the difference between rich PBL and simple projects.
  • The Mind/Shift web site offers What Project-Based Learning Is — and What It Isn’t, stating that, “Teachers might add projects meant to illustrate what students have learned, but may not realize what they’re doing is actually called “project-oriented learning.” And it’s quite different from project-based learning …”. It goes on to provide a handful of good examples of true PBL.
  • This article from Thoughtful Learning, How are projects and project-based learning different?, is brief but provides useful insights in a succinct format.

Gamification – It's not all About External Rewards

Many ideas that we encounter in life have just as much potential for harm as they do for good when not properly understood and utilized. We've probably all heard someone say about another that he or she “knows enough to be dangerous”. This can be said for anyone who grasps a concept only at a high level and runs off to thrust it upon others, with limited comprehension. Gamification is subject to this challenge, as are many other ed tech ideas.

In this video , Scott Nicholson explores differences between poorly implemented gamification and meaningful gamification, and the challenges of external rewards as a motivator. Relying on external rewards creates a problem because it can limit internal motivation – once the external rewards go away, the motivation level actually decreases. Unfortunately, the use of external rewards (grades, badges, etc.) are often the first (and sometimes the only) motivators that get used in a revised process that someone will declare successfully “gamified”. Nicholson notes that the grading process inherent in education is already gamified in this way, and it clearly does not ensure motivation.

Nicholson suggests taking elements from the “play” side of gaming (as opposed to the “grading/levels” side) to motivate students to get involved and find more meaning in the game, and thereby ultimately a deeper learning experience. If you are just getting started with gamification, or using it already, you would do well to explore Nicholson's dialogue and other resources to understand gamification at a deeper level.

Flipping the Classroom – You're Doing it Wrong if you are…

It's pretty easy to take this basic concept – lesson content becomes homework, and homework becomes in-class work, and make it work poorly. Think of a math class – if students are going to sit in class and just work on math problems, it's not going to be very engaging. As with gamification, it is important that teachers get sufficient professional development and really grow their understanding of effective flipped instruction before they start trying to use it.

Here's a few potential obstacles and challenges in the flipped classroom that teachers should be ready to address to help ensure success:

  • Failing to provide for students who have limited access to technology: This can be an issue in many schools, but many good educators have tackled and overcome this. Learn more here.
  • Not taking efforts to ensure engagement with the outside-of-class learning content: Here are two good strategies for this, and here's a handful more!
  • Not leveraging the valuable face-to-face time you are freeing up in the classroom: Using class time well is a key reason to flip the classroom! Make sure you are prepared to get the most out of it. Active Learning in the classroom is a great way to get more out of flipped learning (more on this here).

Thing to Avoid When Using Social Media in the Classroom

Social Media can be a great way to facilitate Social Learning. There are plenty of great ways to use Social Media in teaching and learning, but there are also some key mistakes to avoid.

  • Providing students access to your personal page(s): Don't do it. It's just that simple. If you are inclined to let students Like your Facebook page, create a page just for your professional presence as a teacher, separate from your personal page (you'll need to use a distinct email address for that – of course, it's also a good idea to have separate professional and personal email addresses, as many do).
  • Requiring students under 13 to create pages on sites limited to ages 13 and older: Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and other sites are limited to users 13 years of age and older. Many parents and teachers do not realize this. (If your child is under 13 and has a page on one of these sites, I strongly suggest that you have them give you their passwords, for their own safety). There are plenty of social media sites designed just for education, and these are much safer than popular mass media sites and worth knowing about.
  • Failing to have an open dialogue with younger students about the issues that can be inherent in social media use: While social media applications create new opportunities for teachers and students, there are potential issues to address before mixing kids with technology that could potentially put them at risk. One of the key techniques to help ameliorate these issues is ensuring open lines of communication. Learn more about preventive measures and other related concerns here.

BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) – Poor Planning and Preparation

A few years back, Gartner predicted that over a 5 year span, BYOD would be become predominant within education, across all levels. Do a quick Google Search for “BYOD in schools” and you'll find lots of policies and other content making it clear that BYOD is taking off in schools. You'll also find some good indicators of what to avoid if you want to do it well. The bottom line is that successful BYOD isn't a matter of just telling everyone they can bring a device, you need to plan and prepare.

  • No Policy: BYOD is a non-starter if you don't develop a policy. Research policies and best practices on the web and cobble together a policy that makes sense for your institution (borrow liberally from existing polices published online to save time).
  • Don't skimp on proper planning, implementation, and PD: In the article, Should Schools Embrace “Bring Your Own Device”?, Andrea Prejean, associate director of the National Education Association’s education policy and practice department, offers this advice, “Without proper planning, implementation and professional development … BYOD may not work as people had hoped. And guess what? The teacher will probably get blamed. It’s not fair that schools invite students to bring these devices and expect student achievement to improve just because these technologies are in the classroom.”
  • Fail to ensure adequate bandwidth: If everyone brings their devices and many users experience stodgy connectivity, you're cool new program will die on the vine. The article, 20 Pros and Cons of implementing BYOD in schools, reminds us of this and many other considerations to be aware of if we going to embark on a successful BYOD journey.
  • Forget to provide spare devices: There are going to be times when some students forget their device, or devices fail, so be sure to have some backups on hands, and a process in place to make it straightforward to get a loaner when needed.


These ideas can surely help you set a straighter path and avoid crashing into a wall as you turn the corner on your next ed tech adventure.

This listing just scratches the surface of some classic errors to avoid with technology integration in schools and classrooms. Do you have experiences about what NOT to do that you're willing to share? Please do!


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