Implementation vs. Integration

Should schools be implementing or integrating technology?

This question was first presented to me by a member of the IBO at the 2015 ECIS Tech Conference in Munich. What do these words mean and how do we define them?During this conference, I had the privilege of working with fellow Coetail Coach @chezvivian who documented the IBO’s presentation on her personal blog. Vivian eloquently synthesises the IBO’s stance and the implications of confusing these two similar terms:

Just like in Coetail, the IB wants us to start with the question, “What is the learning?”. Then we need to plan for the learning.  The plan for the learning should drive the question of what hardware and software.  Not the other way around. We wouldn’t want our curriculum to be driven by transitory things like what devices we’ve bought and what apps they support.  The devices and apps will be obsolete in a few years time.  The learning we want for our students should last for a lifetime. During the session, this importance was discussed when we differentiated the Integration of Technology from the Implementation of Technology i.e. hardware & software  (ibid p.14).  The integration of technology should always drive the implementation of technology and not the other way around.  This is something that we’ve always discussed as part of Coetail. (Chez Vivian)

I’ve been pondering these terms ever since, as I feel many schools are definitely doing one, but not creating the support needed for the other. It’s easy for a school to decide on a budget, purchase devices and software, and say the word “integrate” to teachers. But is there a shared understanding of what that looks like? And if not, who is responsible for developing this vision?

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As with any vision, it needs to be understood at the top level. George Couros, the Principal of Change, writes:

Sometimes in education, there are shifts in what we have done and what we need to do, to support our students.  There are a lot of things that will never go away in education (like the importance of relationships in learning), but there are shifts in our world that mean education will have to a) be a part of the shift, b) lead the shift, or c) be left behind. 

The shift is happening now, and schools are at risk of being left behind. Or worse, leading their students down a path where the focus is on the flashy hardware, rather than on the learning. It is more important than ever that schools reflect on where they are, and where they want to go. Technology is evolving at an even quicker pace and many schools are simply buying new tech without considering why. Furthermore, simply hiring EdTech coaches to ‘tick the box’ won’t necessarily promote school-wide change with tech integration; there needs to be a school vision for tech integration to guide coaches too.

Edutopia recently published an article titled An Open Letter to Principals: 5 Leadership Strategies for the New Year 

These 5 strategies are fantastic guidelines for any school trying to fine-tune its vision for tech integration:

Strategy 1: Make No Excuses

Strategy 2: Model a Vision for Excellence

Strategy 3: Embrace 21st Century Pedagogy and Curriculum

Strategy 4: Breathe Life Into Professional Development

Strategy 5: Stay Connected

This fifth strategy is most important for leadership to remember. To properly integrate technology in classrooms, admin need to understand and be a part of the connectEdness of online professional learning networks.

If we are to expect school-wide changes with technology, school leadership needs to understand the difference between implementation of tech devices, verses integration using such frameworks as SAMR and TPACK.

I am waiting for the Big Shift to be led, not simply haphazardly participated in. I am looking to contribute to a culture of learning that begins at the top with school leadership and trickles down to the teachers and students. I’m hoping for action to replace reaction. As Edutopia author,Eric Sheninger, concludes with this powerful point:

Change begins with a no-excuse mentality. Don’t waste one more minute pondering what could be. There is a revolution going on right now in learning, and it is up to us to lead the way. (Edutopia)

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