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Research & Resources

Technology Integration?

Anna C. Clifford, Ed.D., Professor of Education

April 30, 2008 - Preservice Teachers The first day of classes arrived and the preservice teachers participating in the Instructional Technology for the Classroom class were faced with moments of reflection and discussion. The questions on the table included: What is technology? What is technology integration? What is technology’s role in the classroom?

What is educational technology?
A round-robin discussion gave the preservice teachers an opportunity to share their definition of technology based upon their experiences. Some reached back into their kindergarten memories and mentioned the AppleIIe, the computer center, and taking their turn to go to the computer center. Others shared their computer lab experiences or the rotating computer cart and the simulation of Oregon Trail and challenges in Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? Still others reflected on their university experiences: learning through lecture-PowerPoint presentations, emailing assignment reflections to professors, and collaborating with a professor and peers within WebCT. The general consensus of the group was that integrating technology meant using it in some way during class time.

Does technology = computers?
The preservice teachers began to think beyond computers. As the ideas unfolded, the students piggybacked on each other’s thoughts and ideas. Their reflections extended in a variety of directions. Their technologies included: VCR-DVD players, ipods, video cameras, digital cameras, record players, cassette tape players, listening centers, GPS, SmartBoards, Blackberry, laser disc players, language masters, overhead projectors, Internet, …

What is integration of technology?
The preservice teachers defined technology as:

  • using technology while you teach
  • doing math problems on the overhead
  • finding and using the software that matched up with the content to be taught
  • using the Internet to find information
  • using PowerPoint in lectures
  • generating e-puzzles and e-handouts for the class
  • sending emails to you students
  • letting the students create a presentation using PowerPoint
  • taking pictures with the digital camera
  • watching a movie

What do the experts say?
The preservice teachers’ responses to the questions were as fragmented and uncertain as those answers we find among the experts in the field of instructional design and technology. Some suggest a broader view of technology integration.

For example, Lever-Duffey, McDonald, and Mizell (2005) have adapted the Association for Educational Communications and Technology’s 1994 definition of technology created by Seels and Richley (1994): “any technology used by educators in support of the teaching and learning process” (p. 5).

On the other hand, Morrison and Lowther (2004) provide a rationale and model (iNtegrating Technology for inquiry, NTeQ) for integrating computer technology into the curriculum by using it as a tool rather than as an instructional delivery device. They assert that technology integration is comprised of five characteristics:

  • The teacher is technologically competent and assumes the roles of designer, manager, and facilitator.
  • The student actively engages in the learning process, assumes the role of researcher, and becomes technologically competent.
  • The computer is used as a tool, as it is in the workplace, to enhance learning through the use of real-world data to solve problems.
  • The lesson is student-centered, problem-based, and authentic, and technology in an integral component.
  • The environment incorporates multiple resource-rich activities (p. 12)

Roblyer ( 2006) uses an expanded definition of technology to include (a) processes of learning theory and instructional models, and (b) technology tools. He explains that:

Educational technology is a combination of the processes and tools involved in addressing educational needs and problems, with an emphasis on applying the most current tools: computers and other electronic technologies. Integrating educational technology refers to the process of determining which electronic tools and which methods for implementing them are appropriate responses to give classroom situations and problems. (p. 9).

In contrast, Thorsen (2006) proposes a different perspective: It is important we touch briefly upon all of the possibilities for helping your students learn with computers. There are three major possibilities:

  • Teaching your students about computers
  • Using a computer as a teacher
  • Using computer tools to assist your students to acquire and learn information and to develop higher-order thinking skills (p. 11).

Thorsen’s third possibility is similar to Morrison and Lowther’s (2004) definition, yet Thorsen’s view does not attach itself to learning theories or instructional models.

On the other hand, Pierson (2001) and Mishra and Koehler( 2006) suggest using a more theoretical based definition of technology integration and it is based on the assumption that expert teachers possess content knowledge, pedagogical knowledge, and technological knowledge. The content knowledge includes the knowledge of the curriculum, and processes, methods and interactions of teaching and learning. The pedagogical knowledge includes teaching and modeling strategies. It is important to know they may be different from one content area to another. The technological knowledge includes basic technology ability, as well as being able to connect unique characteristics of types of technologies to particular aspects of teaching and learning. Pierson (2001) confirms true technology integration takes place when the three overlap or are integrated.

What do the preservice teachers say?
After reflection and collaborative efforts, the preservice teachers agreed to disagree with some experts and to agree with others. The preservice teachers agreed technology (or educational technology) refers to the teaching tools (e.g. computer, digital camera, SmartBoard). Technology integration is the process of integrating technology into the teaching-learning experience? These curious preservice teachers left the session asking the question: How does the process happen?


Lever-Duffey, J., McDonald, J. B., & Mizell, A. P. (2005). Teaching and learning with technology (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc.

Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. J. (2006). Technological pedagogical content knowledge: A framework for teacher knowledge. Teachers College Record, 108(6), 1017-1054.

Morrison, G. R., & Lowther, D. L. (2004). Integrating computer technology into the classroom (3rd ed.). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Merrill Prentice Hall.

Pierson, M. (2001). Technology integration practice as a function of pedagogical expertise. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 33(4), 413-430.

Roblyer, M. D. (2006). Integrating educational technology into teaching (4th ed.). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc.

Seels, B., & Richey, R. (1994). Instructional technology: The definition and domain of the field.Washington, D C: Association for Educational Communications and Technology.

Thorsen, C. (2006). TechTactics: Technology for teachers. Boston: Pearson Education, Inc.

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