“Technology Integration Specialist” is the title on my business card. I like it. It speaks directly to what the primary focus of my job is – how to use technology to intentionally increase achievement for all learners and close gaps for historically underserved subgroups.
Explaining what that looks like can be difficult. It’s as difficult as explaining what “good teaching” really looks like, especially once you get beyond definitions that are all about compliance (“students are quiet”, “desks are in neat rows”, “assigned work is turned in on time”) and get to definitions that actually reflect learning (intellectual, emotional, and behavioral advances made by the students).
Sometimes, we can get a clearer picture of what something is by defining what it isn’t. So, what would be the opposite of Tech Integration?
How about “Tech Segregation”?
“Tech Segregation” separates the technology from the learning process, or relegates it to its own learning path. Learning to use technology becomes a separate subject, like English, math, social studies, or science. Or maybe even more like a foreign language. And anytime learning in one field helps a student make advances in another field, the effect is a happy accident instead of an intentional outcome. We are misusing students’ time when students in a Technology class learn to create PowerPoint presentations about topics with no explicit connection to the curriculum, and then type or hand-write a book report for Language Arts.
“Tech Segregation” relegates technology to extension activities, only for students who have already achieved the day’s academic goal. Or, the technology becomes a reward for compliance – something students get to do after they finish the stuff they don’t want to do. In that system, students have to find a way to perform without the technology before they can use it. It’s as senseless as making kids prove they can walk all the way to school before they’re allowed to get on a bus.
“Tech Segregation” makes kids achieve a standard or pre-qualify before they can have access. Access to technology is seen as inherently motivational for students, but that attribute is used as the carrot on a stick to get kids to do things the old way, instead of transforming the way we teach to take fuller advantage of the way we learn.
“Tech Segregation” preserves the rank-and-sort, label-and-identify system that has resulted in significant gaps for students who don’t fit typical socio-economic and cultural norms. Kids who are “good at school” get the bells and whistles. Kids who don’t are told to try harder, while we turn away and suck our teeth at the sad state of their homes and families.
Conversely, Tech Integration acknowledges that quality tools in the hands of practiced learners makes amazing things possible. When that position is paired with the belief that every student can learn, then it becomes unconscionable to keep those tools out of the hands of the very students who need the most support when it comes to accessing the general curriculum.
End Tech Segregation.