The Opposite of Tech Integration

“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.


3 thoughts on “The Opposite of Tech Integration”

  1. Michael, thank you for sharing this! While I personally think that we need to move away from the idea that good teaching revolves around compliance, I agree that it is extremely difficult to define. The idea that the tech is used for extension or activities is not the purpose. With more and more districts going 1-1, the integration of technology into the core learning has to happen, but it also means that the ways that we have taught for years will have to change! I think that is the hardest part of the whole thing, yet it is essential to prepare our students for the ever-evolving modern economy that they will enter after their school careers. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Spot on, Daniel, and thanks for the comment!

      There are times that the way we have always taught (and especially the way we have always assessed) was because of limitations we had before. We give paper-and-pencil tests not because it’s the best way to find out if a student has learned something, but because it’s seen as a fairly efficient way to assess lots of kids at the same time and we presume the results are accurate. We lecture when we need to get through a lot of material in a short period of time, rather than taking the time to deeply explore subjects. We collect typed or hand-written beautiful poems from our students, but then they never reach an audience outside the classroom, because it used to be so difficult to publish.

      I think the conversation has to move from using technology to do what we’ve always done, to using technology to do what we always wanted to do but couldn’t.

      1. YES! I agree. It is about time that we push the education model to levels we have not yet attained. We have a lot of work to do, but it is totally worthwhile!

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