I don't want to integrate it, I want to embed it!

The word integrate gets on my nerves. Maybe I feel it’s been over used, or used in the wrong way when we talk about how we want technology to affect teaching and learning. What I want..is technology to be embedded into the classroom. Into the learning environment. I am tired of trying to integrate it into a process, a classroom, or a curriculum that was never made to integrate technology to begin with. No, what I want is to start at the very bottom and embed technology tools, skills, and standards into lessons, our classrooms, and our outcomes.

To integrate something means to find a place where it fits, to start with two separate pieces and see how you can fit them together. Like a puzzle, you have two pieces with different notches already in them…your job is to find out where the notches match up and where they don’t. Sometimes it takes a long time to put a puzzle together.

But what if we were this tree. What if we took these tools, skills, and standards and embedded them from the very beginning? What if we allowed our curriculum to grow around the technology, allowed the technology to be swallowed whole by the curriculum maybe even scraping the paint off in the process and in some cases modeling the technology skills and tools into something new and different to meet the needs of the curriculum.

What if we truly acted like technology was just part of us, part of education, part of educating students today. What if we start embedding it and stopped integrating it?

[tags]embedded technology[/tags]

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26 Comments

  1. Jeff,

    I know exactly what you are trying to say, because I have struggled with this for about five years. Integrating is not the right word, but I found that neither is embedding.

    Here’s what I mean. Have you ever embedded a video from YouTube, Google Video, or some other source to your blog? Sure you have…what am I thinking :-) Herein lies the problem with the term embedding. I have my blog unblocked from the school filtering so students can view it and learn from it. However, when I embed a video from another source, it is still blocked by the filter because the video is not really “property” of my web site. Does that make sense?

    So, if I buy in to embedding technology in a classroom, there is still that feeling of it being an outside “questionable” source.

    Semantics perhaps, but we really do need to discover the proper terminology for what we want to do with technology in our classrooms. I was in a “vision meeting” last week, where an Asst. Principal said, “Remember, a pencil is technology.” You can guess where I wanted to embed the pencil.

    Struggling along with you.

    • I like your idea of embedding rather than integrating. That term is getting old. I believe it’s time to move to the next level of integrating…embedding is a good term for this. As I look at the readiness of my school district, I perceive it as being ready for a shift as well. I am starting to hear our leaders speak of 21st century learning. Schools are receiving more tech money, and schools are building technology plans to make good use of the money. Embedding is slowly taking hold in my district’s curriculum. Because of the fast growth educational technology, curricululm specialists are finding it easier to “embed” technology. The fact that many of the internet’s resources are “free” also sweetens the pot for district on a budget. I predict we will continue to see school districts moving toward embedding technologies to a point where the lines between technology and curriculum have faded.

  2. Jeff,

    Sorry…I hit the Submit button instead of the Preview button…no excuse.

    I meant to end my response with,

    What do you think of the term “grafting” to go with your tree analogy?

  3. Many of us are thinking along the same lines. Integration is over. It’s time for a change.

    A new approach, with new questions and new answers.

    Here is the blueprint for our thinking: link to newliteracy.wikispaces.com

    Always in beta, just like curriculum should be.

    Now all we have to do is implement.

  4. Um…yeah. I say this all the time, but I said it to my school board president last night. Technology simply has to be “the way we do business.” Stop with the technology committee already! Start with the Modeling Learning Committee.

  5. I’m might even take it one more step and say I just want to use it. Our teachers this year have to include a technology piece on their long range plans. I hate that because it always looks like an add on and what teacher has time or energy to add stuff.
    Using technology means doing things differently and eliminating practices that don’t help kids. I’m trying to show people why it’s essential and what it replaces.
    The single biggest buy in is the amount of work and effort kids put in outside of school when learning suddenly shifts from the 4 walls of the classroom to anytime, anywhere with anyone.

    • “The single biggest buy in is the amount of work and effort kids put in outside of school when learning suddenly shifts from the 4 walls of the classroom to anytime, anywhere with anyone.”

      This, in my mind is what the current communication technology has done for the classroom. It hasn’t eliminated the need for a teacher, as has often been feared. It has eliminated the need for a physical environment for meeting. The online schooling trend through organizations such as: Oak Meadow (link to oakmeadow.com) or Pinnacle Online High School (link to pinnacleeducation.com) really intrigue me.

      What if schools were remodeled as community centers where students could get: tutoring, laboratory work, community service work, extracurricular work, social interaction, etc. with subject matter curriculum all online for them to complete on their own schedule?

  6. This will be short — at the phone. I like your metaphor of the tree. Many parts and many looks and functions. But it seems that we need something coming in at rhe roots. I guess this is all kinda silly, but it’s also important. Words and metaphors help us to rethink.

    It seems that we’ll finally be there when we stop talking about the technology all together – when it’s just about learning and leading.

    2 cents worth.

  7. Integration folks started with the seamless integration concept. I like that…even better than grafting cause it is invisible.

    I compare it to your heating and cooling system. When do you think of the air conditioner? When it quits working right? Technology should be like that. Seamless–invisible –not in the forefront. The only time technology should be the focus is when it isn’t working.

  8. As with Sheryl, for me “integration” implies seamlessness, whereas, when a thing is embedded, it still stands out as a “thing” in its own right. In one of my presentations recently, I used a picture of a moth on the bark of a tree. It was all but invisible, merged in seamlessly with the background. That’s closer to what we want, isn’t it?

  9. Embed has been our mantra for the re-think of info tech curriculum and since Shanghai, now I add “the way we do business” to my professional slogan.

    Thanks Jeff…thanks Will.

  10. Sheryl,

    I like the heat & air analogy. It is true that we want to describe something that we only talk about when it doesn’t work…but from other conversations I think too many teachers find that the technology isn’t working seemlessly due to inconsistent filtering policies, where a link will work in the morning, but gets blocked in the afternoon.

    What do we do to change tech polocy that is based on the fear that children will see, hear, etc. something bad, therefore, block it all?

    It seems like we get into these discussions and it is two steps forward three steps back. There is something fundamental that we are missing in the discussion when we are unable to move forward without having to revisit issues from a couple of years ago.

    We know what we want for our classrooms, teachers, and students, but when we go forward with new ideas, we find that old policy restricts the progress.

    Am I making sense, or is more information needed on the past years’ conversation about what is holding up tech progress in schools?

  11. You are making sense Ric. It remains to be seen if it will scale, but in the work I have done in Alabama we involved policy makers as part of the project and solution. We also made developing an ongoing relationships with the tech director a requirement for participation. We scheduled virtual meetings around filtering/safety issues with teachers, administrators, policy decision makers, other experts and technology folks all having an eqaul voice in the discussions.

    I believe that by being intentional in developing teacher leadership and helping them to see they have an advocacy role, they understood they were an important part of leading the change.

    Use the tools to give teachers voice and teach them how to become agents of change and you are well on the way to making a real difference in the way we “do” school.

  12. Integrate and embed are both good words. Like Jeff, I lean towards the latter as more consistent with a more intuitive and natural approach to technology as a tool.

    The issue remains that, for education at least, we still have a predominance of leadership at the highest levels that don’t have a clue about technology. In their minds, that’s why they hire technology directors and form technology committees – to do what they can’t.

    So beyond the suggestions above of disbanding the technology committee, what we need is leadership that is tech. competent and immersed. More than that – we need administrators that are in love with technology because they have the vision of what is possible. They’ve got to have the spark, the twinkle in the eye when they see the utility of online collaboration, and world wide video streams and twitter based micro-blogs, and and and…..

    When that happens to a critical mass of our leaders and when “Technology Directors” are all but extinct, then we might be approaching the stage of “embeded.”

    I want what Jeff wants – classrooms oozing with technology that is not seen as technology – but only as fixtures in a classroom that allow kids to access their learning. Like the faucet in the corner that provides vital hydration, I want kids walking up to interactive devices that seem like nothing more than furniture in the classroom. They touch them and a world appears giving them access to whatever their mind desires. A teacher is there guiding the interaction, but the learner drives the process (shouldn’t that be true all the time). How many can actually picture that vision?

  13. I don’t think it is the word that is used, I think it is the means of delivery and level of commitment. What does the school integration/embedding/grafting? How are they modeling these technologies to the community, teachers and students in the district? And what is the reaction of the school district when an administrator, teacher or student takes the lead to implement something new?

    Keep your eye on the prize people!

  14. Jeff, I would push even a little bit more and suggest that we ought to let the curriculum grow around the technology. For me, that’s no stretch at all. Technology changes not only HOW we teach, but WHAT we teach. Gotta let go of practically every construct and start over. From a classroom on the other side… thanks! – Mark

  15. Jeff,
    What you are talking about is what those of us who work with students with learning challenges call Universal Design for Learning. We advocate for multiple methods of representation, engagement and expression and that is only possible when embedding technology throughout the curriculum. Have you ever read “Teaching Every Student in the Digital Age?” (the entire book is available online at the http://www.cast.org website).
    When technology is seamless, ALL learners benefit. Using this model puts the student first. When the teacher’s fears, lack of knowledge, etc are emphasized, students suffer due to lack of understanding what works best for them.
    It has to be student driven – what do our students need to become successful learners no matter what their skills and abilities? The range in our classrooms is great – from gifted/talented to learning disabled to cognitively challenged. How can we successfully teach to all levels? The ONLY way this is possible is to embed technology.
    To offer less is to abandon our students.

  16. I couldn’t agree with you more! You took the words right out of my mouth. Well said Jeff.

  17. I agree with your idea, but I think you are using the wrong words.

    I think we should be integrating technology rather than embedding it. Maybe this is just the web developer in me, but I think of embedding as putting something into an existing service while integrating something is using it throughout and building around it. (ex: integration would be having an entire class based upon blogging and using that as the primary form of assignments, but embedding would be posting students work as an after-thought)

    Rather, I say we should aim for complete integration of technology in the classroom, but on the way embed as much as we can.

  18. I love your image of the tree–great graphic to match the concept.

    I also really like Sheryl’s idea of technology being as “invisible” as air conditioning–we only notice when it’s not working, and the rest of the time, we expect it.

    I also agree that technology should just be the way we do business. In the business world, for example, you don’t debate whether or not to use web tools–you just use what works, what works for your customers and what makes you more efficient.

    I recently ran across a training video on YouTube for funeral home directors, which was about how to use web 2.0 tools. After I watched the seminar, I thought–okay, if funeral directors are using web 2.0, why aren’t educators?? Funeral directors see it as imperative–because people are creating online tributes, or wanting online tributes, slide shows, etc., and if they don’t learn about these tools themselves, they’ll lose out on the “business.” Now that may be a tad morbid, but on the other hand, teachers don’t see that the power of connections is our business, or that there’s an imperative need not to “lose” our customers.

    So first, maybe, teachers have to have the “need” for their students to collaborate, or connect globally–that’s when the technology will be seamless, because it is just the best possible way to do something.

  19. I whole heartedly agree. Interesting that this post was writting in 2007. Here we are in 2013 and I hear the word “integrate” all the time in my school. How can we integrate technology into this unit? How can we use our “IT” time at the end of the unit to make our summative look better?

    When schools can fully appreciate what embedding technology means is the tipping point to really seeing the change that needs to happen. I truly believe we are scared to embed because of its potentially powerful effects.

  20. Integrating, embedding or opportunities! As we try to embed our new tools into our school, I still see we are 10 steps behind in our integration of technology let alone embedding it. Having access to Google Apps for Education….we are limited to Google search, Google Docs, Google Drive and YouTube. We cannot access Google Chrome store for APPS because it is considered “software”. I will take “integration” first because that is where this school district needs to start! I hope to be the new “light” in the technology committee this year!

    Tracey Van De Veire

  21. Its funny how you put this article in our week 1 readings where it is, because this is exactly where my mind was heading reading through the first couple resources. I was thinking about the reflection prompt “what does Technology Integration mean” and I kept thinking about the term embed. How you have us embed our work in our blog posts and then include the reflection piece along with it. How the coetail program has technology embeded in our learning and assessments. I guess you could say, given this post is from 2007, that you are practicing what you preach sir! I guess the question is- 6 years later- and with your wealth of new experience- what are you seeing now?

  22. I have been thinking about this since first reading this post a month ago. My first question, as some others posted above, was as you wrote this five years ago how do you feel about it now? This post prompted some interesting discussion about the definition of embed and integrate but the important point is not the terminology but that technology should be a natural and unquestionable part of every classroom. It is sad that five years on we are still having the same discussions. Last week I was discussing the positions of the IT, Maths and English coordinators with one of my colleagues and we talked about how the IT coordinator needed to organise a lot more initial teacher training. Teachers come into the job with at least their own experience of other subjects such as Maths and English along with undergraduate teacher training. I think that in addition to educating current teachers and admin, courses with content similar to
    COETAIL need to become a required part of undergraduate teacher training.

  23. I think the word you want is root or implant. It is only when we root our thinking in technology that we will be able to redefine our teaching.

    Anyway embed has other ‘tech-lingo’ meanings that might confuse me.

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