The Changing Role of the Technology Integration Specialist
Many technology integration specialists are approaching the position in different ways. Colleen Worrell is the Secondary Technology Integration Coordinator at Hopkinton High School, but first, she sees herself as a teacher.
Worrell taught history, social studies, and at the education school at Tufts University. She thinks having a teaching background has made it easier for other teachers to see her as a camrade. “They’ll come and talk to me about all sorts of things and see me as their own personal consultant rather than just someone who can turn on a computer,” she said. “They trust me as a fellow teacher.”
Worrell sees the role moving away from people with technology backgrounds and towards teachers who are technologically inclined and passionate about 21st century learning. “You start talking to someone on a higher level about pedagogy, teaching strategies, and teacher goals, rather than how to plug stuff in.”
She also believes this role is about seeing the future of learning, which is helpful in a school already very high tech. Hopkinton offers hybrid classes, has a one-to-one laptop program, a Freshmen Technology Seminar all students must take, and the school encourages teachers to use LMS or digital hubs for the classroom. On top of that the school is working on developing more STEM programming.
Worrell works closely with all these elements and watches how students interact with the technology given to them. “What I really like about technology and my role here is that we are trying to create a culture where students are learning with technology, but also learning about their own learning styles and figuring out ways that they can make technology work best for them.”
This is the unique way Worrell is approaching technology integration in her school. Her philosophy is that students need to learn how to best use the technology for them. The school provides all the resources, tools, and the people to help them, but ultimately it comes down to the students’ own will. “They are the driving force in their learning,” said Worrell. “They should take that ownership of themselves.”
Using technology in a personalized way starts right when students enter into that Freshman Technology Seminar Worrell teaches. In the class she helps them to get into the habit of checking their email or logging into the LMS. “You have to start changing your habits and thinking about learning in a way that is a little more independent and self-directed,” she said “And they’re very much used to getting handed that worksheet, filling it out and then turning it in. So it’s big shifts that they’re making when we ask them to learn in a digital environment.”
Putting technology into students’ hands daily has made the transition easier. Worrell said the one-to-one laptop program has propelled this daily use and made the technology much more accessible. At first, she said the freshmen really liked to play games on the laptops, but by the end of the semester the teachers found they were using the laptops differently. “When the newness of the one-to-one has worn off, they are making choices about when it’s okay to play games and when it’s not okay. They’re making choices about turning off chat so they can really focus in the classroom.”
Not all districts have a one-to-one laptop program or hybrid classes, which makes the technology integration role differ greatly from school to school. Worrell takes advantage of the tools she’s been given, but she doesn’t want to stop there. She’s interested in exploring MOOCs, the gamification of learning, and implementing more hybrid classes. Worrell is just one example of how this position can play a key role in preparing students for the technology-shaped world ahead of them.
Photo taken by Worrell’s student, Sara Kazmi, 9th grade
Michelle is a current graduate student at Emerson College and an intern at Boston's public radio station. She enjoys exploring the world of educational technology and writing about the ever-changing sector and its potential.