March 29, 2012

Should Tech Teachers be in the Classroom or the Lab–Follow Up

A couple of months ago, I posted an article called Should Tech Teachers be in the Classroom or the Lab?I got the question from a reader and wanted to see what the tech ed community

thought about what has become a hot topic among technology teacher, coordinators and integration specialists. I summarized the common thoughts on the subject and received quite a few thoughtful responses from readers.

I also cross-posted the article to LinkedIn and wanted to share those responses with my blog readers. You’ll find them an important contribution to your knowledge on this subject, with lots of anecdotal stories and varied viewpoints. Enjoy!

Gail Flanagan • Using technology as a tool in all parts of the school day integrating it into the students and teachers day. We implemented 1:1 iPad for a 6th grade team and mini pilot of iPad carts for the rest of the school. Digital natives use the iPad intuitively for collaboration, organization, creativity, productivity and communication. Keyboarding, word processing, spreadsheets and multimedia presentation tools are still used with laptops and desktop computers.
Lucky to be a teacher of Middle School ~ Allied Arts computer class. We reassess the standards to adapt to essential questions of what to know using technology in everyday lives and 21st century skills,

Dale McManis • Around classroom technology integration and professional development for teachers I really like the work of Dr. Karen Swan-Research Professor, Research Center for Educational Technology / College & Graduate School of Education, Health and Human Services, Kent State University.

Duane Sharrock • I like the idea of preparing the teacher with an overview of tech teacher’s goals and giving the classroom teacher input on how technology would serve the present unit of learning or teacher’s lesson. You will be able to target appropriate tech that way, making choices between concept reinforcement or tech skills learning for purposes of presentation, reporting, research, etc. In the K-3 grades, teachers can be a big help in this way as well. I think integrating the teacher into the tech instruction is an important goal. Work it out ahead of time so the teacher will know how to support you and their students, so you can avoid being the substitute (if you are pushing into the teacher’s class).

Bret Sorensen • As I see the trend, technology integration where the students are using technology as a tool to learn the content of whatever class they are in is the ideal. For many students, they can get the exposure to correctly using technology when it is embedded into the curriculum.

However, there are some students who may need to know the more advanced features of software, or how to use specialized software where it may be necessary to have a class that teaches specialized or advanced computer skills. But, these types of classes will probably diminish as technology becomes more integrated into the curriculum.

Michelle Warden • For primary, check out the software, Kidspiration. It can be used with students even in kindergarten. In their words: “The visual way to explore and understand words, numbers and concepts” It is installed on our computer lab computers. To the question: classroom or lab? I agree with those who say both is the ideal or at least a true collaboration with the classroom teachers on projects to be completed in the lab.

Teri Gallegos-Reynolds • Great discussion and lots of useful ideas. Our private school in Santa Fe, NM is considering more integration, and less focus on teaching skills in isolation. I think Bonnie’s school is definitely a model to emulate. Alan November is always the progressive thinker, and his expertise should always be given thoughtful consideration.

Safirah Ibenana • If I had to choose one it would be integration. Teachers need professional development and administrators can’t provide it. Teachers and podcasts can assist with computer skills.

Carol Birnbaum • I think it depends on the level of computing skills being taught. At the middle and high school level, there are classes such as programming and web design that I think should be taught in a lab, as a standalone class. Everyday skills such as word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations should be integrated into the regular curriculum by the middle school level.

Jeff Ward • Our district continues to have computer teachers who teach keyboarding and other computer skills in a lab setting. Classroom teachers often look to the computer teachers for help when their computer does not work or a technology question arises. The difficult part of this scenario is that the computer teachers are booked all day long for the most part and have little time to assist or help with classroom integration.

Carol Olson • Dale, you wrote that younger students are using the computer with headphones on and no connections to what they are learning. I have worked with kindergarten for 25 years and PreK for one year, Their time in the lab has always been related to what they are learning in their classroom. There isn’t any reason why it shouldn’t be, We use Kid Pix, websites, web 2.0 tools,and cameras to take pictures. As tech coordinator I find this to be a great way for the children to help their classroom teacher to integrate more technology in their lessons when appropriate.

Lynn Ochs • As tech teachers are asked to move into the role of instructional coach, I thought this resource might be helpful.

Tom D’Amico • In our Board we are transitioning away from labs in elementary schools and moving towards smaller number of mobile devices to support differentiated instruction directly in the classrooms. In high school we are keeping one lab for higher-end tech applications and one business lab for application instruction. We are hoping to transition away from the older “cross-curricular” labs and instead moving towards mobile devices in classes and BYOD in all high school classes to supplement Board supplied devices. So the answer to the original question is Yes keep a minimum of one dedicated high-end lab for H.S. but remove cross-curricular labs in favour of mobile devices directly in classes.

Mary Beth Gay • When this job was created five years ago, the focus was on integration. It took two years to get there but when I was hired three years ago, it was clear that my primary focus was to be on integration. It has evolved even further in that direction with the expansion of staff that addresses infrastructure, tech support, etc. We currently still have some instruction in our computer lab but even there the work is project based. Students learn to use applications within the context of the project. My day is spent working with faculty both in the lab setting and in the classroom setting. I facilitate, and the teacher leads. The amount of time depends on the grade level and technology used. We are currently trying to determine how much life is left in our computer lab but we will continue to use it in the near future as we evolve.

Penelope Lee • I am a part-time Instructional Tech Specialist in a middle school setting. We have multiple carts, but no lab. I do feel like the students are missing out on some basic computer knowledge, such as vocabulary and typing. I think a job that was 1/2 time lab with students and 1/2 time training with the teachers would be ideal.

Jacqui Murray is the editor of a technology curriculum for K-sixth grade and creator of two technology training books for middle school. She is the author of Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy midshipman. She is webmaster for five blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, IMS tech expert, and a weekly contributor to Write Anything. Currently, she’s editing a thriller for her agent that should be out to publishers this summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.