How to Authentically Integrate Technology into the Classroom

Savvas Insights Team

When we think about bringing technology into the classroom, we often jump first to the technology tools, such as the applications and physical digital devices. But before we start looking into how we can integrate those tools and devices into the classroom, we should first ask ourselves, “What is the true purpose of learning at our school? And what is the best way to authentically integrate technology into instruction so we know which is the best tool to help us reach our learning goals?”

“One of the best ways to authentically integrate technology into the classroom is to lean into innovation and develop this spirit of innovation in our collaborative spaces.””

In this blog post, we’ll review steps educators can take to help them make the best decisions about what technology will be most effective in supporting your school’s learning goals, and help you lead the way to a healthy classroom culture and successful student achievement.

Map Out Your Learning Goals

Before thinking about what educational technology to bring into the classroom, start by mapping out your learning goals. Most educators would agree that, at a high level. the goal of school is to prepare students to maximize their human potential, contribute meaningfully to the world, think critically with reason and logic, discover their passions, and cultivate independence. With these high-level goals in mind, collaborate with colleagues and decide what meaningful outcomes you want your students to achieve. How can you align instruction to these goals? And then how will technology fit in? Consider the following example outcomes:

  • Students choose projects that are meaningful to them and work on them at their own pace
  • Students communicate confidently, each in their own unique and genuine style
  • Students think with complexity and apply knowledge and skills to new situations
  • Students use technology tools to communicate in compelling ways
  • Through collaborative projects, students collectively rely on each other’s thinking to solve complex problems
  • Students reflect on their learning and experiences through discovery and making their own thinking visible

By collaborating to identify these outcomes, you can ensure that all educators are working toward the same goal and that instruction across the school is aligned and cohesive.

Articulating the Purpose of Instruction and How Technology Fits In

Just as it’s important to establish goals and outcomes, it’s also crucial for schools to be able to articulate the purpose of their instruction. For example, if the primary goal of instruction is to ensure that students develop the ability to make meaning of big ideas and then transfer that learning to various contexts, then be sure that is clearly stated and communicated. Everyone should understand what each lesson is trying to achieve before adopting any instructional resource, digital or otherwise.

teacher assisting elementary student on a laptop

This is where technology integration enters the conversation. As long as the technology is supporting each of the desired student outcomes laid out by the school community, then it is the right tool to use in the instruction. You’ll find that sometimes it will be the right tool and sometimes it won’t, but as long as the tool authentically supports the outcome, you’re on the right track.

The Benefits of Integrating Technology Authentically

When we talk about authentically integrating technology, we mean that the digital devices and tools you choose to use in instruction align with your goals and are seamlessly woven throughout instruction — not forced. Authentic technology integration provides many benefits, such as allowing us to 1) enhance the learning environment, 2) support innovative instruction, 3) drive more authentic, deeper learning, and 4) provide better learning evidence (via authentic assessments). Let’s take a closer look at how technology can support and enhance these four areas.

1. The Learning Environment

Collaboration is a core part of every career field and subject discipline, and it is a crucial component of the classroom learning environment. Playlists are a great use of technology to collaborate with the classroom and school community. Playlists can be used to organize and easily share learning activities with students, which can then be shared with colleagues and parents. Coaches can share playlists with professional learning communities, and administrators can use them to share new teaching strategies. More than ever, learning should be part of a social context, and technology can make that easier for learners to collectively respond to each other’s thinking while solving complex problems.

2. Innovative Instruction

It’s crucial that we consider how we will support learners as they come to understand important ideas and processes that will prepare them to independently transfer their learning. When students are prompted with an opportunity to construct their own learning with technology tools, they are challenged to think with complexity as they evaluate various paths and choices. For example, ask them to analyze multiple sources of data from research and their own reading. Or have them create a deliverable using an iterative process, such as a slide deck, video, podcast, or digital diagram that involves multiple steps, each with its own demands.

For example, instead of introducing a lesson by stating the learning objective, try to hook students' attention by first showing an engaging video, simulation, or meme, and then ask students what they notice. Essential Question prompts could be placed at the very end of this multimedia prompt for a powerful lesson/unit opener.

high school student working on laptop

3. Deeper and More Authentic Learning

Students don’t think about how to authentically use technology in their everyday lives outside of school. It’s a natural part of how they interact with the world around them. Why not leverage the technology they use everyday as a vehicle for meaningful learning? We can use it to help our students be more creative and innovative, think more critically, learn deeper, communicate effectively to inspire change, and collaborate to make an impact. Here are examples of how you can use technology to provide students with authentic opportunities to engage with their learning:

  • Use pictures, videos, models, drawings, objects, charts, and graphs to represent their thinking.
  • Justify their thinking in words, pictures, audio, and videos.
  • In a video debate, ask other students questions such as “Why?,” “What do you mean?,” and “Can you explain that in another way?” as they look to clarify their own understanding.
  • Insert questions into instructional videos to promote students’ thinking.

Teachers are activators of meaningful learning, not mere distributors of content knowledge, skills, or assignments. Use technology to your advantage by giving them activities that will engage them and make learning relevant to them. If they are engaged they will find learning more meaningful.

4. Authentic Assessment and Aligned Evidence

How will we know if students have achieved the desired results? Performance tasks and other formative assessments prompt students to apply their learning to new and authentic situations. We can use those tasks to assess their understanding and ability to transfer their learning. For example, every time a student creates multimedia, it becomes a piece of assessment evidence. When you prompt students to create multimedia (pictures, videos, slides, GIFs, memes, etc.), ensure students know how their creation will be used as evidence for learning. When you assign projects you can embed assessment criteria into the assignment.

Lean In to Innovation

One of the best ways to authentically integrate technology into the classroom is to lean into innovation and develop this spirit of innovation in our collaborative spaces. We must be open to new ways to leverage the benefits of virtual and blended learning for students, even if they are present in the building. Flexibility to try new things, promoting student ownership, focusing on life skills for success, leaning on our professional learning networks, and discovering our purpose in education are all mindsets and behaviors to help us prepare students to be successful in the world.


About The Author

Nathan Lang-Raad

Dr. Nathan D. Lang-Raad is an educator, speaker, author, and Vice President of Strategy at Savvas Learning Company. Throughout his career, he has served as a teacher, elementary administrator, high school administrator, and university adjunct professor. He has also worked at NASA. He is the author of Everyday Instructional Coaching, The New Art and Science of Teaching Mathematics co-authored with Dr. Robert Marzano, WeVideo Every Day, Mathematics Unit Planning in a PLC at Work, and The Teachers of Oz, The Boundless Classroom, and Instructional Coaching Connection.