What are the Biggest Mistakes Teachers Make When Integrating Technology into the Classroom?

As part of C.M Rubin’s monthly series in the Huffington post: The Global Search for Education: Our Top 12 Global Teacher Blogs, this is the second post. This month we are answering the following prompt:

What are the Biggest Mistakes Teachers Make When Integrating Technology into the Classroom?

The word “mistake” is a harsh word. It implies flaws, pointing fingers, errors in judgement, something wrong and possibly even a dead end. I would rather think or connect the word “mistake” to first steps, stepping stones, experimentation and exploration. With that being said, those “first steps” or that exploration cannot become a routine cemented in stone how technology is being used in the classroom. Stepping stones are meant to lead to something else. For the sake of the prompt given, here are my top 5 “Mistakes” (in no particular order) which I  see, read and hear about as I travel the world to learn and work with schools, teachers and students:

  1. Technology being used to substitute an analog activity
  2. Technology use being seen as an add-on to allow students to use devices, the Internet, a program or an app as a reward, for entertainment, as a time filler for students who finish early
  3. Technology use as a separate subject area
  4. Technology as a $1000 pencil initiative
  5. Technology seen as the solution to motivate and engage students


Technology being used to substitute an analog activity

The philosophy behind Ruben Puentedura‘s SAMR model provides an explanation of teachers integrating technology that is used as a tool substitute without functional improvement of the task at hand. Instead of requiring their students to hand in a handwritten report, they allow students to type up their report and print it out to then be handed in. Teachers seem to stay “stuck” on that level. In their mind they are integrating technology, but in reality the technology is not being used as a tool to facilitate learning or amplify learning.

Technology use being seen as an add-on

Teachers allow students to use devices, the Internet, a program or an app as a reward, for entertainment or as a time filler for students who finish early. Technology is being used as an add-on if there is time and in addition to the “regular” school work. Students might be asked to create a multimedia poster on a topic after they have written a report.

Technology use as a separate subject area

Technology is not being used as a way through which we teach and learn, but is being seen as a separate computer class, “iPad time” or keyboarding practice.  Students have to wait until they assigned rotation time in a computer lab until they are able to work on a digital project or wait until their teacher includes use of technology in their weekly schedule.

Technology as a $1000 pencil initiative

Alan November in the book Curriculum21 (p.189) by Heidi Hayes Jacobs says: “The real problem is not adding technology to the current organization of the classroom, but changing the culture of teaching and learning”. November also talks about these “initiatives as “$1,000 pencil” programs“. Technology is meant to aid teachers in redefining and transforming teaching and learning. Good teaching will be amplified, while not so good teaching, even with technology, will be not be so good, expensive teaching. There might be visible technology in the classroom (tablets, interactive whiteboards, smartphones, 1:1 laptop programs), but does not guarantee the use of such as a technique or strategy to facilitate learning for our students.


Technology seen as the solution to motivate and engage students

It is a reality that more and more students seem unmotivated and disengaged in our schools.  Assuming that the use of technology is the solution to this phenomenon is a mistake. While students might initially be motivated by the use of shiny devices, this quickly dissipates. Engagement does not equal learning when the use of technology is not supported by strong objectives and goals as the foundation of its use. Many students would be engaged by being allowed to use their smart phones in class. However, without a strategic pedagogical plan how to connect such use to learning goals, students might just go through the motions without ever making connections to these goals.



16 thoughts on “What are the Biggest Mistakes Teachers Make When Integrating Technology into the Classroom?”

  1. This is sooooo true! If we are not using technology with our students for collaboration and creation, it is wasteful. I have to constantly remind myself how to use the few iPads in my room responsibly by rising above the substitution stage.

  2. I agree with the sentiment of the article, but wonder if you have specific suggestions as to how to evaluate if a district is using technology in ways that support and enhance learning? In our district, for example, I see all variations of the list you’ve provided above as well as examples of fantastic teaching and robust integration of technology. When asked recently by our school committee “How are we measuring the effectiveness of the investments we’ve made in technology”, I found it difficult to answer since the ways in which teachers incorporate and use technology vary so widely. I’d appreciate any thoughts you have on this since we certainly could benefit from being able to monitor our progress in this area as we move forward. In this data-driven culture, measuring our success in this area has eluded me.

  3. Another Home Run post, Silvia 🙂 Your five mistakes are spot on.

    When I left the classroom in 2001 we were fighting the “computer lab” syndrome. In most schools kids got 20 minutes per week to explore the “$1000 electronic pencil.” Although many teachers and schools have done a fantastic job bringing their classrooms into the 21st century, it is sad to see that it is 15 years later and we are still fighting the same battle in many places.

  4. A very apt write up. I feel the same. The more the teachers learn, the more they earn in terms of honor, respect and recognition. The objective has to be to generate their cloud presence for children love to have their presence on their screens ????

  5. Yes, Yes and YES! Which begs the question…how are we, as educators, engaging in, documenting for, iterating, and growing our own professional learning and practice?

    Silvia, your posts continue to resonate and inspire deeper thinking!

  6. I totally agree with the statement which says that “no shiny device can replace the definition and implementation of well-thought objectives based on strong values and the real purpose of Education in our times and throughout History!”. No teacher should aim at fleeing his duty, escaping from the core of the mission, by introducing dérivatives to what is really at stake.

  7. Hello,
    I am so guilty of “technology being used to substitute an analog activity.” I have never thought of it as being a substitute, I thought I was engaging my students and gearing them to use the computer more. Also, at our school we do teach technology as a separate subject. I strongly agree we need to change the culture of learning in technology. One way I am trying to embark on this journey is by incorporating Google +. When I surveyed my students and asked them how many of them have a Google + account, no one raised their hand. I also do strongly agree we should not waste money on the “bells and whistles” of technology, we just need the basics and to learn how to change the culture. Thank you so much for this information.

    1. WWW more of meaning means whatever, whenever, wherever. Sounding warning bells for teachers as no longer the sages on the stage but just a facilitator to the surprise of many. Technology is the ready reckoner for all now ????

Comments are closed.