The advantages of infusing technology into content areas is the reason I began my journey in the EdTech program with Boise State University. The technological side of teaching came easier to me than others, and that led me to explore it more. I loved finding things that were engaging, fun, and valuable that could be integrated into my teaching all day long, then share that with my co-workers. The more I did this, the more my passion grew. Eventually, I learned that there was an app or game or something that could be used in every single subject throughout the day. Considering the future of our students and the way technology is advancing in society, I felt it was critical for our students to become comfortable using technology in many ways.
One important thing for teachers to understand is that the word "technology" isn't limited to internet or google-search-research only. Many teachers I've come in contact with over my professional career shun at the idea of using technology because they have a limited understanding of what it is and what it provides. For that reason, it makes sense that they only consider using technology when they're writing a research report on a topic. They use it for 1) researching a topic and then 2) typing the report. This is a great first step for teachers to begin their partnership with technology, but it shouldn't be their last. Another problem I've heard of is that technology is just "fluff" and not meaningful in teaching. Their knowledge of the vast resources has probably overwhelmed them to not look very carefully for valuable uses, or they've had limited exposure to the more poorly put together resources.
The arts and sciences can be enhanced with technology use. The Core standards themselves, can be enhanced through integration of technology. For example, this week I was researching resources I could use for a Lewis and Clark unit I teach my fourth graders. I had already included video clips in the unit that helped engage my students, but I wanted to use technology to deepen students' understanding more. I discovered a Google Earth extension that mapped out the whole Expedition's journey, but was interactive in the fact that it allowed students to click at points along the way to watch videos, view real pictures or primary source documents, or read information related to that stop. Not only could students zoom in and out with the Google Earth features, it becomes much more realistic and visual for them to see how long the trek was, especially while walking! The technological piece made the Unit more engaging, exciting, and educational. There was a clear and meaningful purpose for using the technology to enhance the unit and lead to better teaching and better learning. No teacher could call the use of Google Earth "fluff".
There are also many ways students can explore the arts through technology. For those students interested in art, music, or production in their futures, using an iPad to record themselves or put together presentations with the iMovie app is a great resource. The app makes it simple for students to add music (legally purchased), video clips, or images to present an idea. Students could create a drama script, then plan and produce their show. They are practicing all the essential skills: reading, writing, speaking, and listening. There is a high degree of creativity and collaboration that is sometimes hard to create within classrooms. This is a much more meaningful experience for learners. Students can branch this idea out into many other avenues. For example, students could set up a News Reporter booth, and record themselves orally describing their research.
Finally, there are many, many, MANY resources available for enhancing instruction. Just one example I've seen is an online interactive owl pellet dissection. Sometimes I've had funding to buy the real deal for my classroom, but I don't always have a spare $50-$100. However, the dissection of an owl pellet aligns perfectly with my science standards of teaching about ecosystems and food chains. It also allows students some hands-on experiences practicing the scientific method by starting with this question: What things might we find inside an owl pellet? Students love being able to explore this on their own. If I can't afford the real owl pellets, there are online options for students to dissect a virtual owl pellet. There ability to bring hands-on science is increased with technology while also limiting the cost to a teacher's budget. Who can complain about that?
All in all, technology isn't "fluff" and it has real, valuable meaning. Teachers who are brave enough to explore for themselves will find countless ways to enhance their content instruction. Technology will help students advance in their futures by allowing them the chance to get comfortable with the interface now. I believe all teachers want to prepare their students for successful futures, and technology must be a key factor within their curriculum.