One of the obstacles I have found in integrating technology in the ELA classroom, is that students do not know how to use the technology. We often think that because our students are digital natives, they know how to use technology. That assumption is wrong. Teenagers, especially young teenagers, know how to use technology for entertainment, but not many know how to use it productively. I administered a survey to all of my 7th grade students this past October. Most of the students responded that the only productive use to which they put technology was searching for information on the Internet, and typing homework in Word. Surprisingly, this year I have had students complain when we use the computer lab because they would rather hand-write their essays.
A solution for this problem is to use technology more regularly. When it is part of the routine, teachers can include a typing component for those students who need it, and students will be more comfortable using technology to create. There are many tools available for students to organize their thoughts and visually present their thought process. Using tools like Glogster, LucidPress, and YouTube, can allow students to express themselves more creatively and may make writing more interesting. One solution I found to students not knowing how to format an essay (or use most of the tools in a word processor) was to create a screen cast showing how and MLA formatted essay should look. It shows the students where to click to center their title, how to change the font, etc. Screen casts, and other videos, are a great solution for students who have been absent as well.
Another obstacle in integrating technology with ELA, is that the resources do not really exist, or they are ridiculously expensive. My school received a quote to use MyAccess, a writing program that includes instruction and computer grading for essays, for $16,000 per year. That’s a pretty steep price for an underfunded public school.
One solution to the lack of materials, is to create your own. There will probably never be a perfect app for language arts, but videos are another story. As I mentioned before, screen casts and other presentation apps can allow ELA teachers to show processes and remind students of procedures.
A final obstacle to integrating technology in the ELA classroom, is teacher training and teaching methods. Integrating technology, and not just using it for word processing and presentations, requires that teachers rethink their physical classroom structure, their teaching strategies, and their classroom management.
The solution to teacher training and teaching methods is to provide the necessary training to help teachers decide when using technology would be be beneficial. I have had several unproductive days with my students while we have worked out the bugs involved with using our hybrid classroom/lab. Since it is a sign-up lab, it feels a little wasteful to take the lab and not use the computers the entire time, but part of integrating technology is deciding what percent of your instruction and/or materials should be technology based. More teacher training is necessary, and more experimentation will help teachers see how to rethink their teaching.