We often present the Technology Integration Matrix (TIM) as a “common vocabulary” for technology integration. We didn’t pick that phrase out of thin air. The TIM was developed to meet a specific, pressing need, although its utility as a “common vocabulary” expanded far beyond anything I had imagined when we began.
What We Started Out To Do
Looking back at the turn of the millennium, Florida was a leading state in the adoption of education technology. The state has some of the largest school districts in the country and there were quite a few ambitious technology initiatives around the state in public, charter, and private schools. The Florida Department of Education strongly encouraged technology adoption.
Between 2000 and 2005, FCIT participated in many of the efforts to bring some coherence to the rapidly-accelerating process of technology adoption. We programmed and managed the statewide Technology Resources Survey. We assisted the Florida DOE in the creation of the School Technology and Resources (STaR) chart. And we facilitated the writing of the Commissioner’s Laptops for Learning report. Each of these efforts made a bit of progress in moving the concept of technology integration from a counting of boxes and wires to an emphasis on research-based pedagogical practices. Nonetheless for many people, “technology integration” was often more about the quantity of technology than the quality of integration.
During this time, the Florida DOE encouraged us to develop a statewide system for identifying levels of technology integration that could provide a common language among the 67 school districts in the state. Perhaps due to my involvement with the technical surveys and the desire of the Florida DOE to assess the state of technology in the districts, I was thinking of the “common vocabulary” primarily as a means to ensure consistent terminology and measures across the state.
After many meetings, focus groups, and input from large and small districts across the state we decided that the resulting “definition” of technology integration should:
- Be based on pedagogical practices shown by research to positively effect student achievement.
- Use the language of education rather than the language of technology.
- Support professional development. (The NETS had been widely adopted, but several district leaders pushed for something closer to an implementation framework that would provide a practical on-ramp toward achieving those goals.)
The result was the current Technology Integration Matrix of five levels of integration across five characteristics of meaningful learning environments.
Talking TIM: The Power of Changing the Language
What was a surprise to me was how much impact the TIM had beyond the administrative level I was focused on at the time. Not only were district technology coordinators using a common language, but conversations among teachers and tech coaches were also changing. It’s easy to get bedazzled by the sparkling features of any new technology. The Next Great Tech Thing is always going to be faster, better, and way cooler. The TIM grounds us so we aren’t quite as likely to be carried away with bells and whistles lacking in pedagogical merit. The language of the TIM always brings those conversations back to teaching and learning. Whether it’s a district administrator deciding what technology to purchase or a classroom teacher deciding what technology to utilize in a lesson, the TIM changes the conversation from shiny features to questions like these:
- Does this site lead to active engagement with the content or is it just a drill and practice exercise?
- Does the new gizmo facilitate better collaboration among students and with outside experts?
- Will this teaching program help students to build upon their existing knowledge or is it just going to plow ahead on a predetermined course?
- Can students use this new app to work on authentic projects, or is it limited to contrived situations unrelated to the real world?
- Will this upgrade provide students with better opportunities to reflect upon their work as they use it?
When people are “talking TIM” rather than “talking tech,” the conversations will always center on teaching and learning. The more TIM talk taking place in our schools, the better we’ll be utilizing our tech in pedagogically significant ways. As an added bonus, TIM talk is also a great way to stop pushy tech sales reps in their tracks. There’s nothing like a well-timed TIM question to completely befuddle a rep pitching some feature entirely unrelated to teaching and learning. 😀
Roy Winkelman is a 40+ year veteran teacher of students from every level kindergarten through graduate school. As the former Director of FCIT, he began the Center's focus on providing students with rich content collections from which to build their understanding. When not glued to his keyboard, Dr. Winkelman can usually be found puttering around his tomato garden in Pittsburgh.