Obstacles and Solutions for Integrating Technology in a Selected Content Area

In The 10 Barriers to Technology Adoption, authors Norris and Soloway examine ten obstacles schools face when attempting to implement new technologies into their curricula. I believe that teachers frequently run into these obstacles and many schools, especially private or small school districts, struggle to effectively overcome them.

  1. Lack of vision: Schools fail to set up an effective technology plan or, if a plan is in place, it is not always communicated well to the teachers and staff.
  2. Lack of leadership: Similar to #1, school administration may not effectively communicate the technology plan or have a clear way to implement it.
  3. Lack of money: Many schools face the digital divide, a separation between those that have access to technology and those that do not.
  4. -6. Norris and Soloway combine obstacles #4-6 together into one problem: curriculum. “As schools now move to one-to-one via BYOD—bring your own device—administrators can’t expect to be successful on the backs of teacher-generated curriculum materials. Teachers are not curriculum producers; teachers are, well, teachers” (Norris & Soloway, 2011). Effectively integrating technology into the content area is perhaps the greatest challenge for teachers and administration. The amount and variety of available applications can be overwhelming to many in the education field.  Evaluating the usefulness and relative advantage of each program also adds to the difficulties. It is often left to the teacher to find an application that works well with their curriculum, obtain permission to install it, get adminstration, IT, and parents on board, and then successfully weave it into an already packed curriculum.
  1. Infrastructure – School must update servers, wi-fi, and Internet access.  All of this may be too costly for many schools and districts.
  2. Parents – Parents, often unfamiliar with educational technology, may resist what they believe are just games or toys for their children to use in school.  Communication with parents is crucial to gaining their support.
  3. Time- Finding the time to research, learn, implement, and support the integration of new technologies will take patience and commitment by teachers, administration, IT, and parents.
  4. Assessments- Many argue that technology is not effective in raising test scores and to some extent, I would agree.  When technology is sporadically and randomly sprinkled into the classroom, it is futile to expect test scores to suddenly rise.

So how do we, those of us who see the great value in improving our schools through effective technology integration, address these barriers? How do individual teachers go about effectively integrating technology into their specific content area?  “Professional development, the human infrastructure, needs refurbishing; it shouldn’t consist of random workshops or lectures that teachers suffer through on specific PD days. Rather, just as professionals in other industries are constantly honing their skills, PD needs to be an ongoing activity that is focused on helping teachers adopt essential one-to-one technology” (Norris & Soloway, 2011).

In the area of social studies, there are numerous ways to easily integrate technology, but quite often teachers are not taught how to do this or given clear expectations. Google Earth, Google Maps, and IWitness videos are just a few of the programs available to social studies classrooms. Teachers can find primary sources on websites like cia.gov and the National Archives.  Students can read about current events on sites like Newsela, which adjusts the articles based on a student’s reading level. Online encyclopedias offer updated information for research and essays. Many social studies applications are free and can easily be installed on school hardware or accessed through the Internet. Virtual field trips can also offer students an opportunity to learn about places and sites they may not otherwise have the chance to experience. Creating social studies lessons with technology enhanced curriculum can help the lessons to be more exciting and engaging for the students.  I believe it will take both skilled and trained teachers who are passionate about bringing classrooms into the 21st century and technology integration specialists who can bridge the gap between the available technology and effective implementation.

Bernard, S. (2009, May 27). How to Teach with Technology: Social Studies. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/digital-generation-social-studies-lessons

Norris, C., & Soloway, E. (2011, November 16). The 10 Barriers to Technology Adoption. Retrieved from https://www.districtadministration.com/article/10-barriers-technology-adoption

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5 thoughts on “Obstacles and Solutions for Integrating Technology in a Selected Content Area

  1. Thank you for sharing your list of obstacles and solutions. The lack of leadership, money, and infrastructure are key points. As a private school teacher in the suburbs of Metro Detroit there is a major “technological divide” from the inner city. Through school funding (tuition) and fundraising, there is very litle that my school does not provide for the students. There are smartboards in every class room and each year they are being updated where needed. I was given a new iPad to use and my students have an iPad and two computer carts that can be used in the classroom. Unfortunately not every teacher knows the benefits of these tools and how to use them. Less then 20 minutes from our school there are teachers who have to provide pencils and paper for their students in Detroit – so technology is a low priority. Also, what students have at home becomes an obstacle.

    I like the list of resources you gave. I often use Google Maps/Earth and when my students work on their travel magazine project the first site I give them is the CIA Fact Book. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts and resources for the social studies classroom!

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  2. Hi Joanna,

    I think the barriers you pointed out are relevant and present in some way at every institution. You mentioned about the technology plan not being communicated very well. This is something that has been pushed lately at my workplace. We’re really getting into assessment, so every tech request and training we provide is being analyzed and planned out, which is a nice thing. I’m not really sure how to fix the “no money” barrier, other than just being creative and using a little ingenuity. That can work sometimes, but requires more hours than just buying the proper equipment.

    You are spot on that training is key. I work as a staff member and a faculty member. I think a lot of my training comes from just poking around Youtube, or researching stuff myself. This obviously isn’t the case for everyone, so regular training is something that I hope to see implemented soon at my workplace. I would like to see really good in-house training rather than conference training. Conferences are great, but with budget cuts, I think it would be ideal if we can get that training in-house. Nice blog post with lots of good info!

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    • Jared, I agree, in house training is often more effective than conferences and conventions. Training done within a school by current staff members can better address the specific needs of that school and its faculty.

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  3. Hi Joanna,

    Great post! Lots of interesting things to think about. For another course, I have been reading about 1:1 implementations. While that’s sort of a whole separate realm of integration, it’s been fascinating to read about how districts go about preparing teachers and the community for the shift (or not!). The need for a clear vision and strong leadership is vital for the success of the initiative, yet many districts do not seem to take the time to articulate those goals and objectives. The need for clarity and leadership from the district level is essential to the success of technology integration on a systemic level.

    Also, I agree with you that it will take teachers who are passionate to effectively integrate technology and move things forward. My main takeaway from reading this post, along with the others this week, is that the onus really seems to lie on the teacher at this point. Regardless of whether or not the district is supportive or clear in their direction, the individual teacher has a lot of power to move forward. From writing grants to secure additional resources to crafting personalized professional development opportunities, passionate teachers spend a lot of time teaching themselves and learning about new strategies for integration. While there are many obstacles, many of them systemic, there’s also a lot of opportunity for individual problem solving!

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  4. Hi Joanna. When I was researching this topic, I came across this article (The 10 Barriers to Technology Adoption) too. I also referenced it in my blog. I completely agree with you when you say, “There are numerous ways to easily integrate technology, but quite often teachers are not taught how to do this or given clear expectations.” This applies to every content area. Often, we hear ideas of how to use technology, but aren’t taught how. I know several staff members in my building who want to integrate technology more, but struggle with the time they feel it would take to learn how. Providing professional development specifically on technology integration is something that needs to be more of a priority. Technology provides so many opportunities for our students, so I feel that it needs to be moved up in the list of priorities. Great post! I enjoyed reading it!

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