EDTECH 541: Integrating Technology for the Content

One huge advantage to using technology in content areas is the edutainment value. Our textbook has chapters at the end of it that have a plethora of ideas on how to integrate technology into the classroom to make the subject matter more engaging. My intent is to highlight some of the main points they bring up.

English and Language Arts

Stories: These can be stories the students write by themselves or as a team. Just like students will write stories on paper and pass the story to the next person, they can do the story online and make changes more easily.  The teacher can monitor student progress to make sure all students are involved and are following directions. Student literacies are amplified by using technology because there is now a three dimensional component to some stories. Whereas we used to use our imaginations to “see” a story, we can now “read” someone else’s interpretation, or produce a digital product based on what we envisioned happening in the story. Digital storytelling is even a “technique” that has arisen where students communicate, using audio and visual cues, autobiographies or biographies of others.

Blog or Vlog: Students can express themselves in writing, a blog, or with using video, a vlog. (p.268) They can also do collaborative projects in wiki areas or by making a website as a group. Real world opportunities to be responsible to colleagues, meeting deadlines, and making contributions to group projects, like a wiki or website, help students prepare for the intensely collaborative nature of the working world.

Standards include expanding student access and abilities: The NCTE/IRA Standards are written vaguely enough that digital media can easily be used to give students access to print and non-print texts in various genres. Students are also expected to employ a variety of ways to communicate their ideas, what they have synthesized from what they read, or to generate new information. (p.269)

Language acquisition for students still learning a written or spoken language: Interactive lessons that let the learner hear phonetic sounds and connect them to letter patterns, can be very powerful to reinforce language structure and function.  (p.272)

Annotations: When utilizing paper-based resources, either the students have to own the book so they can write in it, or they need post-it notes to write down ideas as they peruse the text. With some eBooks, the software not only lets you highlight text, but you can also write notes to yourself as you are reading. Since is digital, in some cases, you can even use the software to aggregate what you highlighted, and the notes you wrote so that reviewing the material is easier than if you were using paper methods.

Foreign Language and Second Language Instruction

I expect the opportunities for students in these subjects are very similar to those who are learning English, however technology will allow students to be more fully immersed in a culture. They can visit the country online, can read websites written in the language they are studying, and depending on the teacher, they may even be able to have pen-pals from a country that writes in the language they are learning. Ideally they would be able to physically visit the country that speaks the language they are learning, but for some students, being able to visit their museums or other cultural locations online will be all they can afford while they are students. That experience is still far better than merely looking at pictures in paper-based books.

For English Language Learners (ELL) where English is an additional language, websites that have words translated in multiple languages can help students see parallels between the language(s) they know and English, if there are connections that can be made. For some students, having a visual way to see the structure of a language, and to be able to manipulate words and see how their meaning change, is very powerful. There are also many ELL websites where they sound out the words for students, and give instant feedback on whether they chose the right word for a given syntax. (chapter 10)

Mathematics and Science Instruction

Technology definitely can assist with making mathematics come more to life than having students merely use pencil and paper to learn it. I actually have mixed feelings about technology in science because I am a science teacher and therefore have a built-in bias for having students manipulate non-virtual objects.

From concrete to abstract: For math, making any numerical process be more three dimensional is very useful for many students. In elementary school we manipulated blocks and Cuisenaire rods to get a concrete feeling for what numbers can represent. When I took EDTECH 531, we used blocks in Minecraft to be virtual Cuisenaire blocks. I still think that developmentally having students physically manipulate objects is important, but there may be equipment limitations so students would have to manipulate blocks virtually at home. (p.310).

Graphing calculators: In algebra, a graphing calculator is one of the most amazing tools, because you can change one part of an equation, and look to see how that affects the shape of a graph. I am so old that we did not use graphing calculators when I was in school. I have had to teach myself how to use one in the last year because I was tutoring a student taking algebra 2. I still don’t know how to use the graphing calculator well, but I can show her how the graph changes based on the sign, a coefficient, or something being added or subtracted.  It should now be commonplace for schools to have graphing calculators their students can use in class and at home. There are also graphing programs online, and of course there is Excel, for students to have a digital way to graph data sets. (Graphing calculators are discussed on page 313).

Apps and games for math: There are loads of apps that are made to let people play with math. I think one reason for this is because it is really easy to code for mathematical logic. Coding, in general, has its foundations in math, and at least at the arithmetic level, it is very straightforward. I think it was an EDTECH 597 class where we were supposed to learn how to use apps with students, or something like that. It turned out he had us create an app. One thing I learned in that class was that mathematical logic is practically built in to anything that can be coded, and physics parts are already a part of the process for some of the software you use to create apps. You don’t have to explain F=ma because they physics engine already knows how to do those types of “common sense” applications.  This is one reason I am including coding with STEM lessons- the coding process lets students see the consequences of numbers.

Probeware or calculator based laboratories (CBL): This applies for both math and science simulations. Vernier and Texas Instruments produce physical equipment and software that lets students manipulate things and get feedback on what they are exploring. Some of the probes measure simple physics things, or can replace common chemistry equipment like thermometers or pH meters / pH paper. What is beautiful, though, about probeware is that you can see changes happen on the screen as they are happening in the experiment. That may seem silly, but it is one thing to know heat is going into a solution, and another thing to see a graph of the temperature changing as water comes to a boil. The plateau is something we memorize, but to see that at 100 degrees Celsius is when water boils and even though heat is being added, the temperature is not changing, is very powerful. Likewise, I’ve seen math teachers use the probe that gives instant feedback with sonar waves. Students physically move their bodies to change the beeping of the device. They learn how to control their speed of motion to get the consistent feedback they desire. CBL are very useful to engage students in actively being a part of the math (or science) they are learning.

Science labs:  I agree with NSTA and ACS’s stance on having students manipulate objects whenever possible. (p.319). I do not have a personal stance on dissections, though.  If the student is going to be a surgeon, then it makes sense to have them literally cut up the flesh of animals, fish, reptiles, amphibians, or invertebrates.  I know I found it useful to have pig body parts I could handle and look at in three dimensions when I cut up the fetal pig in college. Could I have learned the same information from a computer program had one existed 25 years ago? I may have been able to do just as well on a test because what you study for a test are not lab techniques or skills. You don’t get evaluated on how well you don’t massacre your specimen. You get graded on being able to identify the location of specific body parts in a diagram.

In contrast to dissections, pretty much all other labs do involve students learning skills and techniques. As simplistic as it may seem, it is important for students to know they should use a glass rod instead of a thermometer to stir a solution. Yes, that is easily assessed in a multiple choice quiz, but when they break the thermometer and are asked to pay for it, they quickly learn they should have used the $0.25 glass rod to stir their stuff. I worked as a virtual teacher at a school that used the Gizmos for science labs. I have mixed feelings about the labs because some are so complicated that it was really difficult to explain to students how to do them. The company wrote directions, but they might as well have been written in  language the students had never seen because they are so hard to understand. Some of the “labs” also have kids explore really obscure concepts. It was like we are having students do mental gymnastics so they can have the frustration of not having a lab work for them. In contrast, some virtual lab companies do not let students make mistakes. It is literally impossible for students to select a wrong answer and see the consequences of that decision. I tried to get a job with a company so I could fix that part of their system, but I was not hired. I’m just going to have to create my own labs, which I wish I knew how to do! I’m still trying to figure out which software or programming language I need to learn so that I can create mistakes for students. That is how we learn science- by making mistakes.

One last science comment, I understand why there are virtual biotechnology labs, and with the way equipment keeps improving or becomes more automated, maybe it does not matter if a student knows how to use a micropipettor. Even so, there is no way a virtual lab can teach a student the nuances of how to use a micropipettor and shoot off the tip so they don’t contaminate their samples. Some things just can’t be done with a joystick or mouse, and then have the person be prepared for a real life lab situation.

Social Sciences

The NCSS standards include ten themes, all of which involve students looking beyond their home, and into the lives of others. Because the ideas go beyond what can be easily acquired at home, multimedia is used to show students what other cultures are like, how they change over time, what power structures are in place globally and locally, how there is disparity with production, distribution, and consumption of goods, how technology and science have influenced decisions and opportunities, how peoples throughout the world are connected, and what an individual’s civic responsibilities can be. (p.335).

Technology examples:

Simulated Problem-Solving Environments– think games. Over thirty years ago, there was a simple lemonade stand game that played on the first Apple computers. Here students learned about how to strategize to make the most money at a lemonade stand given weather conditions on various days. I am old enough that I was one of those little kids who started gaming with lemonade, moved on to Intellivision, and then stopped because my mom did not see a reason to own a computer. Had I grown up with a computer, I’d probably be making the games instead of writing about them. I’m not dead yet, so there are still some ways I can figure out how to use games to teach content. EDTECH 531 introduced me to Minecraft, Second Life, and World of Warcraft. I saw how each of them can be used to teach students survival skills, cultural situations, or spatial comprehension of items. We had two really awesome scenarios, both situated problem-solving events, in Minecraft. In one, we were shipwrecked and had to work together to build a town, and survive. In the other, we simulated the Oklahoma land rush. In that case, we were not initially comrades and were on our own to survive the night.

Our book mentions other, more mainstream, sources for simulated problem-solving issues. Oregon Trail is a game I’ve heard much about, but I don’t remember if I ever played it. The others are new to me: Muzzy Lane’s Making History, GeoThentic, iEARN Collaboration Center, The International Communication and Negotiation Simulations (ICONS), and Who Killed William Robinson.  (p.338).

Information Visualization- bringing data to life by giving it texture, character, or a two or three dimensional representation. The software used to do this can be as simple as making a graph, or more involved by making a timeline to document when and where events happened.

Virtual Field Trips– think free travel. Even though we don’t have to make travel arrangements, effective virtual field trips are still very thought out and well planned. There are people who spend time (and money) to build a cultural environment in Second Life so that other people can get a somewhat authentic experience by visiting their space. Naturally, museums have online resources so people can visit parts of the museum without having to be there in person.

Adventure Learning– think virtual exploration. There are companies mentioned in our book, Earthducation Adventure Learning Series, The JASON Project, and GoNorth!, where students virtually travel with a companion who is somewhere doing the things they are learning about. This external person is exploring a location with a webcam or photographic digital camera so the students can see what is happening. (p. 340).

Digital Storytelling– archiving biographies or making autobiographies to preserve history. I want to make digital stories of family members because they have seen and done things I will never experience. For example, my father-in-law was born on a farm in Kansas, worked his way up to management level with McCormick, and now as a retired person travels to various second and third world countries to help them with their agriculture. He told me some of his history once and now that I know about digital storytelling, I want to capture him telling his story. Even though I did not provide grandchildren, my sister-in-law did. I want my niece and nephew to be able to know about their grandfather when they are older.

I worked at a school that had a Holocaust survivor give a presentation to the students. At the time I was doing National Boards, so I naturally thought to videotape the presentation. Fortunately they did record it, and I think they got permission to show it to students in the future. There are so few WWII survivors left because it ended seventy years ago. There is only so long people can live. Preserving history using a digital medium is something students can do today, so that history is remembered in a more authentic way.

Geospatial Analysis- think where am I?  Geospatial analysis involves using Geographic Information Systems (GIS). Along with Google Earth and ArcGIS, students can look at geography and visualize the places they are learning about in class. The GPS in our car is a type of geospatial analysis system. We can use the one in our phone to do Geocaching, a game where people visit a location, hide something, and then leave the coordinates for others to use to find the spot. (p.344).

 Music and Art

For music, technology can be used to create sounds and to record them. Both are skills that can lead to careers. Our book also points out the importance of listening to music to learn about what it means. Music technology includes software like GarageBand to record music, Practica Musica for music theory, and MuseScore for music notation.  (p. 358).

The visual arts use technology to produce works of art, as well as visiting artwork online or with software. Students take virtual fieldtrips to art museums. They can also create ePortfolios to show their work. Personally, by taking EDTECH classes at Boise State, I’ve become familiar with iPad apps that can be used for creating digital images. I’m taking an Adobe class on Photoshop where they have us turning photographs into unique images each week. I even do some of the work using apps on my iPhone.

Students can utilize low cost apps to complete projects in photography or digital media. Teachers can create tutorial videos to help show technique, or to explain a concept. There are also many multimedia resources to help students realize their potential, or to learn more about other artists and their work. (p. 365).



Roblyer, M. D., & Doering, A. H. (2013). Integrating educational technology into teaching [6th edition].


About Melissa

I am a former high school science teacher and recently completed a MET degree at Boise State

Posted on April 5, 2015, in 1.1 Instructional Systems Design, 1.1.1 Analying, 1.1.2 Designing stuff, 1.1.3 Develloping products, 1.1.4 Implementing what was created, 1.1.5 Evaluating, assessment, 1.2 Message Design, 1.3 Instructional Strategies, 1.4 Learner characteristics, 2.2 Audiovisual Technologies, 2.3 Computer-Based Technologies, 2.4 Integrated Technologies, 3.1 Media Utilization, 4.3 Delivery System Management, EDTECH 541, Standard 1: DESIGN and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Your blog post is very comprehensive, Melissa! I enjoyed reading all the different ways you listed that technology can be integrated into the content areas. These assignments were a challenge for me, but very helpful. I think it is important to realize how the different content areas apply to our own content area, and how we can integrate technology into the lessons that we create for these areas. Your post has been helpful to me and has given me a few ideas for future lessons.

    • Judy, thank you for taking time to read my really long post. I think I got a little carried away and may not have fully understood the directions. I tend to over-write when I am confused that way. It makes me happy to read I may have given you some ideas. After all, hopefully that is my role as a student, too. To challenge my peers to have an alternative look at something. One strength of the Boise State program is that it is open to students from every geographical location. I know I have benefited from the multiple perspectives I’ve had the opportunity to learn about over the semesters of taking classes here.

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