Technology Integration in Content Areas


Eight lessons learned.

|1.   Leadership is the key ingredient.

2.   If you don’t know where you’re going, you’re likely to wind up somewhere else.

3.   Technology integration is a s-l-o-w process.

4.   No matter how many computers are available or how much training teachers have had, there are still substantial numbers who are “talking the talk” but not “walking  the walk.”

5.   Effective use of technology requires changes in teaching; in turn, the adoption of a new teaching strategy can be a catalyst for technology integration.

6.   Each school needs easy access to professionals with expertise in technology and pedagogy.

7.   Barriers to using technology to support learning are the same for all poor communities, but some populations have additional issues.

8.   Evaluation is often the weakest element of technology programs.

Source: Seir-Tec Intensive Site Schools:

The computer no longer appears to be a technological enigma that can be understood only by science and math wizards. Students come to view the computer as a manageable and multifaceted tool for writing essays and stories, per- forming sociological and scientific research, solving mathematical problems, and learning more about any subject they wish to study.

Teachers of all content areas can foster this attitude in their students by design- ing instruction that integrates technology as a tool for learning rather than relying on technology as a delivery mechanism. This presents quite a challenge to teachers who are themselves novice technology integrators or who specialize in subjects that are not traditionally associated with technology-based learning activities. Remem- ber, the emphasis is not on learning a software application such as PowerPoint, but on how to use the technology to solve problems. This chapter presents sample learn- ing activities for five major content areas: mathematics, science, language arts, social studies, as well as early childhood and special education. In addition, four multi- disciplinary lessons are outlined. It is our hope that teachers will use these activities as a springboard for their own creativity.


Teachers will find that the process of designing learning activities that integrate tech- nology is very similar to designing traditional lesson plans. Many of the same fac- tors must be taken under consideration, whether students work with computers or with pencil and paper. In formulating learning activities, the teacher tries to answer a series of questions:

  • For what ages or grade levels is this activity appropriate?
  • What is the purpose of the activity?
  • What will students know or be able to do after completing the activity? What ma- terials are required to perform this activity?
  • What preparation is required on the teacher’s part? On the students’ part? What knowledge, skills, and concepts are necessary for students to complete the ac- tivity successfully?
  • What tasks are most effective in teaching the topic?
  • How will student learning be assessed and at what points during the activity?
  • What extensions might be useful in reinforcing or expanding knowledge gained through the activity?
  • What comments will contribute to greater success of the activity?


Most teachers are accustomed to considering these factors in creating learning ac- tivities. There are additional factors that can make or break the technology-based learning experience. Other questions a teacher might address follow.


  • How will my classroom change or adapt when I integrate technology?
  • Which technology is best suited for meeting the learning purpose?
  • How can technology be used to optimize learning?
  • What aspect of the computer’s capabilities make it the best tool to use? To a large extent, activities must be tailored according to the hardware and software re- sources available in the individual teacher’s classroom, school, or
  • How can an activity meet both curriculum standards and the National Educa- tional Technology Standards for Students?
  • What if there is limited access to the technology? Do students have access to com- puters in the classroom so that the only person controlling the amount of com- puter time is the classroom teacher?
  • If so, how many computers are available?
  • Can the entire class participate in the activity at the same time or will students need to work in shifts?
  • Will students work individually, in pairs, or in larger groups?
  • If computers are available in a central setting such as the media center, what con- straints are placed on computer time for students?
  • Will students work during normal class hours, or will they schedule computer time outside of normal class hours?


These factors will determine how practical a given activity is for a particular class.

Most educational software is on CD-ROM or DVD. Usually, these programs are hybrid versions, meaning that the CD or DVD will run on a Macintosh or PC com- puter. Be sure to read machine requirements carefully before attempting to run the software on your computer. In addition, be sure to read the readme file; specific steps often are required to have the software sound, video, and printing work properly.

One final note: Making a backup copy of the CD or DVD is recommended as a safety precaution in case the original CD or DVD is lost or damaged.

The same precaution applies to software that requires students to store their work on disks. Have students save their work twice: first on their own disk or memory device and second to a shared network folder. Make it a habit to back up the shared network folder on a portable medium such as a zip disk, CD, or memory device.

Resources for Lesson Creation

All the learning activities presented here have been designed for flexible use. That is, they can be tailored easily to meet the special needs of an individual teacher   or class. Teachers can simplify a complex activity for younger or less experienced students by providing or even inputting data before the activity begins. On the other hand, a relatively simple activity becomes more challenging if students are required to research and key in data on their own. Teachers can also customize the activity by changing the topic. For example, the learning activity for researching scientists is also useful for researching writers, historical figures, athletes, and so forth.

Another feature of the learning activities in this chapter is that they are uniform in format following ISTE’s National Educational Technology Standards for Students: Con- necting Curriculum and Technology (Thomas & Bitter, 2000). It is recommended that teachers decide on a standard format for designing learning activities. Doing so makes it easier to share learning activities with other teachers who want to integrate technology in their own classrooms.

The format of the learning activities incorporates the following subheads.


Activity Title: Title of the Activity

Grade-Level Range. This is an indicator of the age or grade level for which the ac- tivity is considered appropriate. It should be used as a guideline only, not as a hard- and-fast rule. The level of difficulty of the activities can be adjusted for different grade levels or even different ability levels within the same class. Gifted students and those with prior computer experience will probably be quite successful with ac- tivities aimed at higher grade levels.

Purpose. A simply stated goal or set of goals that the lesson should accomplish.

Description. A summary of what students will do. Of course, in a very real sense, all technology-based lessons share an important objective: to help students become comfortable and competent in using technology as a tool.

Activity Preparation. This section lists the preparation required before the activity is undertaken. The teacher needs to determine whether sufficient access to technol- ogy and learning resources exists to carry out the activity.

  • Do computers have enough memory to run the learning technology?
  • Is the software or digital media readily available, or must it be ordered externally?
  • Does the activity require tools and resources such as textbooks, web pages, guest speakers, and so on? A critical consideration under this category is whether there is an available source of data that students will need to complete the
  • Do students have network access to a database, or will they be required to do li- brary research before beginning computer work?

Activity Procedure. This section is a step-by-step description of the activity in which students will participate. Sometimes the activity does not require hands-on work on the computer but instead calls for collaboration, research, discussion, and other activities that are part of the learning experience.

Tools and Resources. Lists the identified software, hardware, websites, and other materials needed to support the learning activity.

Assessment.  This section presents ideas for assessing student learning.

Comments. Provides additional information pertinent to the success of the activ- ity or suggestions for varying the activity for use in another content area or with a different group or level of students. In addition, you may want to include special comments or notes that indicate potential problems and solutions.

Under each of the five content areas included—mathematics, science, language arts, social studies, and special education—two activities are given. The first is rec- ommended for elementary classes, the second for secondary classes. Again, the teacher can adjust the level of difficulty of the activity to classroom needs. In some instances, commercial software has been identified, but alternatives have also been listed whenever possible.