Integrating technology and content for 21st-century instruction

Shannon Hill helps Elijah Stringer during her 4th-grade technology class at Owingsville Elementary School (Bath County). Photo by Amy Wallot, May 17, 2013
Shannon Hill helps Elijah Stringer during her 4th-grade technology class at Owingsville Elementary School (Bath County). Photo by Amy Wallot, May 17, 2013

By Susan Riddell

Shannon Hill, technology coordinator at Owingsville Elementary School (Bath County), vividly remembers going to the local library with her mother to work on research projects for school.

“My family couldn’t afford encyclopedias,” she said. “Today students have handheld devices, iPads, Kindle Fires and laptops. They can answer any question in 30 seconds or less.

“We are living in an information age where the possibilities are endless with education,” Hill added.

While technology advancements have revolutionized classroom learning, teachers are constantly trying to keep up with the pace.

“It’s nearly impossible to keep up with the trends,” Hill said. “However, I have found that if I stay in tune with my students, I’m able to stay on the cutting edge. Usually, they start using various programs and apps long before it catches on with the adults.”

While teachers agree it is a must to stay current, Pike County Career and Technical Education Director Patty Johnson said seeing the big picture is more important than knowing every single aspect of technology.

“Teachers do not have to know every cutting edge piece of technology that comes along, but we do need to have a general to good understanding to help globalize our students for the world of today and tomorrow,” Johnson said. “Computers started to make appearances in our school systems around the mid to late 1980s. In less than 30 years, a generation, our education system has changed drastically. Education and technology now walk hand in hand.”

Integrating technology part of KCAS

Hill and Johnson agree that teaching technology and integrating it through subject content is greatly affected by the Kentucky Core Academic Standards (KCAS).

“The use of technology is heavily woven within the standards and must be embedded in all areas of instruction to ensure that our students are 21st-century learners,” Hill said. Teaching students keyboarding, word processing and the use of presentation software are just some of the technology skills they’ll need in college, the workplace and life.

Johnson said the development of the Continuous Instructional Improvement Technology System (CIITS) has made using technology to support instruction easier for teachers.

“The CIITS portal allows teachers to create lessons, resources, curriculum and formative assessments at a single log-on site,” Johnson said. “Student data will allow teachers to differentiate Response to Intervention, and additional components will help with professional development, evaluation and more. (This is why) technology is becoming more important to daily instruction.”

Creating the technology

Teaching students to code and program can help teachers meet Kentucky Core Academic Standards in mathematics, technology, logic and problem solving according to Jeff Sebulsky, the state manager for the Student Technology Leadership Program (STLP).

“There are resources available that seem to show an audience for coding as young as 4 years old,” Sebulsky said.

The Kentucky Department of Education and STLP staff support and encourage programming via several state activities, Sebulsky said. “For example, at our state competition next April, we will hold a number of coding/programming based events to highlight the skills of our students.” Competitions available for STLP students to participate in include:

  • coding
  • gaming
  • robot use
  • SumoBot
  • website design
  • UK computer science

Coding in the classroom is gaining ground in Kentucky, Sebulsky said.

“Programming courses have long existed in many Area Technology Center curriculums, and the offering of AP Computer Science seems to be gaining ground inside traditional schools, as well,” he said. “But more than just complete courses, programming and coding are finding a place within blended learning classrooms, too.”
Mathematics and science teachers, in particular, drive instruction by focusing on fundamentals of programming in various exercises and activities, according to Sebulsky.

“With the popularity of hand held technology, students can experiment with programming/coding through problem-solving simulation apps (like Kodable, see Resources),” Sebulsky said. “And of course, with the growth of classroom robotics, programming is being embedded inside instruction without formally identifying it as programming/coding.”

So how do teachers stay current on technology?

Participation in STLP is critical in keeping up with the latest trends in both technology education and implementation, educators agreed.

“Collaborating with STLP coordinators throughout the state, attending the annual Kentucky Society for Technology in Education (KySTE) Conference and being an active lover and learner of all things technology is what keeps me ahead of the students,” Hill said.

Johnson also recommended staying in contact with others through listservs and blogs. When in doubt, go to the “experts.”

“Encourage students to help with instructional ideas,” Johnson said. “Ask what they are currently interested in or learning at home or from siblings/friends. Every day in a classroom should be exciting and different because on the various technologies available today. The possibilities are infinite.”

Jeff Sebulsky,, (502) 564-2020
Patty Johnson,, (606) 433-9329
Shannon Hill,, (606) 674-2722, ext. 3311