Yep – I am calling it. Put it in your books people the role of integration specialists in schools will disappear sure as the sun sets everyday. Now, I know and have known integration specialists and I am here to tell you that these people are smart, hard working and a big help to the school. However, their role just won’t be there in the future. I’m not sure exactly when this will happen but read on to hear my analysis.
The next generation
In a school, when people start talking about technology integration and they talk about people who are resistant or need more assistance than others they are, mostly they are talking to the aging members of their staff. This is not always, but it certainly seems to be the implication.
Newer (or younger teachers if you will) walk into a role where the expectation is to use technology to be a big part of their class. Now, whether these newer teachers actually possess the skills to do this on day one or not is another story. However, they do have the advantage of starting fresh. They’re not getting rid of an older system for a newer one. They are starting with the “newer one.” This is helpful and as these systems change or transition to newer systems, the adjustments are not as difficult to make as to learning something new that is replacing an aging system.
With more and more teachers feeling more comfortable with technology, the demand for another teacher to push-in or help with tech planning just won’t be as necessary in the future. In an ideal situation, teachers will be collaborating with one another nearly seamlessly and working together to build units that are rich in content that leverages technology and its many benefits. Therefore a tech integration specialists just won’t be as necessary in a school environment. This day won’t happen next year or the year after that, but I would be surprised if well equipped schools ten years from now still employ an integration specialist.
As more and more software come out, it becomes easier and easier to use. Image editors are a perfect example. Take a look at PicMonkey. It can do a lot, borders, overlays, effects and more. It does these pretty easily too. Back in the day (not very long ago mind you) to accomplish a lot of these tasks, you would need a powerful, expensive and difficult to use image editor like Photoshop.
Editing videos is the same way. Most people don’t need Adobe Premiere Pro or Final Cut. They can do most of what they want in WeVideo, iMovie or Animoto. Hell, even YouTube has a basic video editor now. However, the most glaring to me is website creation. If you don’t know a line of HTML, you can still create a good looking dynamic website using Wix, Webs or Weebly.
I know my friend Tony would say that this is the dumbing down of technology and pandering to the lowest common denominator and this is a bad thing. Whether you agree with him or not is not the issue. The issue here is that as it becomes easier to create and express oneself, there is less and less assistance needed. Our teachers are smart people and can pick up something pretty quickly. They usually don’t require a three week intensive class to learn about Wix for example.
They are a luxury
You know what type of doctor gets hit hard when the economy goes south? Dentist. I imagine integration specialists would fall into that category. While schools may get grants for devices and services now and new staff. When budgets need to be cut, the “less essential” and new staff face the chopping block. I’ve actually seen it as PE teachers lost their job and the school simply combined PE classes to make up for the reduced staff. It’s not pretty but it is a reality. I am sure if my school at the time had an integration specialist – I guarantee that person would have gone or at least become a classroom teacher.
Not dying – more like morphing
The title of this post tends to think that integration specialists will be out on the street searching for a job. This isn’t the case, but I believe their role will change. Right now, their roles are pretty defined. These people are tasks with bringing meaningful technology into a learning environment. In the future it won’t, it just can’t be this anymore.
As schools acclimate themselves more and more to utilizing technology in their daily lessons, this person’s role will shift or pivot to a more administrative position. That’s not to say that they will never help out in the classroom, but if they’re smart – they aren’t just Johnny on the Spot with a quick fix. They are teaching the teachers how to integrate in the process allowing for more creativity in the future. Therefore, the integrator may be needed less in the classroom and more of an advisory person.
The flip side to all of this, is as teachers utilize more and more technology – more and more systems need to be looked after. More and more workshops should be held introducing more complex and cross curricular opportunities. A knowledge base should be created and maintained. On top of all that the integrator will know more than any other person what tools are and aren’t working in the classes. This person will naturally be elevated to a role that is on par with a curriculum coordinator.
In fact, I dare say that this person will be slightly more important that the curriculum coordinator. This person will also be included in educational technology direction of a school. What hardware to invest in, what expectations should be set. I am not just talking expectations for teachers here – I’m talking expectations for teachers, students, administrators and even parents to a limited extent. I’ve met people in my travels who hope to become an integration specialists. I wonder if they see all the options?