Educational Technology for Effective Learning
“If we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow.” – John Dewey
“Do not confine your children to your own learning, for they were born in another time.”
– Chinese Proverb
“Technology is just a tool. In terms of getting the kids working together and motivating them, the teacher is most important.” – Bill Gates
“Technology will never replace great teachers, but in the hands of great teachers, it’s transformational.” – George Couros
An effective teacher must master the professional skills necessary to deliver a high-quality 21st-century education to their students. In this blog post, I will discuss educational technology for an effective 21st-century education.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, Educational technology, or edtech, is “Used to support both teaching and learning, technology infuses classrooms with digital learning tools, such as computers and handheld devices; expands course offerings, experiences, and learning materials; supports learning 24 hours a day, 7 days a week; builds 21st-century skills; increases student engagement and motivation; and accelerates learning.” When teachers effectively utilize computer technology in the learning environment, they can positively impact student achievement. A metanalysis of fifteen years of research conducted by Binbin Zheng, an assistant professor of educational psychology and special education at Michigan State University, revealed that 1 to 1 laptop usage had a statistically significant positive impact on students’ English/language arts, writing, math, and science (Herold, 2016). Further, an analysis of 86 additional papers concerning educational technology pointed out other positive aspects of its use in the classroom, including increased technology use, more student-centered learning such as project-based learning, greater student engagement, and better relationships between students and their teachers. All of these things are essential to delivering an effective education for the 21st-century.
Edtech can be a powerful way to increase student learning and achievement because teachers can use it in several practical ways. First, edtech can instruct and tutor students when the platform is used to help students understand new and complex concepts. A popular example is the Khan Academy. Developed by Salman Khan in 2006, the Khan Academy is a free online education platform that houses over 6,500 instructional videos ranging in a variety of academic subjects. Students can use the instructional videos asynchronously to either supplement or supplant in-school learning. In other words, student learning is not limited to time and space in a school. Instead, students are free to learn whenever and wherever is most convenient for them. Edtech can be an effective teaching tool when teachers use it to instruct students and incorporate various hardware and software platforms. Edtech hardware includes computers and printers, including 3D printers, tablets and laptops, interactive whiteboards, computer and document projectors, and virtual reality goggles. Software applications may consist of learning management systems (LMS) and a whole host of online tools that teachers can use to deliver instruction, such as cloud-based presentation applications, learning games, and instructional video. Lastly, edtech is an education tool when students use it to create content. Some examples of student-created content are websites, blogs, vlogs, podcasts, narrated slide shows, and digital storytelling, to name a few. When students create content for the web, they take ownership of their learning and become part of a community of learners that can reach a worldwide audience.
For edtech to be effective, students must have the opportunity to go beyond technology that enhances learning to applications that transform learning, according to Dr. Ruben R. Puentedura. Dr. Puentedura is the founder and current president of Hippasus, an education technology consulting firm and developer of the SAMR model. SAMR stands for substitution, augmentation, modification, and redefinition. At the most basic level of SAMR, edtech is used as a substitution for traditional approaches without changing the function. For example, when students use a laptop computer to take notes instead of using traditional pen and paper. The next higher level, augmentation, occurs when teachers use the technology as a direct substitution for conventional tasks but with some functional change. An example of this is when students take notes using a laptop computer but then use editing functions, clipart, hyperlinks, and embedded video to augment their notes, making them more dynamic and interactive. Modification is when teachers use technology to redesign learning tasks. This is the level when edtech moves from the enchantment of learning to the transformation of learning. In other words, modification is an approach to edtech that allows students to solve old problems with new solutions. For example, instead of writing an informational essay, students could create an animated whiteboard-style explainer video or podcast complete with introductory music and sound effects. Redefinition is the highest level of edtech classroom integration and involves approaches that would have been impossible without technology. An example of redefinition is when students create a blog and post their research, commentary, and even student-made documentary videos. Students could take this a step further and solicit feedback from other students across their district, state, country, and even the world!
The SAMR framework is a valuable tool to help teachers think about their application of edtech. However, there are some criticisms of the model. First, it has been noted that there is a lack of empirical support in the peer-reviewed literature that SAMR produces student academic achievement. Further, SAMR focuses on the outcome and not the educative process involved in creating the product (Hamilton, Rosenberg, & Akcaoglu, 2016). While student achievement data may be lacking, it is anecdotally evident that when students use edtech to its highest potential, they become engaged in their learning while learning the skills and dispositions necessary for effective 21st-century learning.