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2 Chapter 1 Understanding Classroom Learning and Technology Use

Fun, interesting, engaging, effective, meaningful, crucial, powerful, empowering, real. These are words that teachers want to hear about their instruction. Their goal is to provide instruction that makes a difference in learners’ lives. Technology is a powerful resource that is helping many teachers meet this goal. The purpose of this text is to help you meet this goal by addressing what you should know and be able to do with technology. Unlike most technology education texts, the focus of this text is on learners and learning rather than only on the technology itself. This focus will help you to address problems with learning as they arise, integrate new technologies with ease in pedagogically sound ways, and share your knowledge and understandings with your colleagues and students.

Technology should be seen as support for what teachers know and do. Instead of providing a prescription for how to teach, viewing technology as a support for teaching and learning allows teachers to discover ways to do what they already do more efficiently, more effectively, more interestingly, or in new and innovative ways. From this point of view, this text focuses on foundational, or essential, ideas for effective technology-enhanced learning and teaching.

This first chapter provides a foundation for the rest of this text by demonstrating and explaining why you should employ a learning focus to plan technology use and how such a focus might help you effectively meet content and technology standards to address the needs of all learners.


Views of technology use in education have changed steadily and rapidly over the past twenty years. The initial focus was on students learning to use technology. That changed to using technology to learn, as demonstrated by the 2007 International Society for Technology in Education standards for students in Figure 1.1.

The ISTE® National Educational Technology Standards and Performance Indicators for Students (revised June 2007)

  1. Students demonstrate creative thinking, construct knowledge, and develop innovative products and processes using technology.
  2. Students use digital media and environments to communicate and work collaboratively, including at a distance, to support individual learning and contribute to the learning of others.
  3. Students apply digital tools to gather, evaluate, and use information.
  4. Students use critical thinking skills to plan and conduct research, manage projects, solve problems and make informed decisions using appropriate digital tools and resources.
  5. Students understand human, cultural, and societal issues related to technology and practice legal and ethical behavior.
  6. Students demonstrate a sound understanding of technology concepts, systems, and operations. Students:

Figure 1.1 2007 NETS for Students

Source: Reprinted with permission from National Educational Technology Standards for Students, Second Edition, © 2007, ISTE® (International Society for Technology in Education), www.iste.org. All rights reserved.

Compare the 2007 standards to those from 2016, listed below. According to the standards for students, learners should use technology to become:

  1. Empowered learners
  2. Digital citizens
  3. Knowledge constructors
  4. Innovative designers
  5. Computational thinkers
  6. Creative communicators
  7. Global collaborators

(Available on line at https://www.iste.org/standards/standards/for-students).

These standards show that the movement in education technology is away from a focus on specific hardware and software and toward what we want learners to be able to do and become; in this way, technology use supports and can be integrated with standards from across the disciplines.

Meeting the Standards: 21st Century Skills

Standards, instructional goals, curricula, legislation, teacher beliefs, student experience, resources, and many other variables guide technology use in classrooms. Ultimately educational stakeholders agree that the use of technology is to prepare students, but there is often little agreement on what they are being prepared for (jobs? citizenry? life in general?) and how that preparation should be conducted (drill? experiential learning? discovery?). Nonetheless, for teachers looking to understand what is essential to support learning with technology, the common components integrated into national technology and content area standards and state requirements provide a good start. These goals, often termed “21st-century skills” because of their perceived need in the near future, include:

  • Content learning
  • Critical thinking
  • Communication
  • Problem-solving
  • Production
  • Creativity

Other chapters in this text discuss how to meet these learning goals and how technology can support the process. Find links to your state and disciplinary standards online by searching “+state name +standards” or “+discipline name +standards”; for example, “Idaho standards” or “science standards.”


In each chapter of this text, the overview section presents definitions, explanations, and examples of the chapter focus. The discussion then gives readers a consistent understanding of the ideas to be presented and grounds the information in the rest of the chapter. In the current chapter, the overview focuses on a basic understanding of learning and technology.

What Is Learning?

This text discusses learning before it addresses technology because the central focus of technology use should be what students learn. The concept of learning is discussed in more detail in chapter 2, but clearly there are many ways to understand what it is and how it happens. Many learning theories exist. For example, two currently popular theories include:

Constructivist Theory (J. Bruner)

A major theme in Bruner’s theoretical framework is that learning is an active process in which learners construct new ideas or concepts based on their current/past knowledge.

Experiential Learning (C. Rogers)

Rogers distinguished two types of learning: cognitive (meaningless) and experiential (significant). The former corresponds to academic knowledge such as learning vocabulary or multiplication tables, and the latter refers to applied knowledge such as learning about engines in order to repair a car.

For links to other learning theories, conduct a web search for “+”learning theories”.”

Many technology texts focus on one learning theory or philosophy as a guide for technology use; however, good teachers follow all kinds of philosophies, and good teaching is not necessarily a matter of behaviorism vs. constructivism or any other “-ism” (Ketterer, 2007). Good teachers keep students engaged and challenged and work with both language and content to develop student skills, abilities, knowledge, and experience (Aaronsohn, 2003). Obviously, this can happen in any number of ways, depending on students, context, goals, and tools. Sometimes it calls for a more behavioristic approach and sometimes for a more cognitive or social approach to teaching and learning. This text points out that whether teachers believe that knowledge is to be memorized or that it is constructed through social interaction, there are ways that technology can help, from providing resources for content learning to supporting independent thought.

To illustrate this and other points throughout the text, each chapter includes a feature titled From the Classroom. This feature integrates ideas, suggestions, and opinions from classroom teachers about the topics in the chapter; they can be found at the end of each chapter. Also, note Figure 1.2 below, which defines terms that are used often throughout this text in the discussions of learning goals.

What Is Technology?

  • As with the word learning, the term “technology” has many definitions. According to a variety of sources, technology is:
  • Mechanisms for distributing messages, including postal systems, radio and television broad- casting companies, telephone, satellite and computer networks. www1.worldbank.org/disted/glossary.html
  • Electronic media (such as video, computers, or lasers) used as tools to create, learn, explain, document, analyze, or present dance.


  • The application of knowledge to meet the goals, goods, and services desired by people.
  • The set of tools, both hardware (physical) and software, that help us act and think better. Technology includes all the objects from pencil and paper to the latest electronic gadget. Electronic and computer technology help us share information and knowledge quickly and efficiently.The application of scientific or other organized knowledge—including any tool, technique, product, process, method, organization or system—to practical tasks.


In general, a broad definition of technology ranges from mechanical assembly lines to Nintendo, from drugs to knowledge. In an even more global sense, technology is seen as a “driver of change” and “the fundamental cause for social shifts toward globalization and the new economy” (NCREL, 2004, p. 1). Technologies of all kinds hold an important place in society, and it is natural that education has been and will continue to be affected by technology uses.

What Is Educational Technology?

Educational technology is a subset of all existing technologies. To many educators, the term “educational technology” is synonymous with computers. Although the major focus of this text and of the field of educational technology is on computers, teachers and students use many other technologies in the course of a day, including the pencil, the telephone, and the stapler. Most teachers, however, do not need lessons on how to use a pencil well, so this text follows the trend to define educational technology as electronic technologies with an emphasis on computing. Basic components of technology include hardware, software, and connection, discussed later in this chapter.

Assessment: Assessment means gathering evidence about student needs, skills, abilities, experience, and performance. Assessment happens in technology-enhanced classrooms in many ways, as described in each of the upcoming chapters.

Context: Context is the environment or circumstances that surround something. For example, if a student poses a problem to be solved, it must be put into context by describing the events that led to it, what features it has, who is involved, and so on. The case at the start of each chapter in this book helps to provide a context for the discussions and examples.

Effective: In essence, effective means the capability to achieve a goal. In other words, if a technology-enhanced task is effective, it has the potential and means to help students reach the learning goal. In this text, a crucial element for tasks is that they are effective.

Engagement: When students are engaged, they are motivated and find the task meaningful. Engagement can be evidenced by willingness to stay on task, progress toward task goals, and ability to apply task content to life. According to McKenzie (1998), we can judge our classrooms “engaged” when we witness the following indicators:

  • Children are engaged in authentic and multidisciplinary tasks.
  • Students participate in interactive learning.
  • Students work collaboratively.
  • Students learn through exploration.
  • Students are responsible for their learning.
  • Students are strategic.

Evaluation: Although many educators equate assessment with evaluation, there are qualitative differences in the terms. While assessment covers a range of processes and focuses, evaluation means making a judgment about something. Typically, this means assigning a grade or other value to whatever is being evaluated. Because schools and teachers have different requirements for evaluation, assessment is given more emphasis in this text.

Feedback: Responses to student work, questions, and processes are feedback. Feedback can be positive, negative, clarifying, or interactive, and it can be provided in many forms such as spoken, written, or graphical. Feedback is discussed in every chapter as an essential component of the learning process.

Goal: A goal is a general statement about what should happen or what the expected outcomes are. For example, a goal for technology use in science might be for students to understand scientific inquiry. The learning goals presented at the beginning of this chapter serve as the foci for this text.

Objective: An objective is a specific statement about what students will be able to do when they complete the task or lesson. For example, for the science goal noted above, objectives could be that students will be able to define “inquiry,” to describe each part of the process, and to demonstrate the process. Objectives are usually stated with measurable action verbs—find a thorough list of them at http://www.schoolofed.nova.edu/sso/acad-writing/verbs.htm. Because student outcomes are vital in understanding how to support learning with technology, objectives are mentioned in many chapters.

Process: A process is a sequence of events or procedure for accomplishing something. Each chapter in this text describes the process for achieving a learning goal. These processes overlap but each goal also has its own particularities.

Scaffold: A scaffold is information, feedback, a tool, or some other form of support that helps students grow from their present level of knowledge, skill, or ability to the next level.

Figure 1.2 Terms used in this text

Each type of technology affords opportunities for different actions and can help fulfill learning goals in different ways. For example, students can learn to communicate and write with word processing and email tools; they can learn to organize and analyze with database, spreadsheet, and graphical organizer programs; they can learn about the importance of visuals using drawing software, participating in a virtual fieldtrip, or making a photo collage. Educational technology has been categorized in different ways based on these different goals. It has been looked at as:

  • A tutor that presents information to be memorized (e.g., drill-and-practice software, instructional video)
  • Support for student exploration (e.g., through electronic encyclopedias, simulations, and hypermedia-based data presentations that students can control)
  • A creativity and production tool (e.g., word processing, videotape recording)
  • A communications tool (e.g., email, electronic discussion forums)

In 2001, Levin and Bruce defined technology as media for (a) inquiry,(b) communication, (c) construction, and (d) expression. There are many more ways to describe educational technology, but across all of these descriptions, two main ideas emerge. First, as technology changes, so does the uses to which it is put and the ways in which it is characterized. The Internet, for example, has revolutionized the way that many students can obtain and use resources. The second, and seemingly apparent, idea is that a computer by itself is nothing but a plastic box with wires and silicon. In other words, a computer cannot do anything by itself. Ascione, in 2006, noted that what people do with technology is central to what it does for people; this crucial idea underlying technology use has not changed in the past decade and continues to be central to the use of technology in classrooms.

Technology Effectiveness in Classrooms

In fact, although widely believed to cause better achievement, technology has not been shown overall to be effective at increasing student achievement. In part, this is because the research on effectiveness is “contradictory and/or seriously flawed” (Burns & Ungerleider, 2002–2003, p. 45). However, that does not mean that technology cannot be used to support student achievement in specific contexts. For example, Burns and Ungerleider (2002–2003) note that when age, task, and autonomy are considered in the use of computers, there are benefits to group work, high-level concept understanding for older students, and improvement in student attitudes toward computer technologies. Chauhan (2017), Cheung & Slavin (2013), and other researchers show that

  • Students can learn faster in computer-based instructional contexts.
  • Student attitudes toward their classes are more positive when they include computer-based instruction.
  • Children with special needs can achieve more in technology-rich environments.
  • Students of all ages and levels can achieve more across the curriculum in technology-rich environments.However, Chauhan also notes that for technology to have a positive effect, learning objectives must be clear and the technology must be used for specific, targeted goals. Research also clearly shows that the effectiveness of technology use is based on context—in other words, it depends on factors such as: the learner; the learning environment; the knowledge, experience, and attitude of the teacher; the technology used; the task, and; how technology use it assessed. Most important is that effective teaching and learning drive technology use. Two decades ago, McKenzie (1998) supported this view, noting that “there is no credible evidence that [technologies] improve student reading, math, or thinking skills unless they are in service of carefully crafted learning programs” (p. 2). This continues to be the case.

What Drives the Use of Educational Technology?

In spite of mixed reports on its effectiveness for learning, technology is used in classrooms across the nation. For some teachers, their interest in doing something innovative drives technology use. For other teachers, obligations imposed by their schools or districts, for example, required lab use, does. Other impetuses include community/parental pressure, student demands, and economic rewards. State and federal laws push technology use by requiring that teachers and students be proficient and demonstrate learning. For example, the 2015 federal Every Student Succeeds Act requires that every student be technology literate, and teachers must be knowledgeable enough to help students reach this goal. Finally, the increase in student excitement, motivation, and achievement that teachers see as a result of technology use is another teacher motivator to use educational technology.


In addition to the possible benefits listed above, why else do students need to be taught with and about technology? According to Gordon (2001), “Students may perform a Web search faster and better than their teachers, but they still need to be taught to filter and critically engage with what they read, see, and hear from the multimedia devices they so deftly operate. And school is still the place where they will need to develop the skills they need to function effectively in the world—to read and write, to add and subtract, to understand how nature and societies are organized and where they fit in” (pp. vii–viii). In other words, there are many other reasons why students should study about and with technology. Each chapter in this text presents benefits to students related to the topic of the chapter; some general benefits are presented here.

Student Benefits from Learning with and About Technology

One of the benefits of students learning with technology is that they will be engaged in new literacies, or new ways of being knowledgeable. Within the learning goals, a number of literacies are becoming more focal because technology calls attention to them. Three main literacies include:

Information literacy is the basic ability to “recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information” (American Library Association [ALA], 1998). More recently, the American Association of School Librarians and other organizations have created standards that include the need for lifelong learning and the ability to deal with the ever-increasing number of resources available both online and off (ALA, 2017). Students cannot recognize when information is needed if they do not have a grasp of the information that has already been presented to them. For example, conducting an accurate Web search and finding information that is appropriate and factual is part of being information literate. Information literacy implies that learners also have visual, numerical, computer, and basic (text) literacy. More detail on these standards is available from www.ala.org; also see their list of “Best Apps for Teaching and Learning” at


Technological literacy is a second important but often overlooked literacy; this is the ability for students to be able to make “informed, balanced and comprehensive analysis of the technological influences on their lives and then be able to act on the basis of their analysis” (Saskatchewan Education, n.d., p. 1). In other words, students must understand not only how to use technology, but understand the many ways in which technology affects their lives. Computers are only one of the many technologies that this literacy addresses.

Media literacy addresses technology and more as it involves critically thinking about the influences of media (including books, TV, radio, movies, and the Internet). It means choosing, reflecting on, appreciating, responding appropriately to, and producing media of all kinds. For example, media-literate students understand the motivations behind television commercials and can judge the merits of the product despite the persuasive techniques employed by advertisers. A great source for media literacy information is the Media Awareness Network at


Clearly, these literacies are tightly linked to the learning goals, and student achievement in these areas provides lifelong benefits. These literacies are integrated, even where not specifically mentioned, throughout the activities and ideas in this text.

Another benefit of student technology use is a change in how learning occurs in classrooms. If we think about how children learn at home and in the world, we can see that there is a disconnect between natural learning and classroom learning. Outside of school, children are encouraged to explore, to inquire, to experiment, and to come to their own conclusions with the help of adults and peers. In classrooms, children are often asked to listen, memorize, and not to question. Technology use can make it more possible for students to learn in ways that resemble natural learning by providing resources, support, and feedback that teachers alone may not be able to pro- vide. Of course, technology will not have these benefits if it is not used in ways that support this vision of learning. As a number of scholars have noted, just because you can do something with technology does not mean that you should. The goal is to make the technology use itself transparent, while examining the interactions, content, and process of the learning that occurs with technology.


As a technology-using teacher, you are central to meeting the goals of technology-supported learning. However, 50% of teachers describe themselves as unready to use technology for instruction (U.S. Office of Educational Technology, 2016). To support learning with technology effectively, teachers must learn how to integrate technology into effective learning tasks and understand what their roles are during the technology-supported learning process. Each text chapter provides characteristics of effective learning tasks based specifically on the chapter’s learning goal. It also provides insights into teacher roles that effectively support learning with technology.

Characteristics of Effective Learning Tasks

In general, effective student tasks are those that result in authentic, meaningful, engaged learning. For a technology-supported task to be effective in this sense, it should have these general characteristics:

  1. Focuses on goals. Goals are developed based on standards, curricular requirements, and student needs, wants, and interests. Each chapter presents examples of goals.
  2. Includes technology that is working and available. However, it must be more than just some technology, it has to be the right technology. Guidelines to assist in making appropriate technology choices are presented throughout this text.
  3. Includes teacher education and support. Each chapter describes ways that teachers might find, discover, request, or use training and support.
  4. Allows time to learn relevant technologies. Guidelines in all the chapters discuss ways to do this efficiently.
  5. Provides needed resources. Resources include lab time, online and offline information sources, and skills lessons. Suggestions for how and when to provide such resources are presented throughout this text.
  6. Uses technology only if appropriate. Effective tasks do not use technology if goals can be reached and content can be better learned, presented, and/or assessed through other means and tools. Each chapter includes a section on learning activities that demonstrate appropriate uses of technology.Figure 1.3 summarizes these characteristics.

An effective technology-enhanced task:

  • Focuses on goals
  • Includes relevant technology
  • Includes teacher support
  • Integrates time to learn
  • Provides a variety of relevant resources
  • Uses technology only if it is necessary

Figure 1.3 Effective task characteristics.

Teachers’ Roles

Teachers’ roles in classrooms have changed. Although some teachers continue to work within a curriculum in which teaching is central and pencil and paper the norm, the trend is toward goal-centered and student-centered curricula in which student learning, supported by technology, is focal. This focus has changed the teacher’s role in the classroom. A student-centered focus that includes understanding and addressing students’ interests, for example, means that teachers need to vary their teaching so that student interests are connected to classroom content and tasks; technology use can help teachers to do so. As one saying goes, “While technology will not replace teachers, teachers who use technology will probably replace those who do not.” For more information on why technology cannot replace teachers, see Purewal (2016).

Challenges for Teachers

Teachers using technology may face environmental, physical, attitudinal and philosophical, access, equity, cultural, financial, legal, and other obstacles. These challenges are presented in every chapter and discussed in depth in chapter 9. One challenge that teachers often voice is the idea that computers will put them out of a job. But there are many things that teachers can do that technology cannot. Figure 1.4 presents a very incomplete list that shows why teachers cannot be replaced by technology.

As important as understanding what technology cannot do is understanding what it can. Figure 1.4 also presents some of the things that technology is typically more efficient or effective at than teachers are. How do teachers help it do this? Teachers can treat technology as the tool that it is and integrate its use into every content area. In addition, instead of teaching one or more technologies as the goal (or, if necessary, in addition to), teachers can employ technology to meet curricular goals in all areas.

Some teachers fear, often rightly, that technology learning may take the place of content learning and that the curriculum will not be covered. Teachers often do not understand at first how to balance technology and content and worry that there is not enough time to learn the technology they need. In these cases, teachers often stop using technology to focus on content, use only one technology repeatedly, or just

What can’t technology do?

  • Design a seating chart, taking into consideration understandings about children and their attitudes toward one another.
  • Make friends or show respect.
  • Create lessons that address the needs of diverse students.
  • Decorate a classroom.
  • Choose a textbook.
  • Manage 20 third graders.
  • Make a decision based on a gut feeling.
  • Give creative feedback.
  • Understand.
  • Search for or create knowledge.
  • Teach.
Technology Can’t…

What can technology do?

  • Manipulate streams of meaningless data.
  • Repeat itself endlessly.
  • Help make learning more efficient by controlling large amounts of data quickly.
  • Help make learning more effective by providing a great wealth of resources and allowing students choices.
  • Operate in environments where humans cannot.
  • Connect people who could not connect cheaply or easily otherwise.
  • Provide means to improve students’ acquisition of basic skills and content knowledge (Kleiman, 2001).
  • Motivate students (Kleiman, 2001).
  • Work quickly and objectively.
  • Strengthen teachers’ preferred instructional approaches—for example, those who lecture can use computer-enhanced visual support, those who prefer inquiry-based approaches can use raw data on the Web and databases or spreadsheets for analysis.
  • Help to change the vision of a classroom as a room with four walls that depends solely on the teacher for information.
Technology Can’t do…

Figure 1.4 What technology can and can’t do. Jump in and hope for an eventual best. But it does not need to be this way. Support from students and parents, willingness to set aside an hour a week for additional learning, and/or a district that is willing to support grant writing are some of the ways discussed in this text to help teachers find the time they need to learn about technology use. Chapters 8 and 10 address these issues. In addition, the Guidelines section in each chapter supports teachers in understanding the roles of technology in classroom learning and how they might plan their learning about technology.


In each chapter, the Guidelines provide practical suggestions for teachers to help meet learning goals and overcome potential barriers. In this chapter, the guidelines present general issues to help you meet goals for technology use. These guidelines are summarized in Figure 1.5 below.

Guideline #1: Understand the realities of technology use. In addition to understanding what technology can and cannot do, there are other significant realities that teachers need to understand. For example, learning to use technology well takes time—for everyone to learn, for effective uses to be discovered, and for implementation to be complete. Learning technology will not always be smooth, but help is available from members of the school community, including parents, technology specialists, knowledgeable students, and other teachers. In addition, teachers can join online teacher-based groups such as the Global SchoolNet Foundation (http://www.globalschoolnet.org/index.cfm) for help, ideas, and resources.

The special effects of technology such as cool art, stickers, sound effects, and so on (often called “bells and whistles”) may take precedence for students over task content at first, but well-designed tasks following the guidelines in this text can help avoid this problem. In addition, there are resources to help with just about every technology need, from using the icons in Microsoft Word (see http://infobitt.blogspot.com/2010/06/toolbars-screentips-and-toolbar-buttons.html) to finding appropriate content for diverse learners (see the Colorín Colorado! site at http://www.colorincolorado.org/teaching-ells/technology-english-language-learners). This text and the accompanying Teacher Toolbox will help you to explore and find additional technology resources by presenting a variety of Web sites, software packages, and support information and by suggesting places to look for further ideas and information. This text will also encourage you to share your findings with other educators.

Guideline #2: Examine equity and access for your students. Loschert (2003) reported 15 years ago that, although the average school had over 100 computers, each student typically had only 20 minutes per week on the computer. In addition, girls, minorities, and students with special needs often had less access than other students, particularly in high school (Kleiner & Farris, 2002; Male, 2003). Unfortunately, this trend, while decreasing, still holds (National Center for Education Statistics [NCES], 2015). NCES (2015) notes that 8% of school-age students (5-15 years) still had no Internet access as of 2013. If everyone is to learn with these tools, everyone must be able to access them. Other chapters in this text provide ways to arrange and use technology to make access more equitable; these include making the best use of classroom computers and creating arrangements to share technology equitably and effectively within schools.

Guideline #3: Consider student differences. Students bring skills and backgrounds that can add to or detract from technology-enhanced learning experiences. Teachers can assess student needs by first investigating their learning preferences, cultural and language differences, and background experiences and knowledge. Teachers can then address these needs by applying the techniques and strategies presented throughout this and other texts. These techniques include, for example, using content resources at multiple levels, giving students choice in the products they develop, and providing extra support for students who need it. In addition to specific instructional strategies, computer technologies can also help address the needs of diverse students and help to include students with a variety of abilities in classroom tasks. For example, special technologies called assistive devices can help teachers to provide larger text for sight-impaired students, voice recognition for students with physical disabilities, and extra wait time, feedback, or practice for those who need it. Assistive devices are presented later in this chapter and throughout the text. Technology can also provide support for English language learners (ELLs) and other students by providing resources in a variety of languages and many different ways to work (Egbert, 2005), from supportive team-based software to individual remediation Web sites. Suggestions for supporting the learning of ELLs with technology are noted throughout the text.

Guideline Summary
#1: Understand the realities of technology use. Learning to use technology effectively takes time. Give yourself and your students the time.
#2: Examine equity and access for your students. Not all students have equal access to technology. Teachers must make sure that everyone who needs it is given fair opportunities.
#3: Consider student differences. Students who are physically and/or socially challenged or have other barriers to learning must be considered while technology-enhanced instruction is being designed.

Figure 1.5 Guidelines for the use of educational technology


The Learning Activities section in each chapter presents suggestions and examples to use as models to effectively use technology. In this chapter, you will read real-life educational technology uses taken directly from school reports. These examples provide an initial idea of effective ways that technology is being applied in classrooms. The technology uses in the examples below, from the first decade of the 21st century, could still be considered innovative at the end of the second decade; this is one indication not only of how slowly technology uses have made their way into classrooms but also how much teacher professional development in uses of educational technology is still needed so that all teachers can integrate technology effectively, like the teachers below:

Elaine Insinnia, an eighth-grade language arts teacher from Berkeley Heights, New Jersey, uses Internet research to help her students understand the novels she assigns. Using questions to help focus the students, Insinnia directs them as they research a book’s author, the story’s time period, and key historical events related to the plot. In the past, Insinnia and her students conducted similar research in the school’s library, which often took several class periods. With the Internet, “you can get the same amount of information in 25 to 30 minutes,” she says. “It saves you lots of time and the kids pay attention.” The project lets students take control of their learning as they explore Web sites and information that interests them, Insinnia says. The project also teaches students how to evaluate the validity of information they find on the Web. After they complete their research, students share their findings in an online chat room [a Web site that allows communication in real time]. “When you are in a classroom discussion, the same kids dominate the discussion,” Insinnia says. “In the chat room everyone gets a chance to answer and they are engaged.” The chat room discussion also provides a record of each student’s contribution, which Insinnia can review later, she adds. (Loschert, 2003, n.p.)

Tony Vincent, a fifth-grade classroom teacher in Omaha, Nebraska, reports: “Using a computer program called Sketchy, which functions like a digital flip book, students create short cartoons that show each step they take to solve a math problem. They move the numbers around the screen as they solve a problem and add ‘thought bubbles’ to explain their work. Students find the programs so engaging that they watch their cartoons, and ones created by their classmates, repeatedly. The process of creating the product and reviewing it reinforces the thought process students should use to solve the problems. … As a result, a lesson that used to take two weeks now takes just three days for students to comprehend.” (Loschert, 2003, n.p.)

When Jane McLane first mentioned her upcoming sabbatical to bicycle around the world to Kristi Rennebohm Franz, a fellow teacher at Sunnyside Elementary in Pullman, Washington, she never dreamed she’d end up with 25 virtual companions. But somehow she did—Kristi’s first and second graders! By carrying a digital camera and a small computer, Jane was able to communicate on a daily basis with Kristi and her students. Along the way, Kristi’s students learned to write, read, and communicate as they interacted with Jane about world languages, cultures, geography, art, time zones, and architecture. (Learning Point Associates, 2004)

In a challenge described by FermiLab LInC (2000), seventh-grade students will be challenged to develop a schoolwide recycling program. The challenge will be for everyone, students, teachers, administrators and especially the cafeteria and lunch program, to recycle waste products. Students will form teams to investigate waste and waste management. They will also contact other schools throughout the country (via email) and collect data on school recycling programs. Do they exist? How are they managed? What percentage of waste has to be hauled away? What are the costs for running such a program? The teams will be encouraged to develop a Total School Recycle Program to either internally handle waste or to find resources that will productively utilize waste products. This will involve investigating the means of disposing or recycling all the waste generated from their school building. Can it be done? (FermiLab LInC, 2000)

All of these examples are adaptable for a variety of grade levels and students and can make use of a variety of different technologies. More importantly, they demonstrate effective task characteristics and focus on 21st- century learning goals such as critical thinking and problem-solving. The technology is employed as support for effective student learning. This learning focus is important because technology changes so rapidly. In fact, even by the time you finish reading this text, much of the technology mentioned in it may be in a new version, may have a new format, or may be obsolete entirely. However, having a firm grounding in the learning goals that will continue to be essential—for example, critical thinking, problem-solving, content, and communication—means that teachers and students will be able to continue to integrate technology, deal with change, and work toward success.

Technology for Supporting Learning

Each chapter in this text presents a variety of technologies that can be used to support learning. This first chapter presents a general overview of technology for reference at any time during your reading of the text. It focuses on a basic understanding of educational technology that includes awareness of the components of any tool.

Components of Electronic Tools

Electronic tools generally consist of hardware, software, and connection components. Table 1.1 presents a basic overview and broad definitions of hardware components listed in alphabetical order. For hardware, the three main types are input, processing, and output. Input devices are used to enter information into the computer. Output devices display or deliver the information in a format that users can understand. Processing devices change the input into output. There are also communication devices that connect computers to each other. The components listed in the table will also be mentioned in other chapters in this text.

Software is composed of a set of instructions that controls the operation of a computer. The most important software is the operating system or OS. The OS manages the rest of the software on the computer. Typically software is developed for one OS or platform, either Macintosh OS or Windows, but some software can run on these and other less common operating systems such as Unix and Linux. Find tutorials for these common operating systems by searching the Web.

Information about types of software, software functions, and parts of a software package is presented in Table 1.2 below. These terms are used throughout this text.

Connection components, some of which are technically hardware (e.g., a modem) and others that are software (e.g., an e-mail package), allow computers around the world to communicate. A short list of important components is presented in Table 1.3 below.

Table 1.1 Hardware Components

Hardware Function Uses
CD-ROM (compact disc, read-only memory) DVD (digital video disc) Storage device A portable optical recording device that store massive amounts of data
Central processing unit (CPU) Processing The “brains” of the computer, the central processing unit contains the motherboard, disk drive, and chips. Loads the operating system to enable the computer to run on and work; performs operations
Digital camera Input device Entering video and images
Flash drive Storage device Portable, very small storage devices are also known as thumb drives and USB drives. Flash drives fit in a computer’s USB port–very convenient for storage.
Handheld/Mobile device Combination device These small computers have almost the same range of uses as their desktop-size counterparts, but they are more portable, cheaper, and wireless. Many people use their cell phones to serve as a device that can receive input, allow for transformation of that input, and output to many other devices.
Hard drive Storage device Storing information long-term on a computer. The hard drive contains any software installed on the computer and files that the user has created and saved.
Keyboard Input device Enter text and numbers. Many people currently use voice input, and more will as the software that it employs becomes more accurate.
Microphone Audio input device Enter audio information, particularly for speech recognition.
Modem Communication device A device that allows one computer to talk to another over a phone or cable line. Modems are also part of wireless communications.
Monitor Output device Display information on the computer.
Mouse/touch screen/touchpad Input device Pointing to and selecting information. Touch screens are becoming the norm as more people use their phones and other mobile devices. Users can input with their fingers or with a special pen called a stylus.
Printer Output device Print a hard copy of graphics and text on paper or paper product. 3D printers can also print multidimensional figures and are being used across disciplines, although they are not present in the majority of schools yet.
Projector Visual/audio Output device Provides a bigger picture than a monitor and can broadcast for a group.
RAM (Random access memory) /ROM (Read-only memory) Storage device RAM is the computer primary memory and store what is currently in use. ROM stores the computer’s instruction set and cannot be changed by the user.
Scanner Input device Enter drawings, documents, text, and designs or anything else that the user wants a copy of in digital format.
Speakers Output device Listening to audio output
Webcam Input device Take pictures to be displayed on the Internet and communication in real-time with other users who can see you.

Table 1.2 Software

Software Category Examples
Commercial Software type Microsoft Office Suite
Communications Software function Email, courseware (addressed in chapter 3)
Freeware Software type Programs from sites such as download.com and tucows.com
Operating system Software component Mac OS, the latest Microsoft Windows version, Linux, and others
Personal productivity Software function Word processor, database, spreadsheet, presentation software (addressed in chapter 7)
Programming software, formatting languages Software function C, Java, HTML and many more types that allow users to create instructions for the computer. Children can code a variety of programs with software such as Blockly, Python, Ruby, and Scratch.Find more information by searching these programs on the Internet.
Shareware Software type Software that users can choose to pay for if they like it, found at sites such as totalshareware.com, bestshareware.net, freshshare.com
Teacher tools Software function Grade books, letter generators, rubric makers
User interface Software component The user interface is what the user sees on the screen/monitor. A poorly constructed user interface can make software or a web site hard to use.

Table 1.3 Connection Components

Connection Function
Internet Connects computer networks around the world so that they can “talk” to each other. Computers must typically have a modem (see hardware).
ISP Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are organizations that provide connection to the Internet, typically for profit.
LAN Local area networks (LANs) connect computers on the same network through wireless or cable connections to share printers and applications.
WAN Wide area networks connect local computers to a broader network (such as the Internet) or connect LANs together.
World Wide Web(WWW or Web) Part of the Internet that enables electronic communication of text, graphics, audio, and video.

Assistive Technologies

This text addresses supporting learning with technology for students with a wide range of abilities, skills, and needs. In some instances, the choice of resource or student role in an activity will be enough to help students access academic content. In other cases, special technologies, called assistive devices, will be needed for students to access the information they need. In general, assistive devices are hardware and software designed for specific needs. Table 1.3 presents examples of some of these devices, and others are presented throughout this text.

300.5 Assistive technology device.

Assistive technology device means any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of a child with a disability. The term does not include a medical device that is surgically implanted or the replacement of such device.

In addition, the Microsoft (www.microsoft.com) and Apple (www.apple.com) Web sites list all of the assistive devices included in their operating systems.

The benefits of access to technology for students with disabilities include:

  • Being able to bridge ideas
  • Sequential practice to master concepts step by step
  • Control over their environment
  • Timely feedback
  • Access to multimodal (visual, auditory, tactile, and kinesthetic) and multi-intelligence materials (Barry & Wise, n.d.)

Teachers need to understand why and how to use assistive technologies to help students effectively. For example, teachers may not think about how students with different abilities will access information from the Web. For students who are visually impaired or physically challenged, access is an important issue. Simple solutions to access problems range from making the text in the Web browser bigger so that sight-impaired students can see it to providing a special large mouse that needs only a light touch to work. For ways to make the Web more accessible to all students, see www.phschool.com/about_ph/web_ access.html and other parts of this text.

Table 1.3 Assistive Technologies

Device Function Sample Uses Examples
Accessibility testers Test whether a Web site is as accessible as possible For all teacher- and student-made Web pages Bobby software (Watchfire)
Closed- captioned TV Shows the TV audio in text For students who are hearing-impaired Every TV sold in the U.S. since 1993 must have closed- captioning capability
Touch screen Students touch the monitor screen to give instructions to the computer, e.g., to click on links. Can be used instead of a mouse for students who cannot control a mouse well. Touch screens are often used with young children. Other “mouse emulators” include special keyboards, laser or infrared pointers, keyboard overlays, trackballs, and a variety of devices that can be tailored to students’ needs.
Screen magnifiers and screen readers To make screen text bigger and/or to have the text read aloud Helps sight-impaired users Usually part of the operating system on computers; there are also free magnifiers that can be downloaded from Internet sites.
Signing avatars Animated characters who use sign language For students who use sign language See the Signing Science Dictionary at http://signsci.terc.edu/ and find out more at the University of Toronto’s Adaptive Technology Resource Centre, http://www.adaptech.org/en/team/atrc (in particular, see the downloads page).
Voice recognition software Turns oral language into text on a computer screen For students who cannot physically enter data other ways Dragon Naturally Speaking and IBM’s ViaVoice.
Universally designed software Features include spoken voice, visual highlighting, and document or page navigation. Makes software accessible to struggling readers and students with disabilities and enables struggling readers to read the same books as their peers. eReader (CAST; www.cast.org/our-work/learning-tools.html) and Thinking Reader software (Tom Snyder Productions/Scholastic).

The University of Washington’s DO-IT program provides teachers with outstanding resources such as videos and articles for understanding and working with assistive technologies. Read more about this program on the Web at http://www.washington.edu/doit/.

Appropriate Tool Use

Most important to understand in the discussion of technological tools is that if the tool does not make the task more effective or more efficient, a different tool should be employed. In addition, if there is no appropriate digital technology that fits the task, digital technology should not be used. For example, asking first graders to type sentences on the computer might be fun for them, but teachers need to evaluate whether the time students spend hunting for the correct keys and making editing mistakes might be better spent with a pencil or crayons. Or, setting ninth graders free on the Internet to research famous Americans might result in chaos that could better be organized by employing a more manageable information set in a digital encyclopedia. This theme of principled technology use is repeated throughout the text. The thoughtless use of technology and the problems it causes is well documented and discussed (Aslan & Reigeluth, 2010; Ferneding, 2003; Postman, 1993) and can be avoided.


After you have reviewed the goals for your lesson, decided on an effective task, integrated technology in appropriate and effective ways, and supported students through the task process, it’s time to assess. Each chapter in this text presents ways to appropriately assess student progress toward learning goals. Most important in the discussions of assessment is that both the product of student learning and the process of student learning are the foci of assessment. In the examples given throughout this text, technology is the focus of assessment (for example, did students use it well? was it appropriate for the task?) and used to assess (for example, an observation checklist on the teacher’s handheld computer). However, it is important that assessments fit the specific context and students for whom they are developed. Therefore, note that the assessments in this text only serve as models. They probably cannot be used without at least some adaptations to fit specific classroom, task, and student conditions. For example, a rubric, or detailed scoring outline, that is made to evaluate a technology-supported presentation for fifth graders is most likely inappropriate to evaluate a presentation by 10th-grade students.

The text addresses a number of assessments, including:

  • Scoring guides (chapter 2)
  • Rubrics (chapter 3)
  • Multiple-choice tests (chapter 4)
  • Checklists and peer team reports (chapter 5)
  • Performance assessments (chapter 6)
  • Problem-solving notebooks (chapter 7)
  • Electronic portfolios (chapter 8)

These assessments can be used in a variety of contexts other than those described in the chapters. The text’s brief theoretical discussions that accompany assessment examples will help you to understand how and when to employ them effectively.

As you move on to the rest of this text, keep in mind the underlying premise of this chapter, that learning comes before technology. Be sure to review ideas in the chapter as needed and to use the glossary of terms and table data to support your learning throughout the text.


Below are comments from teachers that relate to the content of this chapter.

Theory and Practice

Our questions and frustrations reminded me of the three main theories which exist… The first is the behaviorist: [learning] is acquired through imitation, direct instruction, practicing through drills, memorization, etc. The second is innatist: [learning] is acquired naturally, just by listening to it and being immersed in an authentic environment. No direct instruction or correction is needed. The last is interactionist, which says that [learning] is acquired naturally, but it stresses the interaction portion, and also says that sometimes it is necessary to teach specific rules or correct student output. These are coming from the experts and it seems to me that perhaps pieces from each are true. I doubt any one theory could ever explain how every unique individual will learn. I think there is a time and a place for flashcards and memorization, but I think it is also crucial to have meaningful interaction. (Jennie, first-grade teacher)

Learning Focus

We can’t just throw the kids on a computer and expect learning to take place any more than we would show them the text and tell them to learn it by the end of the year. No matter what tools we use, we need to use good teaching practices, or our teaching will be ineffective. (Susan, fifth-grade teacher)

[A reading] says that computers are not capable of teaching, that teachers are the ones who actually perform this. I completely agree with this because it is important to keep in mind as technology continues advancing. This is why I feel that we need to rely on the content of our lessons in incorporating technology rather than using technology just because it will be fun when the activity itself might be better without it. Learning occurs best when it is driven by the human processes, not the technology. When this occurs, students are involved in their learning through negotiation of meaning with one another and are focused on the content of the project. (Cammie, student teacher)

Teacher Concerns

I [keep] thinking about “how do I keep up?” I would love to see my students with digital notebooks, me videoconferencing with parents and students, using voice-generated technology. First, district and state will need to support technology growth and use in the classrooms with monies for technical support: training, maintenance, wiring. Second, respect for equipment needs to be taught to students and families (now, if a student misplaces a book, parents may or may not pay). Thirdly, as professionals we (educators) will need to embrace the new technology. I am ready! (Jean, sixth-grade teacher)

Teachers’ Role

I also wonder how much the role of teachers will change as technology advances. I even applied for a tutoring job with [a company where] you tutor online with a digital pencil and headset! Pretty crazy. Also, if we can listen and learn from history . . . there were so many predictions that new technology would revolutionize teaching and they really never did. For example, when the radio, TV, and mainframe computer came out, they were all expected to change the entire educational scene, but in reality, the changes were minute. From my reading, educational technology researchers always warn not to get overly excited about the future of technology based on history. (Jennie, first-grade teacher)


I see [the] point about finding the purpose of assessment before deciding what type is more appropriate. However, I feel it’s even more important to find out what type of student we are dealing with before deciding which assessment works better. For example, when we test our students in our building, we know certain students with extra barriers (language, attention span, etc.) will benefit more or will show their abilities better in a computer assessment versus paper/pencil. So, teachers decide to give them the computer assessment! It’s not really a matter of what but WHO is taking the test! (Andrea, third-grade teacher).


Key Points

Each chapter in this text includes a Key Points Review that summarizes chapter ideas.

  • Explain why a learning focus is important in supporting learning with technology.

Technology is a tool that teachers can use to support learning, but learning must be foremost. If teachers do not understand how to support learning, technology use will be ineffective and inefficient. Kleiman (2001) summarizes the focus of this text, noting that “while modern technology has great potential to enhance teaching and learning, turning that potential into reality on a large scale is a complex, multifaceted task. The key determinant of our success will not be the number of computers purchased or cables installed, but rather how we define educational visions, prepare and support teachers, design curriculum, address issues of equity, and respond to the rapidly changing world” (p. 14).

  • Describe the relevant standards and the 21st-century skills that ground the learning in this text.

The integration of content area and technology standards, along with standards for English language learners, results in six 21st-century skills that can serve as learning goals in the creation of technology-supported learning tasks:

  • Content learning
  • Critical thinking
  • Communication
  • Problem solving
  • Production
  • Creativity

Define “educational technology” and related terms.

Pencils, chalkboards, and overhead projectors are all educational technologies. However, in today’s classrooms, educational technology is usually understood to be electronic technologies, particularly computers, that are used to support the learning process.

  • Discuss the use of technology tools for providing access to learning for all students, including physically challenged students, English language learners, and others who might face barriers to learning.

Hardware, software, and connection are the main components of electronic technologies. Specific applications of these components can determine whether students can access the content and demonstrate their skills.

  • Present an overview of computer-based and computer-assisted assessment practices.

There are many ways to assess student learning in every classroom. This idea does not change when technology is integrated, but technology use can make assessment easier and more effective.

  • Understand how and why to adapt lesson plans for more effective learning.

Evaluating lessons according to criteria for effective technology-supported learning can help you provide instruction that is accessible, engaging, and useful for all students in your classroom.


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