Making Good Technology Choices is All About Design.

You should know and understand that this is not intended to be a self-righteous rant. The truth is that I am VERY guilty of failing to think critically about the choices I make regarding technology. I need help. We all do.

Here’s what is bugging me:

If we are truly going to transform teaching and learning using technology, we had better pause and do some reflecting. You know, sit the next one out and think critically about the choices and purchases we make. How many times are we going to be drawn in by shiny new tools and devices, which in the end, are really nothing more than expensive distractions and tools used to find another way to deliver the same old experience?

The iPad is a nice example as it is a hot commodity right now in K-12 and I see a rapidly increasing supply in my travels to various schools. Don’t get me wrong, I love iPads. The problem, however, is how they are (or aren’t) being used. It would appear that we are relentlessly devoted to finding the killer app that will somehow magically impact student achievement and lead to untold levels of learner engagement. I can save you a great deal of time by telling you now that such an app does not exist and in the time that you’ve spent looking for it, you’re probably missing the opportunity to leverage this particular technology in a very meaningful way. Furthermore, many of the resources and activities being accessed through the iPad can be provided in less complicated and less expensive ways. If you can accomplish the same with some sticky notes, a marker, and notebook, maybe you should just do that.

So how do we start to make better choices regarding the types of technology we use and how we use them? They key, I believe, is in the design of learning and measuring affordances. We need to think more about what we know about teaching and learning in general before ever considering the need to introduce technology. We need to pause, back up, and talk learning theory, pedagogy and instructional design. When we have a few examples of technology being used in a pedagogically-significant way, we need to use those designs as models from which we frame some of our next ideas.

Here’s what I think such a model should look like:

What’s this all about?

The Technology Integration Matrix (TIM) illustrates how teachers can use technology to enhance learning for K-12 students. The TIM incorporates five interdependent characteristics of meaningful learning environments: active, collaborative, constructive, authentic, and goal directed (Jonassen, Howland, Moore, & Marra, 2003). The TIM associates five levels of technology integration (i.e., entry, adoption, adaptation, infusion, and transformation) with each of the five characteristics of meaningful learning environments. Together, the five levels of technology integration and the five characteristics of meaningful learning environments create a matrix of 25 cells.

Notice how the matrix shows lesson plans and short videos for each cell. I think we need something like this right here in Saskatchewan, aligned with provincial outcomes and the soon to be introduced digital fluency competencies. This will help move us toward the transformational uses of technology we all aspire to achieve while paying homage and respect to the other levels of technology integration which also have their place in today’s learning spaces.

Who’s in?


Posted on January 21, 2013, in Technology Integration, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I love the rant and more specifically the honesty. It is refreshing to hear an educator take a step back and reflect on current trends and practices. Our intention to engage students and improve achievement with technology is working well in many ways. I believe the use of technology should not only be a “better” way to help students learn but the “best” way. We’re all in if it is. 🙂

  2. You know I’m in! As long as lunch is provided.

    Great quote: “If you can accomplish the same with some sticky notes, a marker, and notebook, maybe you should just do that.” I agree that sometimes we get distracted by what’s new and hot and need to think critically about our choices and purchases.

  3. Bravo for saying this! Indeed too often people use tech as nothing more than glitter. Tech has to improve students’ ability to achieve outcomes. It must be addressed thoughtfully, purposefully, and stringently. Great post, Erik.

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