Technology Integration

The Purposeful Integration of ‘Technology’ into Teaching and Learning Best Practices

The intentional design of digital products and constant rate of change requires education to expand the definition of technology.

By Doris Wells-Papanek, MEd

Director, Design Learning Network

John Hattie’s insightful research (2012) informs us that computers can indeed increase the probability of learning. That said there is no relationship between having and using computers that guarantees positive outcomes. Learning occurs when there is an explicit and transparent goal identified, challenges are appropriately assigned, as well as teachers and students alike seek to ascertain whether the challenging goal has been attained at the desired degree. Simply put, there is no point in requiring students to engage in digital activities unless the tools serve as purposeful vehicles of learning and are effectively integrated into a plan.

Hattie, John. VisibleLearning for Teachers: Maximizing Impact on Learning. London: Routledge, 2012.

From a student’s perspective, what level of impact might a broad range of ‘technology’
(low-to-high fidelity) have on their learning experiences and outcomes?

KC2015 Design Learning Challenge, Step 3) Explain, March 1 KCAI-Hosted Culminating Event


An Overview of Hattie’s Research on Digital Technology Integration

The following has been adapted from Hattie’s (2012) effective use of digital technologies findings on impact on learning:

  • It is duly noted that the use of digital technology (computer-assisted instruction = 0.37) can assist in student engagement and positive attitudes to learning and school – in fact some claim that technology is revolutionizing how we teach and learn (Hattie, 2009). 

  • On the other hand, some say computers are installed however just sit there mostly unused (Cuban, 2001). Hattie believes that computers can indeed increase the probability of learning, but there is no necessary relation between having computers, using computers, and learning outcomes.
  • Hattie states that learning occurs when learning is the explicit and transparent goal, when appropriately challenging, and when the teacher and the student both (in various ways) seek to ascertain whether and to what degree the challenging goal is attained.

Digital Technology is Used Most Effectively When…

A diverse set of teaching strategies are used.

When technology is used as a supplement to direct instruction there is a positive effect (0.45), however when technology serves as substitute/replacement the effect is reduced (0.30).

There is time for pre-training in the use of technology as a teaching and learning tool.
Many teachers remain to be on a learning curve when designing courses to maximize the potentials of technology, hence the need to pre-train to make purposeful impact.

There are multiple forms of learning opportunities in place for students to engage with technology such as deliberate practice, increasing time on task, and optimization strategies:

1)     Motivating the learner

2)     Learner control

3)     Presentation of information

4)     Characteristics of the questions

5)     Characteristics of replying without losing sight of the learning goal

6)     Immediate announcement of correctness vs. open-ended responses to encourage thought

The student, not teacher, is in “control” of learning.

When learners are in control over their learning (pacing, time allocations for mastery, sequencing and pacing of instructional materials, choice of practice items, reviewing, etc.) then the effects were greater than when the teacher was in control.

Peer learning is optimized.

Using technology in pairs is more effective than when computers are used alone or in larger groups. Peers are involved in problem-solving, suggesting and trying new strategies, and working through possible next steps. Students can learn most effectively when working together, as it exposes them to multiple perspectives, revisions on their thinking, varied explanations for resolving dilemmas, increased sources of feedback on errors, and alternative ways to construct knowing.

Feedback is optimized.

There are many types of feedback that can be optimized according to the challenging task. Rather than providing the correct answer, explanation (0.66) and remediation (0.73) are far more effective than just providing the single correct answer (-0.11).

Purposeful Integration of ‘Technology’ When Used as a Vehicle to Support Learning

Educators today face a substantial gap within an ever-changing 21st century learning landscape as they integrate digital technology into their lesson plans. Assuming direct links to intended learning targets, the goal is to expand the definition of technological strategies and tools:

  • Engage students in highly effective problem-based teaching methods alongside diverse sets of ‘technological’ strategies and tools (the systematic treatment of an art, craft, or technique)

  • Introduce strategies and tools at the right time to maximize learning while minimizing distractions

In other words, the technological playing field opens up considerably when digital technologies are no longer the sole option to consider.

‘Technological’ Strategies and Tools – as defined by the Greek origin of the word,
“the systematic treatment of an art, craft, or technique”

"Technology." Online Etymology Dictionary. Douglas Harper, Historian. 11 Oct. 2015.

With this expanded definition of ‘technology’ in hand – while taking into consideration Hattie’s findings, teachers can successful prepare to make informed and balanced instructional decisions aimed at making positive impact on student learning and outcomes.

These decision making practices require educators to compare a broad range of technological options (low-to-high fidelity) to other instructional possibilities alongside timeliness of integration, accessibility, effort required, evidence of learning, assessments, etc. In essence, purposeful uses of technology can indeed take place when framed as vehicles of support, rather than the destination.