Powerful Uses of Technology

From Investigations

This page is the third part of the Powerful Uses of Technology wiki: A Project by the Master in Teaching Year 2 Candidates for 2013-2014, in conjunction with "Investigations in Our Town"

Towards the end of the quarter you will work in small groups to adopt a guideline below in order to refine the explanation.

Social Media in the Classroom: Jumping off points for experimenting with digital media creation and self expression.

Increasing numbers of students are showing evidence of advanced media literacy, often manifesting itself through engagement with social media outlets. Educators can utilize students’ prior knowledge and developing skillsets to move students from friendship-driven to more interest-driven and academic media applications. For this reason, participation with technology in the classroom can be enriched with the use of social media and entertainment-driven activities online (Ito et al., 2008).

For example, Twitter could be used in an assembly as a way to check in, vote, and engage students in a particular academic context.This is a meaningful use of technology because it broadens students’ social networks and academic networks. This also is a great way to get students to participate in school.

Another example is using an online forum that connects the school library to students through written reviews of books they read. An example of this would be LibraryThing, which is a national social media network for books, used by North Thurston school district in Lacey, WA. This forum facilitates interaction and discussion between students in familiar ways to them, while working within an academic context. This social catalog allows students to think about and research material in a meaningful way.


Ito, M., Horst, H., Bittanti, M., Boyd, D., Herr-Stephenson, B., Lange, P. G., & ... John D. and Catherine T., MacArthur, F. (2008). Living and learning with new media: Summary of findings from the digital youth project. John D. and Catherine T. Macarthur foundation.

Accessibility means personalizing technology to meet needs

Accessibility means personalizing technology to meet needs. Ito, Horst, Bittanti, Boyd, Herr-Stephenson, Lange, Pascoe, Robinson (2008) argue that, “By its immediacy and breadth of information, the digital world lowers barriers to self-directed learning”. So it seems obvious that we’d want to reap these benefits but what must we do to successfully accomplish this? There are multiple points of access and they need to be as varied as the individual. Electricity, internet, printers, tablets; all areas of tech require a physical point of access. Programs, code, web literacy; all areas within tech require an access to the literacy within that technology. Both these physical and internal aspects have effects on the individual accessing them: stress, joy, confusion, intrigue and the span of human interaction. This is why accessibility requires personalizing for needs. It is argued in “The Role of Technology as an enabler of Personalized Learning: The Role of Pilots in Technology Rich Schools” (2014) that “By piloting different programs with these students we were able to find two that were tailored to their specific needs and capable of delivering lessons that enabled them to develop deep understanding of new content and skills”.

How to create a Quality Task that uses technology in educative ways

Students already use technology daily in a variety of ways, sometimes even to learn on their own accord. In the article "Living and Learning with New Media: Summary of Findings from the Digital Youth Project” the authors discuss how new digital media has allowed students to start interacting and learning through their peer or other social networks (Ito et al., 2008). They classify three different ways that students use digital media to interact and learn: Hanging out, Messing around, and Geeking Out. Each of these has a slightly different level of student engagement towards learning but all of them do involve peer to peer learning. For Hanging out, students are interacting with technology for communication and skill building purposes. For Messing around, it is a mixture of peer to pear information sharing and seeking quasi-professional insights. For geeing out, students are starting to produce knowledge, build proficiencies , as well as seeking and connecting to professional and quasi-professional communities.

Since this is all student driven if we want to use it in a classroom we need to create quality tasks that utilize the students background and the educational standards. If we are including the standards, some in particular to look at would be the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) Math and the CCSS College and Career Readiness standards for writing. College and Career readiness anchor Standards for Writing include specific research and presentations standards using technology. The CCSS Math standards also include portions that relate to visualizing and modeling mathematical problems or conjectures; it also connects the standards for mathematical practice with the content standards in various areas.

If we want to take that extra step from where students already use technology and apply it to the educational standards we need to consider what kinds of activities different technologies can be used for. In the article "Instructional Planning Activity Types as Vehicles for Curriculum-Based TPACK Development” the authors discuss how the intersections between the knowledge of pedagogy, technology, and content can create new access points for students to use technology in educative ways (Harris & Hofer, 2009). By tying the technology to specific activities that not only allow for its use, but expand the learning, we can get students to be more involved in their educational processes.

Valuing multiple perspectives in a collaborative classroom.

It is important to have a collaborative classroom whose different perspectives and learning processes are valued. This is a way to provide access points for students where they can individually take a different viewpoint around the technology and utilize it in a different and effective way. Including different ways as well as finding them, with which the technology enhances personal smartnesses (Featherstone et al., 2011). The use of technology can build interest and engagement with students, and some technology can be used to overcome barriers. This may depend on the type of technology and the learners’ needs. It is also important to be aware of and comfortable with technology and the specific uses it in order to build cultural capital; this is a way for students to transfer the tools learned to different areas. With this in mind all students will gain these valuable skills instead of a select few, as an example when working with group projects around technology all students will be able to contribute. An inclusionary space that values student engagement within the classroom pedagogy can incorporate effective group worthy projects that use technology to enhance conceptual understanding and learning targets (Featherstone et al., 2011; Williams, 2008). In closing, technology and activity types aligned with the different knowledge, conceptual understanding and products attend to students’ gaining insight from a variety of academic strategies.

Scaffolding of activity types is important to promote effective technology use in the classroom. Harris & Hofer (2009) mentioned that students developing their knowledge in science or social studies can make use of knowledge activity types to gain a basis for the thinking that will need to happen in order to move towards the learning target. Specific scaffolding that can be utilized for the activity types includes a jig-saw reading that opens up to larger class discussion that helps generate questions. The jig-saw and class discussion are geared more towards building foundational knowledge that can transfer to conceptual understanding. From these questions, students could engage in research around their specific interest.

In-text citations: Harris & Hofer, 2009; Featherstone et al., 2011; Williams, 2008

Using Students as Technology Experts

The process of teaching peers how to use technology can help students to solidify their own understanding of that technology. In giving the power and responsibility of teaching to students, the teacher shifts into the role of facilitator, overseeing and ensuring that students stay focused on learning objectives. By allowing students to be teachers themselves, the teacher helps students to see themselves as experts and generators of knowledge (Zull, 2002; Engle, 2006). This can increase students’ intrinsic motivation and sense of self-worth. By working as both teachers and learners, students can see that they are part of a broad community of knowledge that is actively growing and changing. Students who use assistive technology (possibly because of special needs) might gain status and be further integrated into the classroom community by serving as experts in their particular technology; this might also normalize assistive technology and decrease the stigma that is sometimes associated with its use. Also, by using students as technology experts, the teacher can set up opportunities for students to make their own connections between their interests and academic goals, while providing additional entry points to content.

Place-based Technology

Place-based education allows teachers to place an emphasis on the community and real-life applications of academia (Smith, G., 2002). If we are to add use of technology to place-based education, we can anticipate students’ future uses of technology in their community. Technology surrounds our student’s lives - when they go home, they will almost always interact with technology. Connecting learning targets to student’s lives outside the classroom can serve to inspire intrinsic motivation to learn (Vansteenkiste et al., 2004). If we, as teachers, use the technology that our students use at home, we can connect academic and home life.

For example, if we were to create a physics unit around designing realistic movement, we would be involving many of our students interests in video games. This could apply to future interests in video game design; making physics a useful discipline for our students. If we hold a book talk in a chat room or blog, students are able to discuss what they learned or what was important within the text - a potential application for future study and discussion in college. The chat room may be a mode of discussion students are already comfortable with and each student gets an equal amount of time to speak. Also, the teacher is left with a tangible transcription of what the students discussed to use for informal assessment.

For an example of place-based education that incorporates technology, click below: http://blogs.evergreen.edu/investigations/tori-maratas-unit-plan/

Technology needs to enhance learning, not distract! By. Adam Wooten and Christina Vernon

“If it uses technology, technology needs to enhance learning.”

In today’s classrooms, students and teachers have more access to different technological methods and devices to support their learning. It is important for educators to not only seek out and include these different tools in lessons but to do so in a fashion that is infused with the objectives and desired learning, not treating it as an independent part of the lesson. There are multiple formats of technology it is essential for educators to select the appropriate method that meets the desired content outcomes and objectives. One way to work toward this is through the combined development strategy of technology, pedagogy and content knowledge (TPACK). In this strategy it is noted, “by focusing first and primarily upon the content and nature of students curriculum-based learning activities, teacher’s TPACK is developed authentically rather than techno-centrically, as an integral aspect of instructional planning and implementation” (Harris and Hofer 2012). Some examples of this infused instruction includes having students use online databases to support their research, such as in a social studies class. Also, having students use recorders to conduct interviews, for a particular social studies focused project, is another such way where the technology is used to enhance learning- as students have the opportunity to engage and interact with sources. For future use, as educators we need to look to see if the technology included doesn’t take away from the desired learning objectives by overwhelming or distracting but instead provides opportunity for greater, enhanced learning.

Using TPACK and Activity Types to Make Instructional Decisions about Technology

As teachers, we should make instructional decisions with content goals in mind. If we make technology decisions without knowing our goals, the focus can be the technology instead of learning. There are two tools that teachers can use to help them make instructional decisions about technology. The first is TPACK, the intersection of an educator’s Technical, Pedagogical, and Content Knowledge. The second is Activity Types, which describes what students do when they are engaged in the activity and include possible technologies to help students accomplish the task (Harris & Hofer, 2009). Harris and Hofer explain how TPACK and Activity Types can guide teachers to use technology in a way that helps students reach content goals. First, teachers use their content knowledge to determine an appropriate goal for students. Then teachers use their pedagogical knowledge to make practical decisions about the learning experience. At this point, teachers can use activity types to think about how to sequence the learning. Teachers should then plan assessments. After all this work has been done, teachers can use their technical knowledge to decide on what type of technology will help students meet the goals and fit with the activity types. Here is an example of what that would look like in a social studies classroom:

  1. Goal: Understand the forces influencing the 1960s Civil Rights Movement
  2. Pedagogical decisions: find connections to students’ world
  3. Activity Type: compare and contrast
  4. Formative assessment: student notes and discussion on the similarities and differences between Civil Rights movement and Gay Rights.
  5. Use concept mapping software to create visual representation of similarities and differences.

By following this process, teachers can make meaningful and educative use of technology.

Article on TPACK and Activity Types (Harris & Hofer)

Wiki on Activity Types

Connecting Technology Use to Learning Targets

The use of technology should be tied to the learning standards in multiple ways. The Office of Public Instruction has technology standards that teachers are required to address in their classrooms. In addition to technology standards, teachers must address the content standards of their subject area. Through the TPACK framework, Harris and Hofer (2009) explained that in order for classroom technologies to be educative, teachers must consider content, pedagogical, and technological concerns. For this reason, it is important for teachers to find ways in which technology can best serve content-specific standards while also incorporating learning goals for students related to technology.

When teachers are planning a lesson in which technology is incorporated, they should first review the OSPI technology standards and identify which technology standards their lesson addresses. They should then use the TPACK framework to determine how the technology best serves students’ learning. This will help them to consider not only how students are meant to achieve technology-based standards, but also how these will support them in achieving core content standards as well.

For more information on the OSPI technology standards, visit http://www.k12.wa.us/edtech/standards/


Part One


Part Two


Part Three