When I read the term “tech-rich learning”,,,, I wanted to understand more about how it is defined. I came across this definition by Lajoie and Azevedo (2006), “a learning environment that is designed for an instructional purpose and uses technology to support the learner in achieving the goals of instruction.”
I started to think about the first time I used technology in my teaching. It was a primary 4 English class. I had used Kahoot to check students’ reading comprehension. I remember feeling nervous and wanting to see students’ reaction to using iPads and Kahoot! The whole novelty of Kahoot drew my students in, and I was amused seeing their excitement once the music started playing.
There are many advantages to the implementation of Kahoot in the classroom, as shown below. The main appeal of Kahoot is that it facilitates game-based learning increasing engagement among students. However, the continuous and repeated use of Kahoot does not necessarily result in meaningful learning. One of the troubles that I encountered after the novelty wore off was that students used what they had phrased as “using the power of random”. I began to notice that there was a small minority who did not try to answer the questions. This made me start to question what I wanted from the integration of technology in my teaching.
It was then that I came across the TPACK framework by Matthew J. Koehler and Punya Mishra. It was intriguing to read about the interactions that took place among content, pedagogy and technology. It showed the complexities that existed when implementing technology into the classroom. Through this framework, it became evident how technology was not simply something that should be added; instead, it was about how it connected with content and pedagogy within the teaching and learning context. I began to think more about what it meant to have technological pedagogical content knowledge and how it would be demonstrated in the classroom.
This led me to the SAMR model by Dr Ruben Puentedura. It provides a way in which technology integration could be interpreted in the K-12 teachers’ classroom. The model demonstrates the different levels at which technology could be integrated. It encourages teachers and student to move upwards from substitution. However, the limitation of such a model is that it focuses on the end-product instead of how it has been used in the process.
Nonetheless, the SAMR model gave me a sense of direction and provided guidance and insight into how I integrated technology into my teaching. Whenever I planned on integrating technology, I would ask myself which level it would fall on the SAMR model. If I had determined that technology integration was at the substitution level, I would question my purpose in using the technology and either scrap the idea or add another layer of depth. It still serves as the litmus paper test to determine the level of technology integration.
Over the years, the way that I had integrated technology changed. This was apparent by how I implemented Kahoot. It wasn’t simply used to entertain and amuse students. Instead, I would think about the purpose of using Kahoot concerning the topic I was covering and what I expected to collect from students in regards to their understanding.
Based on the TPACK framework and the SAMR model, I started to think more critically about how I implemented technology in the classroom. It was no longer about what I wanted students to be able to do or produce. I had begun applying the understanding by design framework and thought more about what I wanted students to understand and collect evidence to reflect this. After deciding how I wanted students to show their understanding, I would then decide on the edtech tool. The technology integrated is merely a tool to enhance learning. It does not drive learning.
After reflecting on my journey and relationship with technology in teaching and learning, I realized that I always thought of technology integration. I was suddenly struck by my own thinking and perception. I have always thought of integrating technology into my teaching.
Once again, there has been another shift in my thinking about educational technology. When I read the post “Designing Learning Experiences” by Kim Cofino, I began to delve deeper into my intention in using technology. I felt that my use of the term technology integration led to a somewhat superficial acknowledgement and application of technology. Cofino drew to the conclusion that “It’s the experience of content-rich ideas, activities, processing time and reflection.”
I should be focusing more on the kind of learning experience I want my students to have as I plan to use the understanding by design framework. The learning environment should be strategically designed to meet the desired elements and produce the desired outcomes. Technology, in this sense, could be planted or be found in this learning environment.
I think that Kim Cofino’s post “3 steps to transforming learning in your classroom” succinctly summarises what should matter in your planning. It is a good reminder that technology should not be leading nor defining how and what you teach. The learning experience should matter to students. By asking ourselves:
What do you want students to know and be able to do?
1. How can your students relate to this content in their daily lives or experiences?
2. What would a professional in this field do?
3. Who cares about this work?
These questions can remind us of what kind of learning experience we provide for our students. The ISTE Standards for Students provides educators with a comprehensive and specific set of standards that empowers students in a technological learning environment and ensures they are provided with a purpose and meaningful educative experience.
A tech-rich learning experience that I recall was when I had my primary two students readout, take a photo and read out their writing on Seesaw. They were able to listen and watch their classmate’s reading aloud. Upon reflection, I feel that there was so much more that I could have done to make it more meaningful and relevant to my students. I could have asked them to provide simple feedback to their peers and allowed them to edit their work. I could then have them publish their final work and shared this with their parents. It would have provided students with a better understanding of the writing process in terms of receiving feedback and editing and, most especially, having others read their writing.
I would say that now I would focus more on designing the learning experience and thinking about how I could make it authentic and relevant to my students. I would be able to easily and purposefully decide how I would use technology. Once I have designed an engaging learning experience, I feel that my students and I would thrive in a tech-rich environment.