Re-Inventing the Wheel: Conceptual Models of Technology Use

Re-Inventing the Wheel: Conceptual Models of Technology Use

Current research suggests that getting feedback right, establishing productive teacher-student relationships, reciprocal teaching and fostering meta-cognitive strategies to help students become better at learning are among the strategies for which there is a robust evidence base for improved outcomes. From this perspective, the first step for any technology based intervention, such as a 1-to-1 strategy, really ought to be ensure that it can support these and other strategies that have been shown to improve student outcomes.

So, does this mean technology is best used to support existing teaching and learning practices? No, it doesn’t. When articulating a 1-to-1 vision it is important to highlight, not only how said vision will have a positive impact on existing practices, but also how technology can act as a catalyst to help teachers and learners conceive ways to go about their business in ways which would have been hitherto unthinkable and which may result in more valuable educational outcomes. The work of Ruben Puentedura helps to illustrate how technology can be used on a spectrum ranging from substitution to redefinition, see below:

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Puentedura establishes a clear distinction between mere enhancement and transformation in this ‘SAMR’ model. For him, the best use of technology stems from technology’s potential to redefine tasks. In other words, using technology to continue doing what we have always done is less desirable than using technology to achieve that which had been previously impossible. Though tinkering around the edges can certainly bring moderate benefits, Puentedura’s model suggests that the big educational gains will be achieved when we explore what we can do with technology that we couldn’t do before.

For someone justifying the expense required to implement a 1-to-1 programme, it is therefore important to highlight, not only how tech can support existing practices, but also how it can help support teaching and learning in ways that are yet to be conceived. Puentedura’s framework for technology adoption in schools therefore offers us a useful starting point to help paint a picture to students, teachers and the wider school community that illustrates how technology can act as a catalyst to transform teaching and learning practices for the better, as Dominic Norrish outlines here.

However, crucially, this framework might also helps us understand when not to use technology. Whilst many view the SAMR model as a road map for technology integration, others find this interpretation unhelpful because it could be argued that any teacher who uses technology simply to substitute existing practices may not be using technology effectively. In fact, they may be using technology when they ought not to, when other methods are actually more effective. Often the technology is deemed to have had little, no or even detrimental effect on learning when it was, in fact, its use that was ineffective. Researches rightly caution against unsubstantiated enthusiasm, but they unanimously agree that, when used effectively, “technology shows a positive impact on learning“.

In any case, conceptual models such as SAMR and Mishra and Koehler’s Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge framework (TPACK) – see below – are essential points of reference for teachers seeking to understand how to successfully integrate technology use in schools.

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Many thanks to Adam Webster (@cagelessthink) for his renderings of the SAMR and TPACK conceptual models. Please feel free to download and reuse these images.

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