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Technology-Rich Learning: An Overview



What's Technology-Rich Learning?

Is technology really important in schools and libraries?

Does it really make a different in learning?

student at laptopThese questions have been asked since teachers first began using chalkboards, books, and film in the classroom. Technology is an important tool in today's schools and libraries, however it's not technology "itself" that facilitates learning.

Teachers and librarians who design meaningful learning experiences, facilitate the use of quality technology tools and information resources, and apply effective teaching strategies determine the effectiveness of technology.

Therefore the key is not technology. The meaningful resources, authentic experiences, and exciting, interactive opportunities that a technology-rich learning environment can provide make the difference. Teachers and librarians must collaborate in the process of designing learning opportunities that focus on using technology as a tool to address learner needs and curriculum goals.

Technology-Rich Learning Experiences

What does it take to make technology worth the time and effort? It's really about the learning experience that technology can help provide. Technology can enrich the learning experience at least eight ways.

Explore the Es of the learning environment: excite, enhance, engage, experiment, exchange, and explore.

gopher up your sleeveExcite. WebQuests provide an inquiry-based learning environment that brings meaning and excitement to classroom activities. Go to webquest.org for examples.

Enhance. Technology can provide scenarios and interdisciplinary connections to enhance learning. For example, after reading the book Gopher Up Your Sleeve by Tony Johnston students might use the enature website to learn more about the animals in the poems and write an electronic postcard.

Engage. Real-world data engage students in activities. Interactive projects, simulations, and what-if situations encourage students to ask questions and seek answers. Explore the games and activities at Scholastic.

Experiment. Technology can provide information and tools to help students identify problems, brainstorm ideas, discuss possibilities, test ideas, and draw conclusions. Many opportunities to experiment are available online through projects such as Earth Observatory at NASA.

Exchange. Help students reach out to the world through global communications. Participating in projects help students exchange ideas, understandings, experiences, perspectives, and interest. For example, consider getting involved with cultural celebrations such as Hispanic-Latino month. Use tools such as epals to make email connections.

Explore. Many students travel no farther than the local mall. Technology can provide experiences visiting places around the world. Virtual Field Trips can provide these adventures.

eye icon for essential readingsRead The Main Event from Edutopia. Be sure to watch the video clips! This project talks about how laptops are being used in Maine's middle schools.

Rich Learning Experiences

For over 20 years, Apple Computer, Inc. has been exploring ways to effectively impact teaching and learning. Their Apple Learning Interchange provides lots of great examples.

eye icon for essential readingsGo to the iLife Lesson Idea area for multimedia lesson ideas and Teaching and Learning for other lesson ideas.

video cameraExplore the following website examples from the Apple Learning Interchange. Notice that each example provides the overview, lesson, content standards, assessment, student work, reflections, resources, technology, and research. Many of these examples contain QuickTime video clips.

(Go to Apple QuickTime website to download a free player. It's available for both Windows and Macs.)

Explore at least 3 of the following projects. Compare how they use technology:

Audio P.O.W.E.R. (Paradigm of Writing Encouraging Reflection)
Continuing HerStory: Great Women in Science and Engineering
Core Democratic Values LIVE
Great Scientific Debates: Using iMovie to Teach History and the Nature of Scientific Inquiry
Plentiful Penguins
Poetry and E-Motion
Race Rocks
Science as a Catalyst for Life-Long Learning
Quilting and Geometry-Patterns for Living
The Underground Railroad: A New Deal Art Project Digital Story
Water, Water Everywhere
Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?

star graphicActivity


Choose one of the Apple Learning Interchange technology-rich projects to explore indepth. Summarize the project and describe why you think it is or is not an effective use of technology. Provide examples. From your experience, what do you think would be some of the barriers to completing this type of project in a school or library? Describe how this project could be adapted for a different grade level, subject area, and/or technology. Be sure to include the title of the project and the URL (website address) in your discussion.

In many of the examples from Apple Learning Interchange, the learning experiences go far beyond the classroom. The work of students impacts the community and sometimes the world. These types of "real world" experiences help students see the role of learning in their life.

Skim A Collaborative Intergenerational Project by Scott Merrick (Teaching and Learning, November 1, 2003). Learn how middle school students spent after-school hours tutoring senior citizens.

The Importance of Technology in Learning

Technology resources can help differentiate instruction by providing a rich environment for learning. For example, technology can provide many channels of communication such as text, audio, visual, and motion. This is particularly helpful in addressing students with particular strengths and weaknesses related to their intelligences.

Keep in mind that technology means many things. It's not just computers. It's all the tools and resources we use in education. Check out the (Virtual) Poetry Slam from Apple Learning Interchange. This project focuses on using video in the English classroom.

The technologies selected for learning should be effective, efficient, and appealing in meeting the needs of students. The activities should be focused on the needs of children. When you combine these ideas together, you get an effective learning environment. For example Canterbury Environmental Education Centre has a website that provides resources at the reading level of children, interesting learning activities, and quality teaching materials.

Assistive technology can enriched the learning environment for students with particular challenges such as visual or auditory impairments. Simple tools such as software that will read pages aloud or provide enlarged fonts may be helpful. Alternative resources such as tools for students learning English as a second language can also be provided.

software package for Zoombinis softwareThe computer can track student progress and provide materials that are paced and appropriate for the level of the child. For example, students who need additional math practice would be provided with additional examples. The Zoombinis educational software series helps students with math and science.

Inquiry-based learning environments such as WebQuests can be designed to meet diverse needs by providing a range of information resources at different reading levels, with different perspectives and varied channels of communication. In addition, flexible final products and alternative assessments can provide for individual interests and needs.

Web-based resources can be found across content areas.

eye icon for essential readingsUse the following Teacher Tap resources to locate quality online resources in your content area of interest.

tiny teacher tap logoContent-Rich Websites from Teacher Tap
tiny teacher tap logo Special Needs from Teacher Tap

Standards and Technology-Rich Learning

For technology-rich learning environments to be effective, students and teachers need basic knowledge and skills related to the use of information and technology. The International Society for Technology In Education coordinated the development of the NETS (National Educational Technology Standards) for Students, Teachers, and Administrators.

The Apple Learning Interchange contains an excellent overview of these standards and examples of how they apply in building technology-rich learning environments for children.

Read the following pages:
ISTE in Action: NETS for Students
ISTE in Action: NETS for Teachers

For more information about standards, go to Information Literacy Standards.

The Promise of Technology

Technology has the potential to enhance the way learning takes place in schools. By providing access to information and learning resources as well as an array of useful informational, instructional, and communication tools, technology can strengthen the teaching and learning environment.

eye means essentialRead about The Digital Promise Project.

Watch the QuickTime video. To view the video, you'll need a QuickTime movie player.

Challenges to Technology-Rich Learning

Time, expertise, access, resources, and support are all barriers to technology integration.1

Time as often identified as the biggest challenge. Parents, teachers, and students face demands from every direction and these pressures all collide. We'll never have more than 24 hours in a day, so we've got to figure out ways to balance the demands of standards with the need to nurture happy, healthy, enthusiastic children and young adults who love learning.

There are many students who come to school, but don't understand the value of education. They see school as a place to meet their friends rather than a place of learning. It's our job to help them see the bigger picture. School is more than classes and papers, it's about making informed decisions, collaborating with others, and becoming a life-long learner. The library-media-information-technology specialist is the one person in the school who can bring all these ideas together by collaborating with teachers to developed a resource-rich learning environment that includes technology.

Teachers have a difficult job regardless of the technology. Many teachers go through the motions of using technology, but don't really view it as an essential element of their curriculum. The way to build technology-rich learning environments is by getting rid of the "expectation" of technology integration. In other words, the pressures of infusing technology have turned off many teachers. Replace this with an emphasis on creating effective, efficient, and appealing technology-rich learning environments. In other words, sometimes the best teaching or learning tool is a book, a microscope, or a frog. However, collaborating through email with children in Japan, revising short stories in a word processor, accessing photographs through the American Memories website at the Library of Congress, and videotaping oral histories are great assignments that would be impossible without technology. These activities may be easier or more complicated than traditional resources and approaches, but the question should be whether they're the best way to help children and young adults learn.

eye icon for essential readingsThe following articles are all written by educators about their experiences with technology.

Read AT LEAST ONE of the following articles:

The Adventures of Mrs. A on the Geometry Internet Trail by Rosita Alston (Technology & Learning, March 2003) - Math focus
Energized Teaching by Barbara Dorff (Technology & Learning, May 2003).
The Ideal Project by Rosemary Shaw (Technology & Learning, January 2003).
Listening to the Walls Talk by Rosemary Shaw (Technology & Learning, Feb 2003) - Cross disciplines
Technology Is Tailor-Made For Teaching by Pam Lowe (Technology & Learning, June, 2002).

The key to the effective use of technology is putting all the pieces together. The standards and learning outcomes should match the lesson activities which should connect to the assessment.

For More Information

Critical Issue: Using Technology to Improve Student Achievement from North Central Regional Educational Laboratory (1999)
http://www.ncrel.org/sdrs/areas/issues/methods/technlgy/te800.htm
Information about technology and student achievement

Best Practices of Technology Integration
http://www.remc11.k12.mi.us/bstpract/
School district technology integration ideas by grade level.

The Big List on Technology Integration from Edutopia
http://www.edutopia.org/php/article.php?id=Art_1119&key=137
Lots of great articles and videos on technology integration.

Early Childhood Technology Literacy Project
http://www.mcps.k12.md.us/curriculum/littlekids/
Lots of resources for technology and young children including lessons and templates.

Edutopia - George Lucas Educational Foundation
http://glef.org/
Lots of great examples of technology integration.

Engauge
http://www.ncrel.org/engauge/
Resources to help districts and schools plan and evaluate the systemwide use of educational technology.

Good Models for Teaching with Technology from the Knowledge Loom Spotlight
http://www.knowledgeloom.org/gmott/index.jsp
Read about the experiences of educators with technology

International Society for Educational Technology Professionals
http://www.iste.org/

NetDay Compass
http://www.netdaycompass.org/
Guides for educational technology resources.

Smart Library on Literacy and Technology
http://www.literacy.smartlibrary.org/newinterface/main.cfm
Contains many articles on this topic.

Success Stories
http://www.rmcdenver.com/useguide/lessons/teaching.htm
Links to successful technology integration examples.

Technology and Learning
http://techlearning.com/content/working/articles/stories.html
Online magazine with lots of examples

TechLearning
http://techlearning.com/outlook/classroom.jhtml
Articles on what's happening in classrooms


1 Leggett and Persichitte (1998). Blood, Sweat, and TEARS: 50 Years of Technology Implementation Obstacles. Tech Trends.


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