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Technology Evolves. We Should, Too.

I was exactly fifteen and a half to the day when my great grandmother turned 100 years old. My parents gave her a cassette tape recorder/player as a birthday present. They thought she could use it to listen to music, Sunday sermons, and perhaps even record memories of her incredible life to serve as a family resource for generations to come. They were not prepared for her reaction: she was at first confused by the device — my father had to explain what it was and how it worked. Nana was gracious, yet firm in her response — she was not at all interested in this new technology and was not planning to learn about it. She handed it back to my dad and said, “Thank you for thinking of me, but this is your world now, dear.”

In the nearly 40 years since that memory was made, the tempo, complexity, and scope of technological developments worldwide have been unparalleled. Most educators understand the importance of incorporating technology into lessons and units of study, and yet the process can seem overwhelming. Teacher dispositions regarding technology use in the classroom can range from positive and open to negative and dismissive. Teacher dispositions that support technology integration include appropriate risk-taking and a willingness to adjust course and try again when not successful at first (Gullen & Sheldon, 2014). Educators benefit from the opportunity to engage in extended technology professional development (Vannatta & Fordham, 2004) and collaborate with colleagues in a trusting, low-risk environment. 

 It is undeniable that our current student population is fully immersed in a technology-rich life. It would be short-sighted to overlook the benefits of integrating technology into students’ learning experiences. Richardson (2019) asserts that educators need to tap into student agency to cultivate increased engagement and relevance to the learning. Student agency allows learners to determine multiple aspects of their learning process and is a catalyst for deep and meaningful learning experiences. Supporting and encouraging student agency requires a mindset shift within the teacher’s practice. The teacher takes on a facilitator role in which they serve as an instructional coach (Tomlinson, 2019). Within this instructional model, there will be times that the students will educate the teacher-- and occasions when the students’ technological skill-sets will supersede the teacher as well. This can be an extremely uncomfortable experience for educators, especially ones whose mindsets ascribe to a teacher-directed instructional model. 

A framework that supports a structured approach to integrating technology is the SAMR model (Puentedura, 2017; Terada, 2020). The acronym SAMR refers to four modes of technology integration-- Substitution, in which the individual is simply changing the modality to include the use of technology; Augmentation, during which technology provides a lever to improve the functionality of the task; Modification, involving the use of technology to redesign the task; and Redefinition, when technology acts as a conduit through which the task is transformed to become something that it could not otherwise be. Developing lesson and unit plans that intentionally and skillfully leverage technology can provide students with opportunities to use technology for transformational learning experiences of modification and redefinition, as well as the more basic uses of substitution and augmentation (Warsen & Vandermolen, 2020). There is value to each level: teachers will use technology to substitute an identical task, use it as a tool to augment the ability to complete a task, leverage current technologies to change a task, or use technology to completely redefine the learning task. Teachers can maneuver among the levels in any order, matching the technological approach to the intended outcomes of the learning task.

As educators, we aspire to inspire our students. An important aspect of our instructional practice is the effective use of technology. Teachers can be supported through extended professional learning opportunities, providing time to collaborate with colleagues, promoting an intentional focus on supporting student agency, and modeling the effective use of the SAMR framework to plan dynamic learning tasks. Teachers’ capacity to incorporate technology will grow through their ability to view mistakes as part of the learning process. As teachers model this mindset, students benefit as well. Optimally whether an educator is 25, 50 or even 100 years old, they will remain open to the potential and positives of technology, and will say, “it’s our world now.”


Katherine B Watts

School of Education, Doctoral Student

Specialization - Curriculum and Teaching




Gullen, K., & Sheldon, T. (2014). Synergy sparks digital literacy: Redefined roles create new possibilities for teachers and students. Journal of Staff Development, 35(2), 36–39.

Puentedura, R. R. (2017). Ruben Puentedura on applying the SAMR model.

Richardson, W. (2019). Sparking student agency with technology: Why should kids have to wait until after school to do amazing things with technology? Educational Leadership, 76(5), 12–18.

Terada, Y. (2020, May 4). A powerful model of understanding good tech integration [Online forum post]. edutopia.

Tomlinson, C. (2019). Diving beneath the surface: Using ed tech effectively requires a second-order change. Educational Leadership, 76(5), 88–89.

Vannatta, R. A., & Fordham, N. (2004). Teacher dispositions as predictors of classroom technology use. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 36(3), 253–271.

Warsen, G. & Vandermolen, R. (2020). When technology works: A case study using instructional rounds and the SAMR model. Education Leadership Review, 21(1), 163–177.