Jeremy O'Shea

Applying Educational Technology in Technology Education

Month: September 2019

Research, Technology, and the Classroom

This week I read K-12 online learning journal articles: trends from two decades of scholarship by Arnesen et al, Trends in mobile technology-supported collaborative learning: A systematic review of journal publications from 2007 to 2016 by Qing-Ke et al, and Developing an Understanding of the Impact of Digital Technologies on Teaching and Learning in an Ever-Changing Landscape by Voogt et al. These articles/chapters offered insight into the trends of research in the last two decades in relation to technology in the classroom. They offered insight into important topics such as group demographics, group size, tech and mental load, and technology and the teaching profession. The articles offer a interesting look into how educational technology is being researched, by who, and what methods they are using to do it.

Research on Technology in the Classroom:

It is suggested in the articles that there is a growing trend for technology in education and that the trend will continue to grow in the coming years. This mean that educators need to be aware of what their options are and know how to implement them. This sounds easier than it is as technologies can come and go so quickly that it can be difficult to know what will stick around and what won’t. I personally hesitate to jump on a new technology until it proves itself and finds a footing in the field. There are many reasons for this, but a large factor is prep time and school budget restraints. Ultimately, this growing trend for tech in education will require more research into education technology which means a growing need for more researchers.

One thing that struck as interesting when reading the articles is how a relatively small group of authors can have such a large impact on an area of study. As educational technology in its modern form is relatively new it is to be expected that there would be few contributors to researching in the discipline. They are assets to their area of study, but I feel the subject matter would be better served with more input from a more well-rounded group of researchers to allow the introduction of other approaches to the subject matter. This opinion is not to take away from the work researchers have done and are doing. More collaboration and sharing of different ideas and take on the subject would help broaden the research in the area.  After all, is it not the take of the authors to encourage collaborative learning?

In recent years there has been extra emphasis put on collaborative learning in education circles. This is generally a positive thing as it is realistic of most jobs and careers students will take on in adulthood. There are very few jobs where you don’t work with others in some capacity to a goal. It also allows students to socialize and work together to overcome problem or achieve a goal. The struggle most teachers run into is deciding how to best make up said groups for the best learning dynamics.

Group Demographics and Size:

Research into group lessons using tech has found that most teachers group students of similar knowledge levels in the same groups to maximize their learning potential. This allows the students to make learning progress without retreading old, already learned, territory. In my robotics classroom we group up often to take on challenges. Usually I try mix my groups levels of skill, knowledge, and learning styles despite the research focusing on otherwise. My reasoning is that a mixed group will allow the more knowledgeable students to take on a leadership role and share their knowledge with the others in the group. Also, having students with different skills and approaches is well suited to robotics as there are many roles that need to be taken on and requires many different types of skills. For example, a robotics competition requires a team to build a robot, program it, journal daily progress, and even raise funding for parts and trips. I have not met a student yet who could take on all those roles by themselves. I couldn’t do it myself either. This is where having a diverse group helps. It is unfortunate that there isn’t more research into students being grouped based on their learning styles.

Most research shows teachers usually group students into pairs or groups of 4, allowing for students to pair off. Most teachers avoid not have larger groups for fear of student redundancy, but it is suggested that technology allows for extra students to remain involved, via self learning, despite a groups size. This is under the assumption that the student is engaged to begin with. It also allows a student who is less social an easy way out of group work. I find large groups to be overwhelming and without someone taking charge of organizing, students become lost or choose to slip through the cracks.

I have found in my robotics class that when doing group work which utilizes technology that I have to have groups of preferably 4 because robots are expensive, and my budget cannot cover having one for each student or even for them to work in pairs with one robot to share. Furthermore, 4 makes a good number because it allows everyone to have a job, whether that be robot builder, programmer, leader, or documentation keeper/organizer. There is also room for those four students to do a little of all the other jobs as well, of course.

Mobile Learning and Mental Load

There is little research about mobile collaborative learning that focus’ on cognitive load and learning anxiety often attributed to subjects like mathematics. Focus is generally on sciences and social sciences where learning is generally more relaxed and freer. Although I do feel more research needs to be done in this area, I am curious if the overall cognitive load and anxieties around math, even without mobile learning, already suggests an answer. Most students are very stressed about mathematics, even without technologies involvement. Student depending, I’m not sure adding mobile tech would alleviate that.

Technology and Teaching

It is disappointing that there is little research into teacher and professional development using mobile technology. It seems backwards and perhaps a little hypocritical to not implement tech in the profession and then expect it in the classroom. There are likely a couple factors as to why this is the case. First, if the teacher and administration are not prepared to buy into such a thing then it will never happen. Last year our school introduced an app for students and teachers to use to keep track of students for a “focus block,” a class where students can go to any teacher for extra help or special lessons. Fortunately, the school embraced the app and it is now in its second year running. Meanwhile another school in the district did not so lovingly embrace the app and this year they have discontinued its use.



Arnesen, K.T., Hveem, J., Short, C.R. West, R.E.  & Barbour, M.K.  (2019) K-12 online learning journal articles: trends from two decades of scholarship, Distance Education, 40(1), 32-53, https://DOI: 10.1080/01587919.2018.1553566

Qing-Ke Fu, Q-K., & Hwang, G-J. (2018). Trends in mobile technology-supported collaborative learning: A systematic review of journal publications from 2007 to 2016.  Computers & Education, 119, pp. 129-143,

Voogt, J., Knezak, G., Christensen, R., & Lai, K-W. (2018). Developing an Understanding of the Impact of Digital Technologies on Teaching and Learning in an Ever-Changing Landscape. In J. Voogt, G. Knezak, R. Christensen, & K-W, Lai (Eds.) Second Handbook of Information Technology in Primary and Secondary Education, pp. 3-12. Springer International Handbooks of Education. Springer, Cham.

Battle of the Education Technology Models

Koehler & Mishra’s Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge model (better know as TPACK) presents a method for teachers to develop technology into their teaching practice while trying to maintain a balance of its primary elements: technology, pedagogy, content, and knowledge. By understanding TPACK’s main principals a teacher will be better able to understand the different types of technology levels, when they should be best utilized, and how. These levels are outlined in Romrell, Kidder, & Wood’s Substitution Augmentation Modification Redefinition model (SAMR).


TPACK Model: Koehler, M & Mishra, P. (2009)


The SAMR model is broken into its four core sections:

Substitution – Technology is used as a substitute for a lesson with no real change to the way the lesson is done.

Augmentation – Technology is used as a substitute for a lesson with functional changes to the way the lesson is done.

Modification – Technology allows for a redesign of the lesson

Redefinition – Technology allows for the lesson to be done in a way it could not have been done without the technology

SAMR, as outlined by its authors, breaks down the varying levels in which technology can be applied to a lesson or learning activity. If applied correctly SAMR and TPACK can work well together in guiding educators to finding and implementing tech into their classroom.  But that does not mean that everything that SAMR and TPACK offer is appropriate or correct.

When reading about how the authors of SAMR felt it should be implemented I felt they went a little too far and were rigid in their assessments.  They claim that redefinition, and to a lesser extent modification, are what educators should be always striving to achieve in their technology focused lessons. I hesitate to agree with them under the principle that it is important not to lose sight of the goals of your lesson/exercise. If the goal is to learn the tech, then these focus’ may be appropriate but otherwise it is possible for the tech to suddenly overshadow the point of the lesson. When building a lesson with tech a teacher should ask themselves, is the tech distracting from the point of the lesson and the research methods? If so, it may be necessary to reassess the use of said tech. The SAMR model appears to focus on the tech over the learning goals/outcomes and that is why it needs to be paired with the TPACK model.  Together, an educator will have a guideline in which to assess and implement tech into their curriculum.

SAMR further pushes mLearning as the future of tech in the classroom. I mostly agree with the merits of the technology and do see in the future a greater implementation of the tech but, for now, we are limited by budget and equity concerns.  Schools have limited budgets and, in the school I teach at, a device is not supplied or available for every student. Because of this, their can be a divide among the students who have devices and those who do not. Due to this reason I occasionally hesitate to endorse the strict use of mobile learning without a way for the “have not” students to participate as well.

MLearning does have its advantages as outlined by Romrell, Kidder, & Woods. Mobile devices do allow for students to be situated and connected with a personalized device of their own. This can help students learn quicker and with more familiarity than if they used an unfamiliar device. A drawback of personalization is that students can have apps and games on their devices that distract from the learning process. Most students I have interacted with can overcome the temptation to play games but there are a few that cannot make it through a class without playing one much to the detriment of their engagement and education.


Romrell, Kidder, & Woods (2014)


It’s important to remember that the realities of teaching are that most educators are generally not well versed in making mobile apps or building with technology and it is not reasonable to expect them to be. Teachers can utilize apps and tech, but it is unlikely they will have the time, resources, or knowledge to create them. Most teachers are at the mercy of tech developers and generally they are not giving their products away without a price tag or other monetary motives which can open up questions of ethics among other things.

TPACK offers the superior model for implementing tech into lessons when compared to SAMR. SAMR does have its merits in outlining what levels of tech implementation are available and what they are. The real challenge id for educators to apply the correct level of tech with the pedagogical goals of their lessons.

To conclude I will leave you with this quote from Koehler & Mishra (2009):

“Teaching with technology is a difficult thing to do well. The TPACK framework suggests that content, pedagogy, technology, and teaching/learning contexts have roles to play individually and together. Teaching successfully with technology requires continually creating, maintaining, and re-establishing a dynamic equilibrium among all components.”



Hamilton, E.R., Rosenberg, J.M. & Akcaoglu, M. (2016). The Substitution Augmentation Modification Redefinition (SAMR) Model: a Critical Review and Suggestions for its Use.

Koehler, M. & Mishra, P. (2009). What is Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK)?. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 9(1), 60-70. Waynesville, NC USA: Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education.

Romrell, D., Kidder, L.C., Wood, E. (2014).The SAMR model as a framework for evaluating mLearning. Online Learning Journal, 18(2).

TechTrends 60(5), 433-441.

The Relationship of Educational Instruction and Technology

Clark and Kozma’s great media debate raises the question, does the medium in which instruction is given effect the learning of students or is it instructional method that dictates a lessons success? It’s an intriguing question that I believe both Clark and Kozma make good points to back up their respective arguments. These arguments were last made in the mid-nineties and now, in a much more technological age, Becker chimes in with their opinion focusing on games used for educational purposes.

Clark, Kozma, and Becker’s Positions

Clark sees media as a tool to present instruction in a more efficient manner.  He further adds that media does not influence learning under any circumstance. Media may save money, time, and be convenient but it is only traditional instructional methods being implemented to a new medium.

Kozma argues to the contrary of Clark saying, a student’s style of learning can be best suited using specific types of media and help an educator present information in a meaningful and more understandable way than if using other forms of media or tradition education methods.

Becker adds to the argument that a good educational game requires both good educational design and game design. They cannot be forced onto each other. So, it is more than using traditional instructional methods and becomes its own entity.

Reflections on the Debate

Upon initially reading Clark’s position I felt that what he was saying made sense to a point.  Certainly, traditional instructional methods are reused and adapted to new medias. I think it is fair to say that educators don’t want an emphasis on medium over instruction. Often when this happens, the new technology is embraced and then quickly fades into obscurity. Tradition instructional methods have their merits and need to be considered when using various mediums for the best learning outcomes. It is still important to the learning process that information be demonstrated, learned, and then applied in some relevant manner.

Kozma’s position felt more insightful and predictive of what future technology was going to have to offer education in the coming years. It’s important to recognize that not all students learn the same way and that some methods are more engaging than others. Essentially, different methods can have better results in important ways. I know in my practice, that students respond far better to me showing them a concept rather than talking about it.  Arguably, new media can be used in a way of showing/doing a lesson that essentially ups the ante. Students become more engaged, it allows them to participate or even, gods forbid, be entertained, with the lesson.

We are in a very different age than the mid 90’s when Clark and Kozma were having their “Great Media Debate.” Then, the internet was a baby and household computers were not overly common. Now, we have smart phones and portable gaming devices. Students are surrounded by competing mobile entertainment! As an educator it can be difficult to keep student’s attention when they can check social media on their phone and interact with their friends whenever they want via text message. Educators have an uphill battle at times. Employing the same or similar media to educate, or fighting fire with fire, may be required to combat this new reality.

Adding to the debate Becker points out, and I think Kozma would agree, there is a reason that NASA employs simulation machines and doesn’t just require astronauts to only read up on spacecraft control theory.  Interactive mediums offer the opportunity allow practice and skills growth when it otherwise could not be done or would not be cost effective.

Booker further notes that gamification in education is not only an alteration of instructional methods. Gamification utilizes traditional instructional methods, but it requires a serious understanding of how a good video game is made to make a good/effective educational game. Even standard entertainment-based video games use (usually subtle) instruction to teach the user how to navigate the game. But games can take on a life of their own.  You are no longer a passive learner. You are making the learning happen, you are a part of it, and I think that is the key point to understand. Educational video games allow the user/learner to be actively engaged in a way no other medium does.


Clark, R.E. (1994). Media will never influence learning. Educational Technology Research and Development. 42 (2),  21-29.

Kozma, R.B. (1994). Will media influence learning? Reframing the debate. Educational Technology Research and Development. 42 (2), 17-19.

Becker, K. (2010). The Clark-Kozma Debate in the 21stCentury. Paper presented at the Canadian Network for Innovation in Education 2010 Conference. Published under Creative Commons. (

Future Trends in Education Technology

As a Technology Education teacher, keeping up with the latest trends in educational technology is extremely important.  It can be exciting to see what new programs, apps, and tech are being implemented in the classroom, but it can also be scary and overwhelming in the pace that new tech is being developed. I have found it important to connect with other teachers to communicate what tech is working for them and what is not.  It is too easy to jump on new tech that looks cool and useful only to find out that the technology has very limited educational application and does not lend itself well to the learning process. It is especially important to be aware of some tech’s possible shortcomings as it can be expensive and high schools have limited budgets.  For this reason, I generally use caution and wait for a technology to prove itself a little first before investing money and preparation time into it. But new educational tech is not all doom and gloom, it can also be extremely helpful in implementing exciting and efficient ways to communicate ideas and challenge students in their learning and understanding of the world and their place in it.

As an electronics / robotics teacher, using coding, cloud based collaborative learning, and prototyping via 3D printing have quickly found a home in my classroom. These technologies have taken the subject matter and really opened it up for every student. Students are now able to communicate both in class and out, using cloud/collaborative apps such as Google Docs and it has never been easier to share and refine ideas.  Robotics and coding have helped my students develop their critical thinking, explore iteration, and logic skills which, as many educational technology trend articles have described (see below for article links), are projected to be valued skills in future employment opportunities. With the advent of lower cost 3D printers’ students can now readily design and prototype ideas, taking the digital and turning it into the physical.  Being able to take the idea of a concept and putting it into practice allows students to connect the entire design & production process from beginning to end. These types of tech have changed the way my classes are taught and made the learning process more efficient and effective.

Unfortunately, not all tech is as applicable to education (or, at least, my taught subjects). I have played around with augmented reality (AR) apps such as HP Reveal, as noted on the Tech & Learning website, and I have found that, although the technology looks really cool it is difficult to implement unless it is guaranteed that every student has a device (which my students do not). As a technology education teacher, I bristle at the idea of virtual reality (VR) in my classroom.  I pride myself on giving students a hands-on experience and the idea of putting on a head set or staring at a Chrome Book and “virtually” cutting wood or driving a robot does not interest me. What is the point of pretending to do something in a virtual landscape when you can do it in real life!? I do understand that it can be utilized in demonstrating things that are too expensive or prohibitive to do normally, such as a virtual surgery as noted in multiple articles (see below), but if the VR system is only being used for one application it will likely not be cost effective for a high school purchase. I agree with the Top Hat blog in their assessment that VR & AR have limited appeal and very specific use and need, otherwise they are a fun distraction. It should be noted that VR and AR could be adapted well in situations where students have a disability and can not participate in the traditional hands-on projects.

Educational technology has helped streamline the classroom and make learning more fun and effective for students. This makes pursuing it worth the time, although I do have some criticisms. Firstly, digital security can be a difficult to manage. Can I store information on this server? Is the information safe? Could I lose my work, or my students work, if the tech closes? All these things and more need to be addressed when using tech in the classroom.

Secondly, as technology rapidly changes it is important to remember that not all changes are necessarily good if not addressed critically.  In the Holland & Holland article it discusses the idea of having internet access everywhere which would allow down time to become more effectively used.  Although they immediately state they are not advocating a 24/7 work schedule, the thought made my skin crawl.  Most people would agree that having internet access everywhere would be great and allow flexible work hours. That is not being debated but it leaves wiggle room for abusive employers to demand more work from their employees. This can already be seen with people sometimes being expected to monitor emails even when off the clock or working from home outside the regular business day.

Tech in the classroom has helped prepare students for the realities of the future job market, broadening their understanding of the world and their ability to be adaptable and think critically. Overall, tech in the classroom is a good thing but it needs to be approached with care, respect, and mindfulness. Like our parents and their parents before them, we want a safe and bright future for our students, and we want them to have the best we can give them.



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