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Don’t use technology.… Do use technology.…

By January 6, 201412 Comments


Don’t get me wrong – given my Twitter ID it’s a given that I believe very strongly in using technology to support and enhance learning. The OED states that an evangelist is “a person who seeks to convert others to the Christian faith, especially by public preaching”, so ok… I might not be doing the Christian faith bit, but as an ‘ICT Evangelist’ I do believe that technology has the power to change our world and certainly the learning that takes place in our classrooms and beyond. I firmly believe that as teachers (who are now well in to the) 21st century, we should be looking to capitalise on the learning wins that reflective practice and learning technologies can bring to the outcomes of our learners. 

There’s a problem though. There is a dichotomy of experiences, skills, beliefs and abilities when it comes to using technology in our classrooms. It’s written in to the United States Declaration of Independence that, “all men are born equal”, but it’s certainly not true when it comes to the experiences that our students receive in their lessons at the hands of some of our teachers and that’s before you even think about entering technology into the equation.

I guess, if you are reading this, you might be wondering what on earth I’m on about. Well; let me ask you this… if Ofsted call and you have that night before warning – are you more or less likely to use technology in your lessons as a vehicle to support and enhance learning other than (and I shudder to say it) to use PowerPoint to present your learning outcomes and other resources? Now, I might be wrong – but the majority of responses I normally get when I ask that question is that people are less than likely to use technology. And that is a problem. So why is that the case? Why aren’t teachers across the country embracing technology in ways that enable transformational learning opportunities to take place? There are two main reasons here, I believe. One of confidence. The other being pedagogy.


Have you ever been abseiling or bungee jumping or done any other really quite foolhardy and dangerous activity? I have. The faith that the rope is strong enough, the parachute has been folded correctly for deployment, the cord won’t snap… it’s a big deal. Yes – using technology in your lessons isn’t quite as high stakes as losing your life! But… it is still a very high pressure environment and even more so in our ever increasing litigious and Ofsted driven education system. Why would anyone in their right mind use technology when they don’t have to; in a lesson when they’re being observed if they haven’t got any faith that using technology will do anything other than fail and cause them to get a poor observation rating? It is therefore imperative that teachers are given the confidence to use technology in the classroom if they are going to make a difference and transform how teaching & learning can take place.

The diagram above is something which, based upon the work of Mandinach & Cline, is something I’ve found particularly useful in helping me to scaffold the work I do with teachers. It’s important to remember that teachers want to do their best for their students. It’s a rare thing to find a teacher who doesn’t like children and doesn’t want them to succeed. We need to be able to give teachers opportunities so that they can see the benefits of using technology to enhance learning and to give them experiences of this within their own classes too. Scaffolding opportunities for this to take place therefore is key. Differentiated training during CPD sessions; digital leaders within lessons which will support teachers when they’re trying out new technology and ideas; these are the sorts of things that will help build and bring about teacher confidence so that they have mastery and can make an impact on the teaching and learning.


As teaching professionals we all know about pedagogy. We are, or at least we should be, masters of both pedagogy and content. Shulman advanced our understanding of this relationship when he introduced the idea of pedagogical and content knowledge (PCK). PCK is the intersection where pedagogy and content knowledge meet. Prior to Shulman, many educationalists viewed pedagogy and content as two separate entities. By thinking of these two things in conjunction with each other, powerful ideas about teaching and learning developed to bring about a better understanding, and pedagogy as a result.

Moving on from this TPACK was formed – TPACK or Technological, Pedagogical Content Knowledge looks to develop PCK further, to assist teachers in being able to identify the types of knowledge required by teachers in order to better integrate technology into their teaching. Held within TPACK you have the mix of Content (CK), Pedagogy (PK), and Technology (TK) which can be seen in more detail and how they link together in this diagram that I made:

By using the diagram above and some careful training and support, such as that mentioned above; teachers can begin to interweave TK/PK/CK amongst each other. One of the things I think which is most powerful about the TPACK model is that it states that the deeply skilled teaching that it supports includes knowing when to or not to use technology. Sometimes, technology doesn’t bring anything extra to the learning, and that’s ok; it’s just that knowing when or when not to use it, takes a fair amount of expertise too. To help further with this, Ruben Puentedura’s SAMR model is absolutely key:

This framework is a really great way of ensuring that, when planning learning sequences, teachers are able to think about the types of activities students are going to be working on and whether or not technology can be used to bring about transformational learning. The fundamental aspect of SAMR is that in order for a task or learning sequence to be transformational it must have been previously inconceivable without the use of technology. It divided into two sections, either enhancement or transformation levels and each of those levels is divided into two levels too. Using this framework is, I believe absolutely crucial in ensuring that the use of technology is not only purposeful, but in addition to that, going to give teachers more and more confidence and security in knowing that what they are doing with the technology is transforming learning.

So – what about when the pesky visitors come to call – will the meaningful and deeply skilled teacher choose to use technology in their lesson? Well of course, colleagues will feel that much more happy about using technology (or not) in their lessons. Irrespective of who is watching. This is because they know it is for the right reasons; they’ve had opportunities to practise, they’ve had the opportunity to embed, they are secure in their knowledge and use of TPACK and SAMR. What’s even more powerful though, is that they will know if it’s not right to use technology too.

That’s what I’m working towards. A brilliant return on investment in infrastructure, technology and people, leading to a transformational shift in learning that takes place at the right time, in the right place, for the right reasons.

If you’d like to find out more about anything that you’ve read here, including examples of theoretical concepts and more, then please either read my book, ‘Perfect ICT Every Lesson’ which is available from Amazon and all good book stores:

Mark Anderson

Mark Anderson, @ICTEvangelist. Click here to learn more.