What does it mean to teach with technology?

students on computer TA wkshp

When we think about teaching with technology, we often think first of sophisticated gadgetry and cutting-edge software. After all, with the increased ubiquity of laptops, tablets, and cell phones in our classrooms, it is easy to assume that teaching with technology refers only to adopting the latest and greatest tools or that the tool itself will solve a teaching issue. However, teaching with technology refers to a lot more than just tool use. Rather, when leaders in Scholarship on Teaching and Learning talk about teaching with technology, what they’re really talking about is how to make sound pedagogical choices about the effects of using particular tools for student learning.

Almost all of us already teaching with technology. While something like a chalkboard, for example, is a traditional, non-digital technology, it can still be considered “technology” precisely because it is a tool that you use to do your work as an instructor. Sometimes, technologies like chalkboards work best for engaging students. For example, it can be useful for students to see the steps in a process, like a workflow or an equation. Other times, technologies like chalkboards do not work as well. As an instructor, you are uniquely positioned to make choices about which tools in your classroom – whether that classroom is face-to-face, hybrid, or fully online – will help your students reach the course’s learning outcomes most effectively.

All of us have a charge to be creative, to continue to ask questions. We may want to teach the exact same way we’ve always taught, but know why. Know why that’s best for you. Remember, you’re doing research into what’s best for your teaching too. That’s what it means to be at a research university.Carolyn Thomas, Vice Provost and Dean for Undergraduate Education

How can technology integration benefit your students’ learning and your teaching?

Three students read and study in the quad.University students will use digital tools in their future working and learning environments, so higher education institutions, including the University of California, have been directing resources towards developing courses that incorporate hybrid and online learning experiences. We maintain that digital tools are just one choice among the many that instructors can draw upon to promote student learning, and a main goal for EdTech Commons is to demystify teaching with digital tools and to encourage instructors to consider the various affordances (and limitations) of these tools for our students’ learning as our universities are increasingly motivated to incorporate digital tool use into our classrooms.

What are the specific benefits of hybrid and online learning as a way of teaching with technology?

When we talk about teaching with technology, we refer to a wide range of practices. These practices are based in rigorous, scholarly research. Here is an overview of some of the most recent, and relevant, findings.

  • Performance. In a meta-analysis of studies of online learning, Means et al. (2010) found that blended, hybrid and online courses can produce similar if not better outcomes for learners. Emerging research supports Means et al.’s findings for online and hybrid courses (e.g., Aly, 2013, Baepler, Walker, Driessen, 2014).
  • Flexibility. In both hybrid and online classes, students have the flexibility to learn a variety of materials at their own pace. With the hybrid course context in particular, students can use out-of-class time to learn “lecture” material at their own pace while in-class time can be used for problem-solving, practice, and group work. In a fully online course, students can similarly absorb content at their own pace while engaging with students both in asynchronous (i.e. not in real time) spaces, like discussion boards and forums, and synchronous (i.e. in real time) spaces, like webinars.
  • Engagement. Students and instructors find the hybrid and online formats conducive to rich engagement. Delialioglu (2012) found that students engagement was significantly higher in the blended, and problem-based, aspect of the course.
  • Repository. Many instructors pre-record, or capture elements of the class, so all students are able to access the lecture material multiple times for review. The ability to pause, rewind, and listen to content multiple times can help students learn at their own pace.
  • Adaptive Learning. The 2015 Horizon Report from the New Media Consortium suggested that hybrid and online courses are ideal for adaptive learning technologies and tools. The adaptive learning technologies can capture both cognitive and behavioral data and use it to inform an algorithm provides feedback on the competencies and skills students succeed and struggle with. Students can use the data to help determine where development is needed. Instructors can use the metrics as another layer of feedback to help inform the design learning opportunities for the individual student and/or class.
    More information on adaptive learning and how it can support instruction is also available through Educause’s ongoing series on emerging learning technologies.

How can EdTech Commons help you learn how to teach with technology?

EdTech Commons promotes a mindful dialogue about why instructors across campus choose to use particular tools and what effects those tools have on student learning.

We hope you’ll use EdTech Commons as a way to understand how digital tools can be used to make your classroom a dynamic and engaging space, whether you are teaching a face-to-face or a fully online course. The resources we offer here are intended to help you think more about how teaching with technology can fit into your pedagogy. After all, ample scholarly evidence suggests that digital tool use can put students at the center of their learning.

At UC Davis, we strive to drive a large, national conversation about how and why mindful tool use can enhance student learning. We hope you’ll join us and be a voice in that conversation.

References & Resources

Aly, I. (2013). Performance in an online introductory course in a hybrid classroom setting. The Canadian Journal of Higher Education, 43.2, 85-99

Baepler, P., Walker, J.D., & Driessen, M. (2014). “It’s Not about Seat Time: Blending, Flipping, and Efficiency in Active Learning Classrooms.” Computers & Education, 78, 227-236

Delialioglu, O. (2012). “Student Engagement in Blended Learning Environments with Lecture-Based and Problem-Based Instructional Approaches.” Journal of Educational Technology & Society, 15.3, 310-322

Educause (2017). “7 Things You Should Know about Adaptive Learning”. Retrieved from https://library.educause.edu/resources/2017/1/7-things-you-should-know-about-adaptive-learning 

Johnson, L., Adams Becker, S., Estrada, V., and Freeman, A. (2015). NMC Horizon Report: 2015 Higher Education Edition. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium.

Means, B., Toyama, Y., Murphy, R., Bakia, M., & Jones, K. (2010). “Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning: A Meta-Analysis and Review of Online Learning Studies.” U.S. Department of Education.