Technology such as computers, tablets, and mobile devices have permeated American society over the past 20-30 years and adoptions are occurring more rapidly than any previous forms of technology in history. According to the US Census Bureau (2013), in 1984 just 8.4% of households reported having a computer at home. In 2011 that figure stands at 75.6%. Currently 91% of American adults owns some form of cell phone, while 56% of these are smartphones (Smith, 2013). And in a recent study Pew Internet researcher Kathryn Zickhur (2013) revealed 34% of American adults now own a tablet computer. This is up from just 3% in May of 2010. With technology such a large part of American society, and such rapid changes occurring within the world because of it, educators need to reconsider education as “ ‘learning to learn’ skills that will help citizens cope with inevitable technological change” (Roblyer and Doering, 2013, pg. 35). When technology is used efficiently and effectively the advantages of using it in educational institutions has the potential to answer some of the most difficult questions teachers have in educating their students.
Perhaps the best way to see its benefits would be to look at Universal Design for Learning or UDL. UDL is based on a set of three principles of curriculum development and instruction that gives all individuals equal opportunities to learn. The three guiding principles behind UDL are “1. providing multiple means of representation; 2. providing multiple means of action and expression; and 3. providing multiple means of engagement” (Rose and Gravel, 2010). Well-designed use of technology has the capability to affect all three of these.
Principle 1: Multiple means of representation
Everyone learns in a different way and some even have disabilities creating new challenges to learning. Technology provides a means with which to overcome these challenges. It allows one to easily display videos, animations or pictures to clarify a concept. It allows you to “go” places and “see” and “do” things not generally possible without recent developments and efforts in technology. It makes authenticates an educational experience. Advents in technology also ensure equal opportunities to those with sensory disabilities such as visual impairments or blindness. With it one can change the display size of text, change the contrast between font and text, or have text read aloud (Cast).
Principle 2: Multiple means of action and expression
Howard Gardner’s theory of Multiple Intelligences or the various theories and research on learning styles and brain-based learning are popular among educators. In this research, it is commonly agreed upon that children do not learn in the same way and they best express their learning differently as well (Jensen). Rather than moving all students at the same pace whether they are ready or not, some software or websites allow students to practice and move along at their own pace (Roblyer and Doering, 2013, pg. 49). Computers also allow students to express themselves differently. Podcasts, videos, slideshows, comics, digital art, even relaying concepts through video games like Minecraft. These all provide students the opportunity to learn or show what they know in ways that best fit them.
Principle 3: Multiple means of engagement
“He has no motivation.”
“She just doesn’t care.”
These things can often be heard from teachers referring to students, but technology has the potential to change that because it allows students to see the relevance of new skills and concepts, it gives students the opportunity to be active learners, provides extra motivation to at-risk students (Roblyer, Doering, 2013, pg. 51), and gives students a means to share their work to be viewed by people around the world (Markus, 2012). Motivation among other things leads to increased effort, persistence, and performance (Ormond, 2008). Motivated students are therefore engaged in their efforts.
Efficient and effective use of technology is vital to educational institutions if they are to prepare students for their ventures in the 21st century.
CAST (2011). Universal design for learning guidelines version 2.0. Retrieved from http://www.cast.org/udl/
Jensen, E. (n.d.). What is brain based learning?. Retrieved from http://feaweb.org/brain-based-learning-strategies
Markus, D. (2012, December, 12). An introduction to technology integration. [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/technology-integration-introduction-video
Ormrod, J. E. (2008). Educational psychology: developing learners (6th ed.). Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Pearson/Merrill/Prentice Hall. Retrieved from http://www.education.com/reference/article/motivation-affects-learning-behavior/
Roblyer, M. D., & Doering, A. H. (2013). Integrating educational technology into teaching (6th ed.). Boston: Pearson/Allyn and Bacon Publishers.
Rose, D. and Gravel, J. (2010). Technology and learning: Meeting special student’s needs. Retrieved from http://www.udlcenter.org/sites/udlcenter.org/files/TechnologyandLearning.pdf
Smith, A. (2013, June 5). Smartphone ownership – 2013 update. Retrieved from http://pewinternet.org/Reports/2013/Smartphone-Ownership-2013/Findings.aspx
Zickuhr, K. (2013, June 10). Tablet ownership 2013. Retrieved from http://pewinternet.org/Reports/2013/Tablet-Ownership-2013/Findings.aspx
U.S. Census Bureau. (2013, May). Computer and internet use in the United States: Population characteristics. Retrieved from http://www.census.gov/hhes/computer/