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Choosing Technology that Supports Learning and Encourages Student Involvement

A book review by Itiya Aneece, PhD student in Environmental Sciences and Tomorrow’s Professor Today Alumna

Itiya Aneece

Technology can be an asset to learning and increasing student involvement by increasing access to material (Khalil 2013) in flexible ways (Park 2011) and allowing students and teachers to express individuality and challenge themselves (Landis 2010, Deaton and Singleton 2004). Despite these potential benefits of technology, many teachers (and learners) resist its introduction. One key to overcoming this resistance is acknowledging it as a legitimate response. The haphazard incorporation of technology will not benefit learning; it must be deliberately incorporated in ways that support learning goals; this takes time, effort, resources, encouragement from faculty, administration, and students, and evolving modes of support (Landis 2010, Park 2011, Anderson and Wood 2009, Deaton and Singleton 2004).

To choose the appropriate use of technology to accomplish specific learning goals, it is useful to categorize technology into the types of learning it can facilitate. Park (2011) describes four categories of mobile-device facilitated learning as a function of transactional distance and learner independence. Transactional distance is a function of the degree of pre-determined structure of an activity, the level of interaction between the teacher and the learner, and the level of interaction between the student and his/ her peers (Park 2011). An activity that has a lot of structure (i.e. recorded lecture as opposed to an online discussion) and low levels of interaction with the teacher and peers would have high transactional distance so that there is a large cognitive distance between the teacher and the learner.

Park’s (2011) four categories are high transactional distance socialized learning (HS), high transactional distance individualized learning (HI), low transactional distance socialized learning (LS), and low transactional distance individualized learning (LI). Each addresses a different set of learning goals: HS helps students develop collaboration and socialization skills; HI helps gain knowledge from the teacher in a structured way; LS encourages interaction with the teacher and with peers; and LI helps a teacher provide guided individualized learning. Hence, the learning goals of a particular activity determine the type and level of technology used.

Even when introducing an appropriate form of technology, teachers must be prepared to adapt new teaching styles and students must be prepared to adapt new ways of learning (Deaton and Singleton 2004). With clear definition of student roles and availability of resources, technology can be incorporated into learning that increases student involvement in an individualized and effective manner (Deaton and Singleton 2004).

Anderson, A. and E. Wood. 2009. Implementing technology in the classroom: Assessing teachers’ needs through the use of a just-in-time support system. In I. Gibson et al. (Eds.), Proceedings of Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education International Conference 2009: 3369-3372. Chesapeake, VA: AACE.

Deaton, B. and E. Singleton. 2004. Faculty involvement in internet based learning: Why would they ever do that?. In J. Nall & R. Robson (Eds.), Proceedings of World Conference on E-Learning in Corporate, Government, Healthcare, and Higher Education 2004: pp. 566-571. Chesapeake, VA: AACE.

Khalil, S.M. 2013. From resistance to acceptance and use of technology in academia. Open Praxis. 5 (2): 151-163.

Landis, M. 2010. Constructive technology. In D. Gibson & B. Dodge (Eds.). Proceedings of Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference 2010: 2280-2287. Chesapeake, VA: AACE.

Park, Y. 2011. A pedagogical framework for mobile learning: categorizing educational applications of mobile technologies into four types. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning. 12.2: 78-102.

Itiya Aneece is pursuing a PhD in Environmental Sciences at the University of Virginia. She has taught the Fundamentals of Ecology lab since the Fall of 2011, has recently completed the Tomorrow’s Professor Today program, and enjoys exploring new ways to encourage learning.


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