TEL Communities

Helen Caldwell and Anna Cox | View as single page | Feedback/Impact
TEL Communities
Definitions: Theoretical background relevant to technology facilitated social learning
Research evidence: Systematic literature reviews on the theme of technology facilitated social learning

Teaching in a digital age: how educators use technology to improve student learning

Teaching in a Digital Age: How Educators Use Technology to Improve Student Learning.  McKnight, K, O’Malley, K, Ruzic, R, Horsley, Franey, J and Bassett, K (2016). Journal of Research on Technology in Education, Vol. 48 Issue 3 pp194 -211

This paper focuses not on technology but on its affordance of teaching and learning.  Taking data from seven schools in the USA the study uses focus groups, interviews and observations to identify common themes by documenting six common strategies used across the schools and identifying five roles that technology plays in enhancing teaching and learning.   Referring to Clark and Mayer (2011) the paper usefully highlights the observation that unless teaching strategies change learning does not change, even when technology is used to support delivery. The SAMR model explored in column 1 describes more deeply how change can develop in stages and provides a useful and more detailed conceptualisation.  This MESH guide shares a view that there is potential for change and development and this is illustrated in the case studies section. It is also noted in the McKnight paper that research on active learner centered approaches affirms this. The data is set out clearly and diagrammatic representation of the data is strong, Five roles of technology to support learning are described: It improves access to more up to date resources for both teachers and learners; it improves communication and feedback between teachers and learners and between learner groups; technology restructures teachers’ time; technology extends purpose for student work and opens wider audiences for it; technology shift teacher and student roles.   These notions concur with much other writing and with the propositions of this MESH Guide.

The authors comment that the change in teacher roles is of key importance but to many readers the breadth of finding rather than this one will be of significant value.  The findings are discussed in relation to other studies and models including the SAMR model described in this guide, showing the increasing cohesion of findings in this field.  The paper goes on to discuss the implications of the finding which are predominantly for schools. However there are key messages which transfer well to the teacher education context and to online and blended learning.  Table 2 usefully links instructional strategies to learning theory with links to allow the reader to explore this more fully.


McKnight, K., O'Malley, K., Ruzic, R., Horsley, M.K., Franey, J.J. and Bassett, K., 2016. Teaching in a digital age: How educators use technology to improve student learning. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 48(3), pp.194-211.