How New Technologies Have (and Have Not) Changed Teaching and Learning in Schools

Winter 2009-2010

Source: Journal of Computing in Teacher Education, Volume 26, No. 2, Winter 2009-2010
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

Information technologies have reshaped teaching and learning in schools, but often not in ways anticipated by technology proponents.

This article discusses the questions of whether and how technologies have influenced teaching and learning, and what paths are open (and closed) for future impact. The authors argue that technologies have fundamentally transformed schools – but not in ways anticipated by classroom technology enthusiasts.

The authors propose a contrast between technologies for learning and technologies for learners to explain how technologies influence teaching and learning in and out of schools.

How Technologies will Shape the Future of Teaching and Learning

Schools have made significant use of assessment and instructional technologies that help promote learning for all students, whereas technologies for learners, such as mobile devices, video games, and social networking sites, are typically excluded from school contexts.
The difference in these two kinds of technologies can be seen in the contrast of technologies for learning vs. technologies for learners.

Schools tend to support technologies for learning. Technologies for learning minimize the active participation of the learner – in fact, such technologies are developed so that they can work for any learner, regardless of the motivation or the ability of the particular learner. Technologies for learning are essentially teaching technologies structured to reliably deliver and measure outcomes regardless of the context or the situation of the learner.

Technologies for learners, on the other hand, put the learner in control of the instructional process. Learning goals are determined by the learner, and the learner decides when goals are satisfied and when new goals are in order. Technologies for learners emphasize information resources, such as search engines, Wikis and blogs, that allow for information retrieval, browsing, incidental learning and participation. Technologies for learners include programming and visualization tools that allow learners to construct representation of emergent hypotheses. Finally, technologies for learners are notoriously unreliable for producing anticipated results.

The authors draw this contrast between technologies for learning and for learners in order to make a point about how schools have taken up some technologies and left others behind. To illustrate the difference between technologies for learning and for learners, the authors consider two successful on-line environments that have flourished in very different worlds: virtual charter schools and fantasy sports.


The authors conclude that it is impossible to foresee the effects of new technologies on complex, well-established institutions.

Finally, the institutional pull toward co-opting the potential of technologies must be seen in the larger context of education and society. While schools adapt technologies to proven approaches to teaching and learning, technologies in entertainment, communication and business have sprouted into the seeds of a new education system on the margins of schooling.
Instead of opposing in-school and out-of-school learning, the advent of new learning technologies describes a pluralistic world in which out-of-school learning can complement in-school education.

Updated: Feb. 21, 2010