Schools all over the world are crunching budget numbers or applying for grants in an effort to provide one laptop or tablet to every, single child. Los Angeles just announced its commitment to providing one for each of its 600,000+ public school students.
We’ve written about how to get started with technology integration in a previous post but today we explore the question:

How will this trend shape education? 

Blogger Ruben Puentadura offers a useful scale to view the degrees to which schools integrate technology. He uses the acronym SAMR.

Substitution: Tech acts as a direct tool substitute with no functional change


  • Word processing instead of hand written pages
  • Electronic books, text or worksheets instead of in paper form
  • Projecting teacher writing or typing instead of teacher physically writing on board

Augmentation: Tech acts as a direct tool substitute with functional improvement


  • Student directed internet research vs. teacher provided resources
  • Response polls to questions to keep students engaged and quick checks for understanding
  • Games played to learn new information or review

Modification: Tech allows for significant task redesign


  • Personalize learning and differentiate instruction (audio, visual, pacing)
  • Additional course offerings

 Redefinition: Tech allows for creation of new tasks, previously inconceivable


  • Constructing models
  • Computer programming

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you probably agree that “Modification” and “Redefinition” should be the target stages for technology integration.
A few examples of “Redefinition” in action:

  • Dr. Clayton Christensen, industry disruption guru, says that his analysis suggests that 50% of all high school courses will be online by 2019.
  • The UK government is currently replacing information literacy and productivity applications with computer science in schools.
  • “Reading and remixing another person’s computer program is a sophisticated form of literacy students need today.”  – Invent to Learn

What does this mean for the future role of the teacher? 

imgresHole in the Wall Education
Dr. Sugata Mitra asks a profound question:
“Would a person with good handwriting, spelling and grammar and instant recall of multiplication tables be considered a better candidate for a job than, say, one who knows how to configure a peer-to-peer network of devices, set up an organisation-wide Google calendar and find out where the most reliable sources of venture capital are, I wonder?”
Dr. Mitra has worked for over a decade on placing computers at child height into poor areas of developing countries, standing back and watching what happens. The students are remarkably good at teaching themselves how to use the computers.
Matt Ridley of the Wall Street Journal points out Dr. Mitra’s assertion that challenges the notion of the role of the teacher and the 1:1 ratio.

“Dr. Mitra…is convinced that, with the Internet, kids can learn by themselves, so long as they are in small groups and have well-posed questions to answer. He now goes into schools and asks a hard question that he thinks the students will not be able to answer, such as: “How do you stop something moving?” or “Was World War II good or bad?”

He gives them no clue where to start, but—crucially—he insists that the school restrict the number of Internet portals in the class to one for every four students. One child in front of a computer learns little; four discussing and debating learn a lot. What happens next is entirely up to the students. All they know is that Dr. Mitra is coming back to be told what they have found.”

Watch Dr. Mitra’s Ted talk and visit his website for more.

The Bottom Line: 

Technology in the classroom definitely has implications for the changing role of teachers. See our post on that topic more generally. Teachers need to embrace the tech revolution but it won’t be easy.
A good page to bookmark and refer back to: Edutopia’s Classroom Technology Series
Andrew Marcinek, blogger at Edutopia says it quite well:

“Education technology will continue to progress, and part of this evolution will be for students and teachers to stay current with both curriculum and digital literacy. What school districts and administrators should control are the ways in which they create and foster a culture of adaptability before instituting a 1:1 environment.

What will sustain through all the changes is the teacher who is constantly curious, driven by the possibilities of his or her classroom, and never satisfied with repeating lessons and practice. Devices come and go, but progressive teachers who adapt will last longer than any device.”

The more I read and think about the future the more I realize I need to learn computer programming and basic code. I’m excited for the challenge!
Sylvia Libow Martinez and Gary Stager, authors of Invent to Learn offer this:

“Kids view the ability to print their own toys, tools and models with a sort of blasé attitude described by Alan Kay’s adage that, ‘Technology is anything that wasn’t there when you were born'”.

“For those of us who want to change education, the hard work is in our own minds, bringing ourselves to enter intellectual domains we never thought existed. The deepest problem for us is not technology, nor teaching, nor school bureaucracies – it’s the limits of our own thinking.”