Ontario Tech University
Without effective and purposeful planning and implementation, technology in curriculum delivery can be wasteful, redundant and meritless. Now more than ever, with a focus on globalization and the rapid development of technology, it is imperative that effective strategies are used to integrate technologies that enhance and enrich learning experiences. Frameworks of integration such as Universal Design for Learning and Technology Integration Matrix, can connect pedagogical theories and practical application of technology that fosters inclusive education, producing creative and innovative learners that are prepared for careers in the 21st century.
Effectively utilizing technology in education has the potential to significantly contribute to the revolution required in teaching and learning to support the durable skills, abilities, diverse talents and global perspectives that are required by today’s learners (McKenna et al., 2016). The emergent and rapid conversion of delivery and use of technology during a tumultuous two years, highlighted the need for professional development for faculty in educational technology as well as analysis to examine barriers to integration. The hasty integration of digital teaching solutions did not exemplify best pedagogical practices. This chapter explores characteristics and principles of Universal Design and Technology Integration Matrix models as frameworks to enrich learning experiences as well as potential barriers that exist to integrating technology.
accessibility, barriers, technology integration matrix, universal design
The various technology integration models provide a lens through which we can examine the effectiveness and application of technology in the learning process and subsequently the effect it has on outcomes and learning experiences (Kimmons, 2016). These theoretical constructs empower educators promote critical inquiry and support an understanding of technology integration possibilities. Models such as technology integration matrix and universal design for learning, can serve as guides in the process of curriculum design and delivery, aiming to enhance the learning experience, provide inclusive education and promote durable skills and competencies required for 21st century graduates.
The rapidly emerging digital world requires us to rethink learning and the acquisition of knowledge and the contexts in which learning takes place (Kimmons, 2016). As stated in Kimmons, (2016), connectivism framework views learning as fundamentally changing as a result of technology and integration requires altering processes to align with the emerging trends of learning. In contrast, other models view technology as an external component that must be merged into the pre-existing context of teaching and learning. In the adoption and enhancement of technology in teaching we must consider potential barriers to integrating technology. Research findings support that current educators were not prepared in pre-service training to support effective integration of technological tools, some report a lack of resources and reliable connectivity, others commented on the lack of institutional support and framework and others were reluctant and resistant to adapting their practices to integrate digital tools (Atebek, 2019).
The revolution of education has resulted in a multitude of digital platforms, tools and framework integration models continually being developed and refined to support best practices in teaching. These pedagogical frameworks can be utilized to guide educators in their own exploration and learning and can help ensure that purposeful and strategic implementation will optimize the impact of technology on learning. Several integration models exist, each of which has overlapping recommendations, characteristics and purposes which despite some differences, can be seen as complementary (Winkelman, 2021).
Universal Design for Learning
Universal design for learning (UDL), provides a framework and principles to foster development of learning environments that are accessible to all, meeting diverse students’ learning needs. Rather than adapting curriculum to meet the needs of students, the focus is on designing learning that is accessible to all. UDL is an approach to technology integration that emphasizes the diversity of learners’ strengths and needs in curriculum design with the role of technology being a means to support accessibility of learning (Kimmons, 2016). It is imperative to prepare educators with the knowledge and tools to implement and understand effective teaching and learning strategies for student populations which are diverse, comprised of students with varying needs, abilities backgrounds and aspirations.
Three main overarching principles of universal design include:
- Provide multiple means of representation;
- Provide multiple means of action and expression;
- Provide multiple means for engagement (CAST, 2018)
Technology in UDL can be utilized to minimize barriers to learning however it should be recognized that technology can be used in curriculum however this model focuses on those of which that meets these principles of inclusive UDL delivery. Digitally designed assessments implemented with a UDL framework can address accessibility needs and barriers. This inclusive curriculum model is closely related to and aligns well with the pedagogical framework of the Technology Integration Model (TIM). Providing students choice and alternatives is central to both of these frameworks.
Technology Integration Matrix Model
The development of this model focused on the intersection of meaningful learning environments and the levels of technology integration. A major theme of TIM is empowering students to take ownership of their own learning. This implementation framework fosters the progression of students to explore and adapt technology in authentic problem-solving initiatives. Much like Partnering, as described by Prensky, (2010), the model is based upon a shift of responsibility of learning away from the teacher to the student. This is a shift in perspective of the roles where the teacher questions, guides, offers exploration, problem solving and collaboration rather than lecturing and informing and students take on the responsibility to use technology to explore, create, present and apply new learning. Such an approach allows use of technology to it’s fullest extent (Prensky, 2010). At the lower levels of the TIM, the teacher has greater ownership and directs learning however as the learning environment shifts and adopts technology, students become empowered in accomplishing outcomes and goals (Winkelman, 2020).
The TIM model incorporates five interdependent characteristics of effective, meaningful learning environments which in turn are associated with five levels of technology integration; active, constructive, goal directed, authentic, and collaborative and associates each characteristic with five levels of technology integration; entry, adoption, adaptation, infusion, and transformation. Together this creates the 25 cell matrix which is the foundation for organizing technology planning and integration. The matrix model is interactive with each cell linking to four classroom videos to provide examples to educators of context of applications (Welsh et al., 2011). The TIM model is depicted in Figure 1.
Technology Integration Matrix Model (Winkelman,2020)
As you move across any row from left to right, the level of integration increases as more active and collaborative learning practices are embedded. As well as the shift of responsibility for learning, there is a transition from procedural understanding to conceptual understanding of technology and a progression to innovative use of digital tools. Winkelman, 2020, compared the TIM model to the well-known, Bloom’s Taxonomy, thinking skills model. The TIM model may be seen as similar as it describes an hierarchical approach of technology use from entry-level activities through to transformational-level use. The transformational level of integration parallels the ‘creating’ highest order of thinking level of Bloom’s model.
Digital technologies offer increased capability in deeply assessing students’ knowledge, skills and constructs that are challenging to measure through traditional methods (Dolan et al., 2013). Application of various integration models may depend on the educational context, level and expected outcomes with some models more well-suited than others depending on the teaching and learning needs. The TIM model is interactive whereby clicking on each cell brings the use to extended descriptors with video links to lesson examples. One limitation of this model is that although connections could be drawn for use in higher education, the examples provided are not specifically developed for post-secondary education.
Digital tools utilized effectively are the perfect medium to provide students with options to how to demonstrate knowledge. Multimodal expression of learning is at the foundation of UDL. Allowing students to express knowledge through story building tools, multi media presentations and learning through the use of gamification are examples that may meet diverse learning needs. Collaborative online documents and tools can also foster collaboration and build connections and learning communities in our classrooms.
Application to 21st Century Teaching and Learning
With a focus in post-secondary education institutions on globalization and the rapid pace of technological advancement, ongoing efforts are required to ensure effective use of technology in curriculum to provide graduates with durable skills and abilities to succeed. In Ontario for example, the government is committed to ensuring accessible, flexible and engaging learning opportunities are available to adult learners that help reduce barriers to education and learning (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2017).
In considering the framework and principles of UDL and TIM, we can see how each approach supports the global competencies endorsed by Council of Ministers of Education, Canada (CMEC) in July 2016 of critical thinking and problem solving, innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship, learning to learn/self-awareness and self-direction, collaboration, communication and global citizenship and sustainability (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2017). One of the challenges in incorporating and integrating technology in education and preparing and educating teachers is how rapidly technologies are evolving and changing. For educators to practice integration, they must be prepared for continual change and refinement to keep up with current trends and transitions of available tools.
Barriers to Implementation
Various classifications systems have been used to encompass barriers to the integration of technology. These have been grouped as internal barriers or personal and professional. Personal being those related to attitudes, technophobia, lack of interest or confidence and resistance to change and professional barriers refer to lack of knowledge and training of pedagogical concepts related to technology. External barriers are institutional and contextual (Mercader & Gairin, 2020).
During the pandemic, it was identified throughout various institutions that not all faculty and students had reliable or consistent internet access, computers, webcams, microphones or headsets required to support online classes (Van Nuland et. al., 2020). An analysis by McWatt, (2021) found that post secondary students at McGill University generally felt that remote education negatively impacted their learning, formative experiences, satisfaction and sense of connection (Pather et al., 2020 as cited in McWatt, 2021).
Professional Development and Training for Educators
Changes in expectations, outcomes and diversity of our learners of today, require educators to acquire and be prepared with the knowledge and skillset to effectively implement technology to create meaningful learning experiences. To ensure technology is being optimized, educators need to be supported and guided to re-imagine curriculum delivery which can be an overwhelming task to those who have limited experience and background in this area. Such wide-spread revisions that will provide student-centred, accessible practices and empowerment of teachers to engage students in active learning, will require time and strategic planning. Training opportunities for educators to shift their perspectives away from leading and instructing towards guiding and facilitating students in their own exploratory learning will foster creativity, collaboration, communication, critical thinking and innovation (Hernandez, 2021).
Existing literature, pre-pandemic, clearly substantiated that digital technologies were not commonly integrated into teaching practices and when they were used, it was more to support the educator’s presentation and less so for student-centred activities (Mercader & Gairín, 2020). It was found that the lack of institutional strategic plans or models for consistent integration, negatively impacted the use of technology in higher education (Gumbaur et al., 2016 as cited in Meracder & Gairin, 2020). The rapid conversion to online learning in 2019 will surely result in heightened awareness of curriculum, training, resources and research that will be required to leverage best practices in digital technologies learned over the past two years.
Conclusions and Future Recommendations
With the emergent and widespread adoption of a multitude of educational technology in curriculum globally as educators transitioned learning to online during the global pandemic, it has revealed an opportune time to critically reflect upon the existing integration models and determine some best practices. Practically, it could be established that certain integration models are most effectively applied in specific context and less so for others. Specifically, in the technology integration matrix model, the levels or classifications may not be viewed as clearly defined or distinguished from other levels which can lead to confusion in understanding the model (Journal Volume 20, Number 1, March 2020).
The strengths and application of the various integration models require ongoing analysis and evaluation and use of each may depend upon the end goal or context in which it is used. In addition, with the rapid emergence of new technology, advancements and refinement will be required in integration models. In reviewing the literature, it seems there is room for further research to explore effective technology integration strategies that are deemed as best practices for online learning and incorporation of digitized tools.
Currently, little literature is available to examine the theoretical models and approaches for educational technology. There is value in future research and evaluation of the various models to gauge efficacy, value and applications (Archambault & Barnett, 2010; Archambault & Crippen, 2009; Brantley-Dias & Ertmer, 2013; Graham, 2011; Graham, Henrie, & Gibbons, 2014; Kimmons, 2015; Kimmons & Hall, 2016a, 2016b, 2017 as cited in Journal Volume 20, Number 1, 2020). Unlike the hasty approach to digitization of education at the start of the pandemic, careful and critical research and evaluations are needed to create processes and strategies to implement effective integration of technology into educational practice. Theoretical models are essential to guide technology integration in teacher training and in existing educational contexts (Kimmons & Hall, 2016). Given the need and potential barriers with regards to pre-service training, further research is required to determine how to incentivize faculty to engage in professional development and apply technological engagement strategies. With strategic planning, initiatives to embrace technology-based instruction, will transform education and prepare students for success in a globally-connected world.
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