Technology Integration: Barriers and Ontario Curriculum

Erin Merkley

Ontario Tech University


This chapter unpacks the definitions around technology integration and the barriers that are prevalent in allowing technology to be embedded into classrooms and learning environments. First and Second order barriers work together and against each other in affecting technology integration. The barriers focus on external and internal factors.  The external factors are the restraints put on the educator due to the financial and leadership model that is used.  The internal factors are the educator’s thoughts, opinions, and experiences (Vongkulluksn et al., 2018, p. 71).  The chapter then takes these barriers into the Ontario Curriculum and compares them to the expectations that are being outlined for the teachers to follow and ensure that students are being taught.  The curriculum analysis is not just in the Science and Technology sections, but how technology is expected in different areas of the curriculum. Curriculum expectations are set out to ensure that students are provided with appropriate knowledge based on the world that we are in and developmentally what is appropriate for the age group. The end of the chapter focuses on future research around changing external and internal factors as the world around us changes and evolves in the world of technology.


mindset, technology barriers, technology integration,

Introduction: Barriers and Mindset

Technology integration is a key topic that is being looked at in all panels of the education system.  The definition continues to be discussed as there is controversy and discussion around the frequency and effectiveness of technology use.  Research wants to focus more on the effectiveness of the user rather than just the amount of times technology is used (Consoli et al., 2023). The amount and type of technology used in a classroom depends on many different variables both in the school setting and the mindset and experience of the educator.  The research shows a discussion around the main terms that are connected but are seen in a different context: barriers, mindset, and beliefs. The use of technology is increasing in all aspects of our daily lives from an early age, and the use of technology in school continues to be a topic that brings about controversy.  This chapter will unpack the difference between what variables are seen as barriers that prevent the effective use of technology in the classroom and how beliefs, experiences, and opinions fit into those definitions, which will be outlined in the next sections. (Ertmer, 1999, p. 47).

Background Information: Technology Integration Barriers

The Barrier to Technology Integration Model outlines barriers as the influences that affect teachers from embedding technology into their teaching structure and lessons (Vongkulluksn et al., 2018, p. 71).  The research shows that there are two main types of barriers that affect technology integration instruction: first-order and second-order barriers.

First-Order Barriers

First-order barriers are the external pressures and influences that affect the use of technology in the classrooms. This set of barriers is divided into two sections, as outlined in the work of Vongkulluksn et al., where they focus on resource barriers and institutional barriers (Vongkulluksn et al., 2018, p. 71).

Resource barriers prevent the integration of technology because of the lack of resources that are available or the connectivity of those resources.  If the resources are not available in the educational setting, then the educator is unable to embed technology in the classroom.  The resource barrier could also be that the system and technology are not properly maintained, or there are not enough personnel to ensure that they are working properly. Resource barriers become very important when talking about socioeconomic discrepancies as the financial cost of this technology plays a large role in the ability of it to be available to students both in the classroom and in the home. This inequality affects students’ ability to be part of the digital world and their future comfort and skill as they enter a very technology-based world (T.W. Makki et al., 2018, p. 91).

Institutional barriers are the other influences and mandates within the learning setting.  When analyzing these barriers, the research looks at the culture of the entire school and what is prioritized within the building.  The leaders or administrators set the tone for how technology integration is seen. Leadership and technology integration are very closely connected as the leader sets the focus for the building. Resource and institutional barriers are connected because the leader, school, and board/district control where the financial and time resources are placed (T.W. Makki et al., 2018, p. 91). This is where the first and second barriers connect as the external factors are affecting the individual educators in the classroom; however, the second-order barriers for the leaders are affecting the way they lead and allocate resources.

Second-Order Barriers

Second-order barriers are more personal to the thoughts, opinions, and experiences of the teacher and are seen as a very strong indicator of the amount that technology is integrated into the classroom setting.  The research starts with the opinions of the individual teachers, and these thoughts can be very strong as teachers design the way that their classroom is presented and what the day-to-day looks like for their students. The personal beliefs of teachers are reported to be the strongest factor in the amount of technology that is part of a particular learning environment (Vongkulluksn et al., 2018, p. 71).  Second-order barriers are broken down into three main parts that focus on thoughts regarding information communication technology, confidence levels around the technology systems and programs, and opinions about the actual effectiveness of the learning when technology is integrated into the classroom and lessons.  Educators focus on what pedagogical practice has shown to be successful and how their experience was as a student, whether it be positive or negative, around technology use (T.W. Makki et al., 2018, p. 93).

Applications: Direct Effect on Student Learning

Curriculum and Technology

The first and second orders barriers outlined in this chapter and in the literature surrounding this topic directly affect the way that students learn in the classroom. The way that students are taught directly affects the information that they enter the world with and the skills that they gain along the way through their educational journey.  The education system is set up with a prescribed curriculum for educators to ensure that students are prepared for further education and to be contributing members of society.

Analysis of Grade 1-6 Science and Technology Ontario Curriculum

The Ontario Curriculum is written in a manner that forces the point of technology into schools and classrooms regardless of the first and second-order barriers.  The expectation of schools and classrooms in the province of Ontario is to follow the curriculum as set out by the Ministry of Education.  Clearly stated in the curriculum, it outlines that “this strand focuses on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) skills, coding and emerging technologies, practical applications of science and technology, and contributions that people with diverse lived experiences have made to science and technology” (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2022, p. 113). Students are to be offered and taught practical uses of technology. Specific expectations further elaborate on the skills that students are to be offered technology education to ensure they are provided with the knowledge they require to succeed.  Curriculum expectations throughout the grade levels outline students are to “identify and describe impacts of coding and of emerging technologies on everyday life” (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2022, p. 22). The Science and Technology curriculum clearly outlines the skills and understanding students are to be taught before the end of each grade level.

Technology Expectations Throughout the Curriculum

Technology starts with our youngest learners in the Kindergarten program. It is thought that technology can provide our youngest learners the opportunity to have a voice in their education if technology is part of their learning (Ogegbo et al., 2020, p. 2). Technology is embedded into both the expectations for the students and for the educators to document the learning as the students work through the continuum that is part of the curriculum (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2016, p. 299). Technology is used to meet the needs of all students and to ensure that learning is enriched and deep. Research is also showing that the “use of interactive technology in the form of educational apps as part of the play-based learning experience with kindergarten children improves their ability to create abstract ideas and helps enhance the development of inquiry practice and language abilities” (Ogegbo et al., 2020, p. 2).

When working through the curriculum in the Arts, technology is used to both present and enhance the learning.  Technology is embedded in all expectations to ensure that there is an extra layer to learning and to guarantee that students are exposed to different mediums (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2009, p. 191). This is to prevent students from just using the most basic of supplies in their artwork.

After reviewing the Mathematics Curriculum, technology is embedded throughout the entire program, both in expectations and in the suggested ways that the expectations are to be taught.  The curriculum is set up so that students have access to and opportunity with technology throughout the entire year of learning (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2020).

The Ministry released the revised version of the Language curriculum in June 2023.  Expectations of the digital world are clearly outlined in the new documents.  The etiquette, boundaries, and rules around participating in the cyber world and how they can be culturally sound and respectful in these interactions.  There is a large focus on interacting in these worlds safely and effectively (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2023).

Social studies are taught at the elementary level.  Each of the curriculums has a section that focuses on how Information Communication and Technology (ICT) fit into both the instructional strategies and ways to extend learning.  The curriculum articulates that in social studies, “ICT can help students not only to collect, organize, and sort the data they gather and to write, edit, and present reports on their findings but also to make connections with other schools, at home and abroad, and to bring the global community into the local classroom” (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2022, p.55).

Conclusions and Future Recommendations

As we move into even more of a digital world, it should be noted that the teachers and educators moving into the profession have more technology integration experience as a student.  Future research should focus on how this affects the second-order barriers, as these educators would have more experience with the technology than the student in the classroom.  It would be interesting to continue the research to see if this increases the use of technology in the classroom and what the opinions and beliefs are as these teachers move through their careers.  The literature also leads to future studies around how second-order barriers play a role when first-order barriers are very strong one way or the other.  Both sets of barriers play a role in the level of technology integration; however, future studies and research could unravel how these barriers work together or against each other in an individual classroom (T.W. Makki et al., 2018, p. 93).

The world that we are living in is becoming more digitally based on meeting our basic needs to the luxuries that are available.  Research and the curriculum are showing our students need to be prepared and educated to live in this world so that they have the tools to be productive members of our ever-changing society.  As educators, we have the task of balancing our curriculum, pedagogical practice, and the advancing world that we live in. Even as early as 2005, research was investigating ways to increase teacher use of technology, as research showed that it led to increased student learning (Ertmer, 2005, p.27). Teacher training continues to try and ensure that students are presented with and taught all the skills required to be successful.

After analyzing different parts of the Ontario curriculum, the observation can be made that the curriculums that have been revised recently have a more distinct focus on technology in both the expectations and the teaching strategies provided.  The Curriculum is set and must be followed by all educators teaching in the Province of Ontario.  A curriculum rich in technology ensures that educators move towards this regardless of the first and second-order barriers.


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Technology and the Curriculum: Summer 2023 Copyright © by Erin Merkley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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