Technology Integration in K-12

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Clif Mims
University of Memphis

Drew Polly
University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Michael Grant
University of Memphis



This chapter presents an overview of issues and implications for technology integration in K-12 schools.

Focus on Technology Integration

Public school education is currently involved in an effort to bring about technology integration. There is an emphasis to weave technology into the fabric of the educational curriculum (e.g. Earle, 2002; Lawless & Pellegrino, 2007; National Center for Educational Statistics [NCES], 2006). Much of the current educational literature is related to the topic of technology integration (e.g. Earle, 2002; Lawless & Pellegrino, 2007; Mishra & Koehler, 2006), particularly because of the enormous sums of money schools spend to purchase technological equipment (e.g. NCES, 2006) and because of the emphasis on integrating technology with teaching and learning (Lawless & Pellegrino, 2007).

A 2006 survey by the NCES revealed that 99% of teachers reported having access to a computer somewhere in their school building (NCES, 2006). Access to technology is not new; in 2000, the North Central Regional Educational Laboratory found that 90% of American schools and 33% of the classrooms had Internet access. Although teacher-access to technology is valuable, some schools seem to be purchasing the hardware simply for the sake of having it. Little or no thought or planning goes into its implementation or utilization (Zehavi, 1995). It has been assumed - incorrectly at times - that access to technology impacts student learning outcomes (Lawless & Pellegrino, 2007).

The use of technology into the school curriculum has the potential to improve the quality of teaching and learning. However, the variety of ways in which students interact with technologies is not always beneficial. In order to decipher between the myriad of potential uses of technologies in schools, instructional technologists have widely adopted the phrase technology integration to describe how technology can best impact student learning.

Earle (2002) argued that although current public opinion suggests that technology simply equals machinery, this focus on machinery rather than on process ignores the true sense of technology as the application of knowledge to perform practical tasks (Earle, 2002, p. 7). Just as the term integration in Latin means “to make whole,” Earle (2002) suggested that in education, integration brings together all the elements in teaching and learning, including technology. Much more than simply placing hardware into classrooms, effective integration emphasizes how and why technology is used.

Many parents, educators, politicians and the general public have embraced the belief that computer technologies are powerful educational tools (Jonassen & Reeves, 1996; Morrison, Lowther, & DeMeulle, 1999). In the previous few decades, technology has been both used and misused in classrooms (Becker & Ravitz, 2001; Leu & Leu, 1997). Technologies have been used to provide extra skill practice, to assist in research and to assist with organization and other basic tasks (Becker, Ravitz, & Wong, 1999). Research indicates that most often the technology is used to aid in the acquisition of information outside of the classroom with little emphasis on a specific curricular goal. Fewer than half of the teachers use available technology to assist in instruction (Earle, 2002). Perhaps this is because effectively integrating technology into the curriculum involves more than simply knowing how to use the tools, it also requires that teachers have a sense of how to blend it with the curriculum so that it optimizes the learning process (Moursund, 2002).

With all that is being said and done about technology in education, it is important that parents, educators and lawmakers determine if computer use improves the education of students. While the impact of technology and student achievement has been largely mixed, various studies and research syntheses that have found technology to positively impact student learning (International Society for Technology Education [ISTE], 2008a; Mann, Shakeshaft, Becker, & Kottkamp, 1999; Ringstaff & Kelley, 2002; Wenglinsky, 1998).

Benefits of Technology Integration

Research substantiates a number of benefits in using technology to support and enhance educational experiences for both students and their teachers.

Benefits to Teachers

The arrival of technology into classrooms has created much interest about its most effective integration into teaching and learning. It is obvious from the research that the level at which the technology has been integrated is less than desirable. A paradigm shift needs to occur as educators seek more student-centered learning environments where technology integration supports learning; learning does not need to be merely about the technology. For now, one positive outcome of integrating technology into the classroom is that this integration has caused many teachers to rethink their instructional practices (Earle, 2002).

Roblyer (2006) described several other benefits for teachers in integrating technology into the processes of teaching and learning. They suggested that technology provides educators with unique instructional capabilities such as presentations that utilize hypermedia productions or live video streaming connected with lesson objectives. Roblyer (2006) also stated that computers can increase teacher productivity with tools such as electronic grade books which can more quickly calculate students’ grades than traditional bookkeeping methods. Similarly, research demonstrates that technology attracts and maintains students’ attention, thus allowing teachers to dedicate more classroom time to teaching and learning (ISTE, 2009). The use of technology offers teachers a wealth of tools for expanding instructional strategies and increasing productivity. Thus, successful integration of technology improves classroom instruction and management.

Benefits to Students

Roblyer (2006) suggested that the integration of technology into teaching and learning can increase student motivation. Research also supports the belief that the use of technology in education not only motivates students, but also provides them with avenues for higher-level thinking (Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, 2000; Ringstaff & Kelley, 2002).

Research also indicates that the use computers in education can improve student achievement. Sivin-Kachala and Bialo (1994) conducted a meta-analysis of 133 research reviews and reports on original research projects conducted between 1990 and 1994. They extended this work with a meta-analysis of 219 research studies that were conducted between 1990 and 1997. The aim of this research in both instances was to assess the effect of computers on achievement for all ages of learners across all domains. The meta-analysis indicated that students in technology-rich environments experienced increases in achievement in all subject areas with evidence of these positive findings being the strongest in math, science and language arts (Sivin-Kachala, 1997). The review reported that students felt more successful in school and had increased self-confidence and self-esteem when computers were integrated with teaching and learning. Additionally, these students’ attitudes towards learning consistently improved when computers were used in instruction. The findings were true for both regular and special-needs students (Sivin-Kachala and Bialo, 2000).

Additionally, research reveals that students learning with computers make specific gains in mathematics (Cognitive and Technology Group at Vanderbilt, 1997; Wenglinsky, 1999). A research study focused on the integration of The Adventures of Jasper-Woodbury mathematical problem-solving series studied nineteen fifth-grade classrooms in one school district with very different socio-economic populations (Hickey, Moore, & Pellegrino, 2001). Over the course of this five-month study, teachers integrated the use of this technology in varying ways and to different extents. One significant finding was that math achievement was the most pronounced in the low-socioeconomic populated classrooms. Perhaps implementing such programs in more low-socioeconomic schools facing consistently poor student achievement would be beneficial. Waxman & Huang (1996) found that teachers enacting student-centered pedagogies were more likely to utilize technology than the more teacher-centered educators. Faison (1996) reported that when teachers incorporate technology into student-centered instructional practices they find that their students display greater enthusiasm and self-esteem and they are more receptive to taking risks while problem solving in mathematics. Polly (2008) found that students whose teachers used technologies along with higher-level thinking activities significantly outperformed their peers who had not participated in technology-rich, higher-level thinking activities. Although other studies boasted similar results, there were also many instances of technology being poorly integrated, seldom integrated or never integrated at all (Earle, 2002).

Driving Forces

Further research into the benefits of technology in teaching and learning (ISTE, 2008a; Schacter, 1999) seeks to clarify and better understand this relationship. In response to the public and media backlash of school overspending on technology without evidence of its benefit, Judah L. Schwartz, professor of Education at Harvard University, stated that “at the moment, the most mindless use of computers is at the elementary school level. I hope that the introduction of computers will produce a rethinking of the structure and content of the curriculum…if putting computers in the schools produces only that, it will make it worth it” (quoted by Bronner, 1997, p. 4). Pool (1997) concurred by stating that "such a backlash will be productive if it makes us re-examine how we use technology in the classroom" (p. 6).

Obviously, technology is not the “silver bullet” that will revolutionize education and correct many of the challenges we currently face. Schools are wasting money if the technology does not become integrated into the processes of teaching and learning (Cuban, 2003; Schacter & Fagnano, 1999). Technology integration represents the idea that all uses of technology in K-12 schools are determined by first starting with the various curricula (e.g., mathematics, science, reading, writing, social studies) and then identifying technologies and ways that technologies can be used to improve learning in the curricula areas (Earle, 2002).

ISTE NETS-S Standards

ISTE (1998, 2000, 2007a, 2008b) published the National Educational Technology Standards for both K-12 students (NETS-S) and teachers (NETS-T) to explicitly delineate the skills and knowledge that students and teachers should possess.

Essential Conditions

In addition to publishing the NETS-S and NETS-T, ISTE (2007b) has also described Essential Conditions for integrating technology into K-12 classrooms. The conditions call for school personnel to create learning environments that deviate from traditional K-12 classroom settings. These include providing opportunities for students to work collaboratively, actively explore and discover concepts and phenomena, take ownership of their learning and work on problems that are based in authentic and real-life contexts. As stated earlier, technology integration is based on the idea that technology is used to impact student learning in specific curricula areas. The content drives the technology rather than teachers finding technologies and forcing technology to fit certain content.

Theories and Frameworks of Learning

Numerous theories and frameworks have been advanced that help make sense of issues related to technology integration. Scholars have advanced theories of learning during the 20th Century. These theories were empirically-based and focused primarily on trying to explain the processes of learning, and how to best support those processes. Here is a table detailing the evolution of learning theories from Behaviorism to Constructivism. This section details theories and frameworks that are most relevant.


Currently, one of the most practiced learning theories is constructivism. Constructivist learning theory is grounded in the developmental theories of Piaget (1967) and Vygotsky (1978), who contended that people are shaped by the external world and their experiences. Hence, constructivist learning theory contends that learners create knowledge through personal experiences. In K-12 schools, this is evidenced when learners participate in activities where they are exploring problems, testing hypotheses and learning through hands-on and/or collaborative experiences. Numerous technologies, such as probes, graphing calculators, handhelds and PDAs, and tools that let students create PowerPoint presentations, spreadsheets and webpages all support constructivist learning opportunities.

Numerous technology integration models which will be covered later also are grounded in constructivist epistemology. These models subscribe to the belief that learning is most effective if teachers design and implement meaningful experiences in their classrooms. As opposed to traditional approaches to teaching, where teachers present content and reinforce the information with ample opportunities for practice, constructivist-based lessons employ an indirect approach to instruction. At the beginning of the lesson, learners participate in an exploration or an activity to experience the content prior to the teacher providing any necessary content. This will be discussed further below in the section on instructional design models.

Multiple Intelligences

Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligences theory (1993, 2000) has advanced the idea that learners have different needs and teachers must incorporate various types of activities in order to address the multiple intelligences of each student in every lesson. The integration of technology into the curriculum aligns well with Gardner’s call for individualized instruction. For example, bodily-kinesthetic learners, who are best suited by learning through physical activity, can create a video or alternative product that demonstrates their understanding. Likewise, visual-spatial learners can create a concept map or graphic to provide evidence of their knowledge. Click here for more information on multiple intelligences.

Cognitive Tools

Technology has been viewed as a tool to enhance learning through constructivist-based experiences and by addressing learners’ multiple intelligences. In the same spirit, technologies have been referred to as cognitive tools, since appropriate uses of technology can reduce the cognitive demands or cognitive load of learners. Jonassen and Reeves (1996) refer to cognitive tools as “technologies that enhance the cognitive powers of human beings during thinking, problem solving, and learning" (p.693). Lajoie (2000, p. 134) added that cognitive tools are "any tool that can support aspects of learners’ cognitive processes, for example, taking over some of the more mundane elements of a task to free the learner’s cognitive space for higher order thinking, or allowing learners to generate and test hypotheses in the context of problem solving.” When used appropriately, technologies reduce the cognitive load of learners so that more attention can be focused on higher-level thinking skills. Examples of cognitive tools will be presented later in this chapter. Click here for more information on cognitive tools.

More information on learning theories can be found in an earlier e-book.

Supporting and Describing Technology Integration

This section details instructional design models that support technology integration, as well as frameworks that describe the extent that technology is integrated into K-12 schools.

Instructional Design Models

While the field of instructional technology has numerous instructional design models, few are targeted at designing instruction for K-12 learners. Further, teachers find these models to be cumbersome while creating lesson plans. The three instructional models described here are some of the most common models for designing instruction for K-12 learners.


The ASSURE (Heinich, Molenda, Russell, Smaldino, 1999) model includes six stages: analyzing learners, stating objectives, selecting methods and media, utilizing resources and evaluating learners. The process begins by analyzing learners’ prerequisite knowledge and skills that will be built on during the lesson. Next the objectives for the lesson need to be stated. In essence, what should the learners be able to do at the end of the lesson. In the next step, the teacher selects the instructional methods and media that is used. Next, the methods and media are utilized during the lesson. After the lesson, the teacher evaluates student learning and the effectiveness of the lesson.

NTEQ Model

The NTEQ model (Morrison & Lowther, 2005) consists of ten steps. First, objectives must be specified. Second, the teacher must identify the computer functions in relation to helping students to meet the objectives. Next, the teacher specifies a real-life problem for students to investigate. In the next phase, the teacher designs how data will be collected and manipulate. Following data manipulation, the teacher determines how students will present their results. The next three steps describe what activities students will be doing during, before and after their time at the computer. Next, the teacher determines what activities will be done to support the computer activities. Finally, the teacher determines how they will evaluate whether or not learners met the objective.

TIP Model

Roblyer’s (2006) Technology Integration Planning Model consists of five phases: determining the relative advantage of using technology, determining objectives and assessment, designing intervention strategies, preparing the instructional environment and evaluating and revising the integration strategy. In the first phase, the teacher identifies an instructional problem and considers how technology can provide a relative advantage and potentially address that problem. Next, the teacher determines both the objectives and the method in which learners’ mastery of the objectives will be measured. Third, the teacher identifies the pedagogies and intervention strategies that they will use to address the instructional problem. Next, the teacher prepares the classroom for the lesson by accumulating and organizing the technology and other resources. The last phase involves the teachers evaluating learners and the technology integration strategy.

Characterizing Levels of Technology Integration

This section details frameworks that describe the extent to which technology is integrated into K-12 instruction.

Levels of Technology Implementation (LoTI)

In the mid-1990’s, Dr. Christopher Moersch (1995) developed the LoTI scale in an effort to accurately measure authentic classroom technology use. This scale focuses on the use of technology as an interactive learning medium because this particular component has the greatest and lasting impact on classroom pedagogy and is the most difficult to implement and assess. The challenge is not merely to use technology to achieve isolated tasks (e.g., word processing a research paper, creating a multimedia slide show, browsing the Internet), but rather to integrate technology in an exemplary manner that supports purposeful problem-solving, performance-based assessment practices, and experiential learning–all vital characteristics of the "Target Technology" level established by the CEO Forum on Education and Technology. Click here for more information on LoTI.

Apple Classrooms of Tomorrow (ACOT)

Research from the large-scale ACOT project indicated five distinct levels of technology integration (Dwyer, Ringstaff, & Sandholtz, 1991). At the Entry level teachers are learning how to use the technology on their own and operate the equipment. In the next level (Adoption), teachers use technology in their teaching, but only in highly-managed areas, such as whole-group lectures and drill and practice activities. The third level (Adaptation) features more use of technology in the curriculum, but primarily for productivity use. Students may use a word processor to type a story or use a spreadsheet to store factual data. In the fourth level (Appropriation), teachers design project-based learning and other student-centered experiences. In these tasks, the technology is used to support students’ inquiry and completion of the project. The final stage, invention, features a shift towards constructivist-oriented teaching on a consistent basis. Teachers at the invention stage design lessons, teach and assess in non-traditional ways.

Teaching with Technology Model

Hooper and Reiber (1995) proposed a six-phase model that describes stages that teachers go through from the early stages of integration (familiarizaton) to more advanced stages (evolution). In the familiarization phase, teachers first learn about a technology, but do not take any action integrating the technology. In the next phase (utilization), the teacher attempts to use the technology in their classroom, but use is temporary and has no long-term influence on their teaching. The next phase (integration) represents a “break through” in which a teacher designs technology-rich instruction as a central piece of their teaching. If the technology were removed, instruction could not proceed as planned. The last two phases depict more advanced levels of technology integration. In the reorientation phase, teachers shift their focus their attention towards student learning rather than the teaching of content. Teachers in this phase take on more of a facilitating role in the classroom. In the final phase (evolution), is a transformative level where teachers are in a cyclical process of revisiting their students’ learning, their use of technology and evolving to best meet the needs of their students.

Current and Widespread Uses of Educational Technologies

In the past decade, numerous types of technologies have emerged for K-12 learners. This section will primarily concentrate on those tools that are most widely used in K-12 classroom settings. As previously noted, we are concentrating on those tools that are integrated with the processes of teaching and learning. With the rapid growth of available technologies, it is not feasible for educators to keep abreast of each emerging technology. While some specific technologies will be addressed in this section, the intent is to provide an overview of tools that are currently being used frequently in classrooms.

Teachers in a technology-rich classroom may utilize a variety of technologies to improve their instruction. Whether it be showing a video, having students play a PowerPoint game, watching a teacher play a simulation found on the internet, or a teacher using an interactive whiteboard to present information teachers are enhancing their instruction in new and interactive ways. Therefore, instruction is somewhat less teacher-focused, but rather than the teacher sharing ownership with students, the teacher is sharing control with the technology.

Contemporary models of teaching and learning advocate a shift from teacher-directed instruction to student-centered instruction (Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, 2000). Many classrooms have changed since technology arrived in the mid-1980’s. Student-centered instructional strategies, which are rooted in constructivist learning theory, are evident in the use of WebQuests, PowerPoint games, digital storytelling, student-created audio and video projects, use of internet-based tools, and handheld devices. These types of classroom activities are concentrated on improving student learning through the use of these tools. While the teacher has designed instruction and facilitates learning, these activities are grounded in the understanding that technology serves as a tool to positively impact learning.

In most classrooms today you will find the tools being used either for primarily instruction or to enhance learning, those teachers who are more effective technology users (highest levels of adoption) are able to integrate those tools to impact both their teaching and student’s learning. For example, while most teachers might use a teacher-created PowerPoint game to reinforce content, teachers at the highest level of technology integration understand how to maximize the full potential of their students, their instruction and the technologies.

Internet-Based Tools and Activities

While technologies and technological tools are changing rapidly, this section details the prominent educational technologies at time of publication (Summer, 2009).


WebQuests are internet-based explorations of content. Students use the web to find information and complete one or multiple tasks with the information that they have found (Dodge, 2007). Dr. Bernie Dodge (2002) established a taskonomy of tasks that describes various WebQuest tasks. Here is an explanation about WebQuests.


Weblogs (blogs) are online journals that allow teachers and students to post text, audio and video files. Websites such as Word Press and Blogger provide free webspace for teachers and students to host blogs. Here is an explanation about blogs.


Wikis are web-based documents that allow multiple people to collaborate by editing and adding content. Teachers and students can use wikis to collaboratively collect and organize resources and create products that demonstrate understanding of concepts. Here is an explanation about wikis.

Google Documents

Google Documents (aka Google Docs) allows users to create word processing, presentation and spreadsheet files, store them online, and share them with others. Sharing includes allowing others access to edit your document, or in some cases, simply view your document. Here is a video on Google Docs.

Social Bookmarking

Social bookmarking sites, such as Diigo and Delicious, allow users to create a list of bookmarked websites that is publically available to others on the Internet. Teachers and students can use these tools to organize and share web-based resources. Here is a video about social bookmarking.


Podcasts are audio recordings that are stored in web-based environments and delivered via Really Simple Syndication (RSS). iTunes facilitates the process of playing podcasts by automatically podcasting.

Other Web 2.0 Tools

Blogs, wikis, and social bookmarking sites are Web 2.0 tools, web-based applications that allow users to create products. Various sites, such as Go to Web 2.0 frequently update their index of new Web 2.0 tools. Other helpful resources include a directory of Web 2.0 sites, and a video about the paradigm shift associated with Web 2.0 technologies.

Software-Based Tools and Activities

In this section, we describe commonly used software-based tools and activities.

Digital Storytelling

Digital storytelling is the process of creating a multimedia product that involves pictures, video and audio files. Video editing programs, such as Windows Movie Maker and iMovie, allow users to import photos, video, and audio files to create products. Here is an explanation about digital storytelling.

Educational Games

Microsoft PowerPoint and Microsoft Excel have been used to create educational games, such as Jeopardy, Who Wants to be a Millionaire, and Memory. These games can be created by teachers and used to help students review material. Rieber (2006) also suggests having students design educational games allows them to work with concepts on a deeper level and enhances the learning process in an engaging way. Rieber has created resources for Homemade PowerPoint games. Further, Jeff Ertzberger, has created templates for other popular games. Finally, an example of a game that uses MS Excel can be found here

Virtual Worlds

Virtual worlds, like Second Life, allow users to create an online image (avatar) and interact with other avatars in a virtual world. A more restricted virtual world, Teen Second Life, blocks adult content and has been used by high schools as an educational tool. More information about Teen Second Life and its use in education can be found here.

Concept Mapping Software

Concept mapping tools, such as Inspiration or Kidspiration, or CMaps help students create graphic organizers and concept maps. Both tools are open-ended enough for teachers to create templates that students complete, or for students to start with a blank page and create their concept map.


In this section we describe hardware devices that are emerging technologies in K-12 schools.

Interactive White Boards

Interactive white boards (e.g., SMART boards, Mimio boards, Promethean ACTIV boards) enable teachers and students to manipulate computer-based objects from an electronically-connected white board. Teachers can create their own activities, use tasks pre-designed by manufacturers or use the boards to record notes or manipulate internet-based objects.

Hand-held devices (PDAs)

Hand-held devices (or personal data assistants [PDAs]) have become commonplace with teachers to collect student assessment data. Recently, the Center for Highly Interactive Classrooms, Curricula & Computing in Education at the University of Michigan have examined students’ use of hand held technologies in middle and secondary school science classes to collect and analyze data on temperature, light, sound and motion (Bobrowsky, Vath, Soloway, Krajcik, Blumenfeld, 2004; Vath et al., 2005).

Student Response Systems

Student response systems allow teachers to check for student's understanding and conduct formative assessment in a digital manner. These systems are typically PowerPoint embedded, where teachers create questions that students will respond to with a hand-held device. Students' responses are collected, and instantaneously data is represented in tables and graphs to display each student's answer. More information can be found about products from Quizdom, PRS Interwrite, and Turning Technology.

Emerging Technologies

With the frantic rate at which tools, especially Web 2.0 technologies, are developed, the technologies cited above highlight what we feel are and could be the most prominent educational technologies over the next decade or so. Due to space limitations, we have almost certainly inadvertently left out technologies that are emerging and may be commonplace in schools over the next few decades.

Integrating Technology Into Classrooms

This section highlights issues and logistical implications related to integrating technology into K-12 classrooms.

Technology Integration in the Content Standards

Various national and international educational organizations have cited the benefits of technology. In all of these standards technology is situated in an integration perspective; that is, technology is cited as a tool to help students learn content. From an instructional design perspective, we advocate the process of identifying content standards and learning goals before selecting technologies. In this way the technology is integrated into the curriculum, rather than the curriculum being integrated into the technology.

The table below provides information on where to find these standards.

Standards and Organization Overview
International Reading Association and National Council for Teachers of English Students should use technological resources to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.
National Council for Teachers of Mathematics Technology provides mathematical power, which lets students focus on problem solving rather than computation and explore more complex tasks than without technology.
National Council for Social Studies Media education and civic responsibility cannot be separated. Social Studies content must be connected to media education and appropriate uses of technology.
National Science Education Standards (National Research Council) Students should use technology to facilitate the inquiry process and the discovery of concepts related to science.


Managing the Technology Integrated Classroom

The call for teachers to learn additional strategies and methods for classroom management with technology integrated lessons is not new (c.f. Moore, Laffey, Espinosa & Lodree, 2002). The variety of computer configurations (from one for a whole classroom of 30 students to one for each student) brings a unique set of challenges. Lim, Pek and Chai (2005) suggest teachers should consider four areas for classroom management when integrating technology. Supporting activities for technology integration emphasizes limiting technology skills and scaffolding these skills for learners. The role of the teacher encourages the establishment of routines and rules that facilitate helping individual students or groups, while the remainder of the class continues. Roles of student helpers and technical assistants encompass the routine procedures that may slow a lesson or the technical issues that may bring a lesson to a halt if the teacher must troubleshoot. Instead, student help and technical assistance can manage these. Establishing rules and procedures, like in any classroom, can provide the structure and expectations to manage students and technology together.

In addition to classroom management, where students access technology and how the technology is arranged can impact a lesson. Below are four common configurations for computer stations. The purpose and management in each is described.

The One Computer Classroom

In the one computer classroom, there are two primary methods for integration: teacher use and student use (Dockterman, 1998). With teacher use, the teacher may use the workstation for productivity or as a content delivery system. With student use, the teacher may set up a single computer learning station, where students take turns or have a special weekly time on the computer. The student on the computer is excused from the work the rest of the class is doing. There are several ways to set up the computer rotation schedule for the one computer classroom. One way is to schedule students based on their academic strengths. For example, if a student was especially strong in math, math time would be a good time to schedule his/her computer time. Another method to rotate students through the computer as a learning station is to rotate according to a posted list.

The Multi-Computer Classroom

A classroom model that uses “learning stations” works well in a multi-computer classroom. Small groups of students rotate from one station to another during a portion of the day or throughout the school day. Another type of rotation that is also effective in the multi-computer classroom is independent rotation. In this rotation approach, small groups of students are assigned to a computer on a scheduled basis. The teacher creates a weekly rotation schedule. This rotation plan allows each student group to have access to a computer several times a week or even daily. One of the advantages of this rotation plan is that student work can be ongoing, and does not necessarily have to be completed by the end of a group’s specified daily time. Using Laptop Carts. As an alternative to computer labs some schools have purchased mobile laptop carts, or computers on wheels (COWs). These carts of five to 25 mobile computers are typically wireless and can be wheeled from classroom to classroom as needed. Schools have used this model to promote collaboration among students and aid in transitioning among groups of students and in classroom settings (e. g., Gwaltney, 2003). Many of the laptop carts used in classrooms offer each student a computer to work with. This is an excellent opening for each student to demonstrate his or her own computer skills, as well as content knowledge in a unique way (e.g., Grant, Ross, Wang & Potter, 2005). Because the laptop carts are moved from one classroom to another, the time lost organizing students to attend computer labs is reduced. With this one-computer-for-every-student opportunity, teaches must be prepared to manage this environment. In addition to classroom management, technical and logistical issues also have to be considered, such as battery life, power cords (e.g., Hill, Reeves, Grant, Wang & Han, 2002) and saving work.

Computer Lab

To make best use and access of the computers they have, many schools have created computer labs. Teachers typically register to use the computer labs for specific days. The advantage to computer labs is a reduced student-to-computer ratio. Like laptop carts in many cases, there is one computer for every student. In contrast to laptop carts, stationary computer labs typically have fixed placements, so the computers cannot be moved. This sometimes inhibits collaborations among students. The physical placement of computers in a lab is often in rows, so all students look forward. This unfortunately sometimes puts the computer monitor between the teacher and the student. Plus, the teacher has difficulty monitoring student progress with this set up (e.g., Lim, Pek & Chai, 2005).

Regardless of configuration or access, one issue still warrants consideration. Over a decade ago, Docterman (1998) reported that using computers as a reward was common practice. Moore et al. (2002) also explicated a similar result. The integration of technology must be regarded as necessary and not linked to behavior.

Issues and Implications for Practice

In this section, implications for teacher educators, professional developers and K-12 teachers are shared.

Teacher Education

State departments of education, accreditation boards and professional organizations have recently emphasized the importance of establishing effective pre-service teacher development in technology integration. The International Society for Technology in education (ISTE) has published two editions of national standards for teacher technology use (ISTE, 2000, 2008b) which the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) has endorsed and adopted. The implementation of these standards should greatly encourage teacher education programs to assess the technology preparation they are providing pre-service students.

Two large-scale studies provided a view of the status of technology in teacher education programs nationwide. Research conducted by both the International Society for Technology Education (ISTE) in conjunction with the Milken Exchange on Education Technology (1999) and the American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education (2000) revealed that the biggest challenge facing schools, colleges and departments of education is in the area of training pre-service teachers to effectively integrate technology with teaching and learning. The integration of technology into school curriculum has the potential to improve the quality of teaching and learning; however, this potential will not emerge without educators considering how computer use relates to the processes of teaching and learning in school settings (Schank & Cleary, 1995). Having basic computer literacy is not enough. Teachers should understand the connections between technology and learning and use this understanding to merge the two together in such a manner that makes each indispensable to the teaching and learning process (Lowther et al., 1998). If this new mindset was adopted and technology was effectively integrated, the nature of the learning environment would necessarily change for the better (Schank & Cleary, 1995).

If the reformed notion on technology use is going to come to fruition, teacher education programs must also undergo reform in order to better prepare teachers to integrate these technologies in K-12 classrooms. Large-scale survey studies conducted in the 1990’s indicate that teachers reported a lack of preparation to effectively integrate technology into their classroom (e.g., Milken Family Foundation, 2000; Office of Technology Assessment, 1995). The phrase teacher education is comprised of both pre-service and in-service teachers. In the next few paragraphs we discuss implications for both populations.

Schrum (1999) argued that in order for teachers to effectively integrate technology, pre-service teachers need to be exposed to technology in educational technology courses, education methods courses and K-12 field experiences. In order for pre-service teachers to effectively integrate technology, teacher education programs must ensure that technology is infused in all three of these areas. Only by employing a holistic approach will pre-service teachers have the necessary skills, knowledge and experience needed to successfully integrate technology.

Professional Development

Those in-service teachers who are not currently pursuing graduate studies rely on professional development to help them enhance their instructional practices. A variety of professional development efforts have been advanced to support technology integration (Lawless & Pellegrino, 2007). Therefore, it is critical for the designers of professional development to provide teachers with experiences that will develop their technological skills, connect technology to the curriculum, and provide models of effective technology integration in K-12 classrooms.

Consistent with empirically-based and theoretically-based recommendations for teacher education, programs need to be sustained over time, grounded in classroom-based activities, provide hands-on experience with technology and give teachers a sense of ownership related to what they are learning (Lawless & Pellegrino, 2007). While technologies continue to become more prevalent in K-12 schools, the manner in which they are used largely depends on the learning opportunities provided to pre-service and in-service teachers. Designers of teacher education and professional development programs need to carefully examine their programs, paying special attention to providing the well-rounded experience described above.

Supporting Open-ended Learning Environments

In a technology-rich classroom, teachers can design open-ended learning environments that allow students to choose how to demonstrate their understanding of content in a modality that suits their individual preferences (Hannafin, Hall, Land, & Hill, 1994; Oliver & Hannafin, 2001). For example, in order to demonstrate an understanding of basic geometric concepts, students may provide a definition, draw a picture or use a computer-based program to draw an example of the concept. These types of activities employ constructivist epistemologies, address multiple intelligences, use technology as cognitive tools, push teachers towards higher levels of technology integration, and align with authentic types of assessment.

A primary concern for K-12 teachers is differentiating instruction and continuously meeting the needs of all students. Technology holds the potential to develop instruction that is individualized to the learner (Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, 2000). This can be accomplished in some applications by the teacher administratively setting the level of difficulty. For example, on a reading program teachers can change the level so that students are challenged at their individual reading level, but still able to have success. Further, open-ended assignments, as described above, provide the learners with the opportunity to use technology to demonstrate their understanding in a way that is developmentally appropriate and reasonable. The use of technology in these ways makes it a realistic expectation that teachers can address students’ individual needs. Therefore, learning is enhanced.

Technology and Assessment

One of the most common concerns regarding technology integration is the assessment of technology-rich activities. In this case, teachers need to have a deeper understanding of instructional design, specifically in regards to the alignment between the objectives and the assessment. Since technology is being used to enhance learning instead of simply being used to complete a task, the assessment should focus on students’ understanding of content rather than on their use of the tool. Common assessment strategies include rubrics, checklists, and other forms of authentic assessment. In each of these instances it is vital that there is alignment between the assessment and the learning objectives.

Reform must include a new view of assessment. Authentic and performance-based assessment is really rich and provides a more well-rounded view of students’ capabilities rather than a multiple choice item. For those teachers who make the argument that they don’t know how to assess, they need experiences being assessed in that manner, designing and implementing performance-based assessments. Part of the transition to performance-based assessment include a change in beliefs that these types of assessment.


Researchers have reported a variety of disparities related to technology uses and access (Cuban, 2001; Tyack & Cuban, 1995). One barrier includes having to address a wide range of students’ technological skill levels due to a great disparity in technology use (Cuban, 2001; Tyack & Cuban, 1995). Cuban and Tyack reported factors that lead to a wide range of student technological skill levels: low-income families were found to have less exposure to computers than high-income families; males were found to use computers more than females; native English-speaking children were found to use computers more than non-native English-speaking children; and Caucasian students were found to use computers more than African-American students. Considering these disparities, one barrier to integrating technology into instruction is addressing students’ different skill levels based on their previous exposure to computers (Tyack & Cuban, 1995). Teachers must address multiple skill levels in every lesson they teach, drawing from strategies with which they feel comfortable.

More disparities are related to several other barriers to technology integration. Many teachers do not feel comfortable with computers and feel inadequately prepared to use them in their teaching (Fabry & Higgs, 1997). Teachers need training in order to feel more comfortable using the equipment in tandem with technology integration strategies and models. Teachers also need more time to attend training as well as time for planning and preparing integrated instruction (Lawless & Pellegrino, 2007; Orrill, 2001). As teachers struggle to reconcile these issues, many become fearful towards teaching with technology. Such anxieties can affect attitudes and cause teachers to become resistant to change (Ertmer, 2005; Fabry & Higgs, 1997). Ideally, with proper training, teachers will understand the connections between technology and learning and use this understanding to weave the two together in a manner beneficial to teaching and learning (Lowther et al., 1998).

By simply focusing on how to use technology, the technology has actually become a distraction from what is of primary concern – providing better instruction to students. Although the goal is for teachers to know how to teach content more effectively with the support of the technology, education’s quick-fix mentality has caused schools to train teachers to use specific types of technology rather than equip these teachers to use technology to solve instructional problems when needed and appropriate. The result is that the use of technology has not been integrated in a manner that makes it indispensable. In fact, many teachers would not miss the technology if it were removed from their classrooms (Cuban, 2003). It seems that placing computers in schools does not automatically indicate their implementation into teaching and learning (Cuban, 2003; Proctor & Burnett, 1996).

Future Directions for Research

In recent years, the technological pedagogical and content knowledge framework (TPACK) framework has been used to describe the various components of knowledge related to the effective integration of technology (Neiss, 2005; Mishra & Koehler, 2006). This framework provides a backdrop for future research regarding technology integration. The TPACK framework argues that teachers’ knowledge resides in a variety of domains, including technology, pedagogy, content and the intersections of three components. Teachers capable of effectively integrating technology possess robust knowledge in all of the components and their respective intersections (Mishra & Koehler, 2006).

Teacher Education

The U.S. Department of Education’s Preparing Tomorrow’s Teachers to Teach with Technology initiative provided millions of dollars to help develop preservice teachers and current teachers’ knowledge and skills needed to effectively integrate technology (U.S. Department of Education, 2008). Research from PT3 projects confirmed Schrum’s (1999) argument that pre-service teachers needed holistic programs that included technology integration-related experiences in an educational technology course, methods courses, and clinical experiences. Further, projects that more closely connected preservice teachers to classroom episodes through direct observation or video cases proved extremely beneficial to preservice teachers (Mims, Polly, Shepherd, & Inan, 2006; Polly, Mims, Inan, & Shepherd, in press). Future projects should extend this work by examining how to best build preservice teachers’ TPACK through coursework and clinical experiences. Further, there is a need to examine approaches that have been successful on a smaller scale, such as mentorship, to see if they can be effective on a larger scale.

Professional Development

Lawless and Pellegrino’s (2007) synthesis of professional development research related to technology integration indicated that while there were empirically-based findings about effective professional development, there is much work to done to further explore how to best support inservice teachers’ integration of technology. Technology-related professional development, without an explicit connection to content, has had limited impact on teachers’ practice. This finding supports the TPACK framework, in that professional development should address teachers’ knowledge in regards to the intersection of technology, content and pedagogy. Prior studies indicate the benefit of professional development that is focused on improving student learning outcomes (Yoon, Duncan, Lee, Scarloss, & Shapley, 2007), gives teachers ownership of their learning (Loucks-Horsely, Love, Stiles, Mundry, & Hewson, 2003), is ongoing over time (Banilower, Boyd, Pasley, & Weiss, 2006; Orrill, 2001) and supports collaboration among teachers and other educators (Dwyer et al., 1991). Future research studies should examine how specific models of professional development develop teachers’ TPACK and, in turn, their integration of technology in their classrooms.

Student Learning Outcomes

The primary goal of educational reforms is improving student learning outcomes (Yoon et al., 2007). Therefore, research should continue to explore the specific types of technology-rich learning environments and tasks that yield significant gains in student achievement. Studies such as the Jasper Project (Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt, 1997) and the Apple Classrooms of Tomorrow (Ringstaff, Yokam, & Marsh, 1995) found that in specific contexts (e.g., authentic, problem solving situations) technology was associated with gains on problem solving measures and depth of student understanding. Further, analysis of large scale data sets indicate that the use of technology in higher-level thinking activities led to significantly higher scores in mathematics (Polly, 2008; Wenglinsky, 1998). However, there is still a lack of substantial evidence linking technology-rich learning with student learning outcomes on more large-scale assessments, such as state-wide tests. Further, research on both teacher education and professional development projects should attempt to link these opportunities for teacher learning to teachers’ instructional practices and student learning outcomes.

Concluding Thoughts

Educational technologies have, in some cases, benefited student learning in schools. The effective integration of technology has potential to increase student engagement, motivation to learn, and support teachers’ implement of learner-centered environments. This chapter provided a broad overview of models, related learning theories, and issues related to teaching and practice. As an old parable goes, “The fields are ripe to be harvested” with more examination and work regarding supporting effective technology in K-12 schools.


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About the Authors

Clif Mims is an Assistant Professor of Instructional Design and Technology at The University of Memphis. He is an experienced elementary and middle school teacher and educational technology specialist. His research interests include teacher education and technology integration.
Drew Polly is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Reading and Elementary Education at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. His research interests involve examining how to best support teachers' use of student-centered instruction in technology-rich environments, specifically in mathematics classrooms.
Michael Grant is an Associate Professor of Instructional Design and Technology at The University of Memphis. Grant also directs the Advanced Instructional Media Laboratory. His research and teaching considers three complementary areas: (a) the design of learning environments; (b) graphic and instructional designs to support learning; and (c) key learner characteristics.


APA Citation: Mims, C., Polly, D., & Grant, M.. (2009). Technology integration in K-12. In M. K. Barbour & M. Orey (Eds.), The Foundations of Instructional Technology. Retrieved <insert date>, from