How Technology Shapes Teaching and Learning


Technology encompasses a broad spectrum of methods, materials, devices and systems that are used to solve practical problems and accomplish specific tasks. It includes a vast range of innovations, from the early stone tools and bows and arrows that allowed humans to more effectively hunt and control their environment, to modern nuclear weapons that have transformed human power and war-fighting strategies. Technology also extends to tools and techniques that allow scientists to explore and analyze the natural world in new ways.

Technology has greatly shaped human history and continues to do so. Agricultural revolutions have altered the way people eat, drink and live; medical advances have greatly improved health and longevity; and technological advancements like the printing press, telephone and Internet have decreased physical barriers to communication and opened up new opportunities for commerce, travel and research. Even more recent developments have radically changed the way people work, play and communicate with each other – including changes to transportation, manufacturing, banking, computer science, business management and education.

Generally speaking, technologies spread or disappear on the basis of free-market forces that are driven by consumer demand, patent laws, the availability of capital, media attention and economic competition. Occasionally, however, technology develops unexpected side effects that may have significant consequences for the environment, health or safety and public policy. Such issues often arise from the use of large-scale technological systems, such as contour plowing, agriculture, genetic engineering and nuclear power plants, but they can also occur from the more ordinary use of everyday devices like refrigerators that leak tiny amounts of a toxic gas into the atmosphere.

It’s important for teachers to understand how technologies shape the way they teach and learn, and to be familiar with some of the most powerful educational technologies currently available to them. This knowledge can help them choose the right tools to use in their classrooms, and to identify the best resources to support student learning.

Choosing the right tech for your class begins with understanding the goals of your course and curriculum. The most successful tech choices are goal-focused and wedded to a discipline or course, and even to a particular activity or lesson.

Incorporating technology into your teaching can also help to keep students on task and engaged in the learning process. Using collaborative apps in the classroom, like Kahoot, for example, can encourage students to participate in class discussions and review material after class. Setting clear expectations for what kinds of devices and websites are school-appropriate can also be helpful in keeping students focused when working on assignments outside the classroom. And, posting homework assignments online allows students to access and complete them from any device, at any time. This can reduce barriers to learning for students in lower-income households who have limited or no access to devices and high-speed internet.