Technology as Lever

In the February 2011 issue of Educational Leadership is a great article titled “Good Teaching Trumps Good Tools” by William M. Ferriter.  Obviously we want good teaching and good tools but Ferriter makes the point that “focusing on specific digital tools instead of on the instructional skills they’re designed to support often leads to poor technology integration” and that “the most effective teachers have discovered that good tools can make the learning more efficient.”

In that vein, I recent received a link to this essay IMPLEMENTING THE SEVEN PRINCIPLES: Technology as Lever by Arthur W. Chickering and Stephen C. Ehrmann. Below is a quick overview of the essay.

Any given instructional strategy can be supported by a number of contrasting technologies (old and new), just as any given technology might support different instructional strategies. But for any given instructional strategy, some technologies are better than others: Better to turn a screw with a screwdriver than a hammer — a dime may also do the trick, but a screwdriver is usually better.

This essay, then, describes some of the most cost-effective and appropriate ways to use computers, video, and telecommunications technologies to advance the Seven Principles.

  1. Good Practice Encourages Contacts Between Students and Faculty
  2. Good Practice Develops Reciprocity and Cooperation Among Students
  3. Good Practice Uses Active Learning Techniques
  4. Good Practice Gives Prompt Feedback
  5. Good Practice Emphasizes Time on Task
  6. Good Practice Communicates High Expectations
  7. Good Practice Respects Diverse Talents and Ways of Learning

Technology Is Not Enough

The Seven Principles cannot be implemented by technophiles alone, or even by faculty alone. Students need to become familiar with the Principles and be more assertive with respect to their own learning. When confronted with teaching strategies and course requirements that use technologies in ways contrary to the Principles, students should, if possible, move to alternatives that serve them better. If teaching focuses simply on memorizing and regurgitating prepackaged information, whether delivered by a faculty lecture or computer, students should reach for a different course, search out additional resources or complementary experiences, establish their own study groups, or go to the professor for more substantial activities and feedback.


About J Martens

Educator living in Vancouver and working in SD37 Delta. Supporting Numeracy while learning how formative assessment, literacy, inquiry, and technology serve to improve learning and increase engagement (for teachers & students).
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2 Responses to Technology as Lever

  1. Doug Smith says:

    Another good framework to work from is SECTIONS from Bates and Poole (2003). I think it is more geared towards administration /institution but nevertheless it helps gives us context on how we can effectively implement technology. I don’t have a copy to upload but it is essentially:

    S: students
    E: ease of use
    C: costs
    T: teaching and learning
    I: interactivity
    O: organizational issues
    N: novelty
    S: speed

    You can see how something like this would be useful in choosing a new SIS in BC. But Chickering and Erhmann’s framework is more applicable for teachers and planning in the classroom.

    Finally, there is NETS for Teachers from ISTE:
    1. Facilitate and inspire student learning and creativity
    2. Design and Develop digital-age learning experiences and assessments
    3. Model digital-age work and learning
    4. Promote and model digital citizenship and responsibility
    5. Engage in professional growth and leadership

    A. W. Bates and Gary Poole, Effective Teaching with Technology in Higher Education: Foundations for Success, 2003

    • J Martens says:


      Thank you for sharing these two resources. What I really liked about the Chickering & Ehrmann essay was the emphasis on teaching practice rather than logistics of implementation. However, we also need to be mindful of logistics & priorities (which SECTIONS appears to address) and the opportunities that the technology opens up (which NETS seems to speak to). Thank you for sharing!



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