Teachers Key to Making Technology Work in the Classroom
Training, Preparation Important to Success
-- Global Science and Technology Week the Backdrop for Report on What Works--

Washington, DC — Integrating media and technology that provides rich content into the classroom can help teachers teach and children learn, but it is not a cure for all that ails the education system, according to a new report, Learning With Technology: Evidence that technology can, and does, support learning, commissioned by Cable in the Classroom and written by Dr. James Marshall, a researcher and educational technologist at San Diego State University’s Department of Educational Technology. (The report is available at

The analysis of technology as a powerful learning tool emerges during the White House-sponsored Global Science and Technology Week, April 28 through May 4.

An analysis of current research, the report says technology can be a powerful tool teachers can use to meet student needs and support learning. It can help students create new associations, learn through new pathways, and make the curriculum meaningful. Dr. Marshall cites numerous studies that credit television programs such as Blue’s Clues and Sesame Street and computer technology with enhancing mental facility and, in many cases, academic achievement. Regardless of the medium – television, computer, or computer-delivered streaming video – technology can boost children’s learning, Marshall says, but success requires purposeful use, matched to each student's unique needs.

The Human Factor: Teachers

“The most vital education technology component is a living, breathing human – the teacher,” Marshall said. “By doing what they do best, teachers can transform technology into a living learning tool – customizing the classroom experience to meet evolving standards and the ever-changing needs of individual students; supporting different learning styles and paces; and providing students with hands-on, interactive experiences to make learning active, meaningful, and memorable.”

“Teachers are like master diagnosticians, matching individual student skills and needs with the right opportunities for learning - including technology-delivered content,” said Marshall. “Likewise, technology is not the solution for each and every learning challenge confronted by students and teachers. Rather, we must increasingly rely upon the teacher's expertise to craft blended opportunities for students to learn.”

These opportunities include video- and computer-based learning that stand alongside complementary interventions, including direct instruction, collaborative group projects, textbooks, learning centers, manipulatives, and one-on-one tutoring. According to Marshall, today’s teacher must be a participating learner in the classroom, someone who takes risks alongside his or her students – sometimes without knowledge of the “correct” answer. Collaborative technology, including multimedia programs and various applications of the Internet, is certainly pushing teachers in this direction. Not only must they be adept at locating good content, but also they must skillfully align that content with teaching outcomes. They must craft learning activities that exploit the best of each instructional strategy – classroom-presented and technology-delivered alike.

The relationship shared by teacher, student, and educational technology is one of both success and failure, according to the report. Research shows that when technology enters the classroom and is used well, teachers become facilitators and coaches of learning, and students more frequently engage in collaborative learning.

What Works…and What Doesn’t

The report cautions that technology comes with no guarantees. Poorly designed content that lacks an instructional foundation; casual, purposeless use of technology in the classroom; or lack of alignment between desired learning outcomes and the application of educational technology can undermine any educational potential, Marshall says. For technology to be an effective classroom tool requires planning and focusing on applying the content to learning objectives and instructional pursuits. “If technology just tries to replicate classroom teaching rather than enhancing and extending the good things already happening in the traditional classroom, its success is questionable,” Marshall said.

“This report shows that visionary and sensible use of technology to extend learning can work,” said Peggy O’Brien, Ph.D., executive director of CIC. “The absolute truth is that good teaching and good learning are the most potent forces on earth. Without them, the best educational technology will lie dormant. An important step is to support teachers with the training, tools, and research to make the most of what technology offers.”

“Now that schools are wired, the remaining challenge is to put those wires to work, by locating and developing the highest caliber content and by preparing teachers to integrate technology’s rich offerings into the exciting work already underway in their classrooms,” said O’Brien. “This report takes a lengthy stride in that direction, by rounding up the research that shows how technology enhances learning and underscoring the vital role teachers play in making technology part of the educational experience.”

“People continue to debate the merits of learning technology in policy forums and in practical settings. Marshall’s review of the dynamics beneath the uneven trajectory of classroom adoption of technology is apt, particularly when coupled to the evidence he assembles about the positive contributions of TV,” said Dr. Dale Mann, Professor Emeritus, Teachers College, Columbia University and Managing Director, Interactive, Inc. “Like any technology, TV can be turned to purposes that are bad, indifferent and/or good. Marshall does everyone a service in recalling our attention to the positive gains from this ubiquitous medium.”

CIC represents the cable telecommunications industry’s commitment to education – to improve teaching and learning for children in schools, at home, and in their communities. This is the only industry-wide philanthropic initiative of its kind; since 1989, 8,500 cable companies and 39 cable networks have provided free access to commercial-free, educational cable content and new technologies to 81,000 public and private schools, reaching 78 percent of K-12 students. CIC focuses on five essential elements to ensure quality education in the 21st century: visionary and sensible use of technologies, engagement with rich content, community with other learners, excellent teaching, and the support of parents and other adults.