Relative Advantage of Using Technology to Enhance Content Area Learning

The relative advantages of integrating technology into the classroom has improved student motivation, increased student engagement and greater overall achievement. The following presents the specific advantages for integrating technology into the classroom for each of the major content areas (language arts, social studies, math, the arts and science). Roblyer and Doering (2012) use Everett Rogers’ term, relative advantage, as the first factor considered when adopting a new method over an older one.

Math

Integrating technology into a math curriculum used to mean having students perform drill and practice sets on a computer. This type of technology is helpful for creating a solid foundation for basic math skills upon which students can build more advanced skills. However, the following strategies suggested by Roblyer and Doering (2013) go further to improve student motivation, engagement and overall success:
virtual manipulatives
simulations and visualizations
data collection devices
data-driven activities
fostering math-related communication and interpretation

These tools allow students to see and feel math concepts, become involved in the math process through the collection and/or interpretation of data, and transform mathematical ideas into textual form.

Science

Many of the technological strategies listed above also apply to the content area of science. More specifically, Robyler and Doering (2012) outline the following strategies to benefit science instruction

  •  active scientific investigation
  •  support specific processes of scientific inquiry
  •  introduction of robotics to reinforce engineering concepts
  •  access to scientific information and tools

Technology allows students to conduct and participate in a variety of scientific explorations. Students can safely complete experiments online or interact with experts doing research in remote areas. Robotics activities and competitions introduce students to engineering concepts and facilitate problem solving opportunities. The Internet also allows students to use scientific tools, such as space cameras or online telescopes, that would otherwise be unattainable.

Technology should not be considered just a tool in the classroom like a pencil or piece of paper. Instead, proper integration of technology supports and extends curriculum objectives and engages students in meaningful learning. For this to work, technology must be a part of the daily activities (in all content areas) that occur in the classroom.

Social Studies

Roblyer and Doering (2013) state that student achievement in the content area of social studies is improved through the implementation of the following technology tools:

  • simulations and visualizations
  • virtual field trips
  • adventure learning
  • digital storytelling
  • electronic research
  • geospatial analysis

For students, these types of tools can bring history to life, allow them to interact with experts or historical figures, or explore a variety of environments and situations. The Internet provides students with reliable resources when conducting research and tools to explore the Earth’s geology and geography. Technology is also used as an assessment tool when students create and publish text, audio and video projects that demonstrate their understanding of the content.

Language Arts

According to Roblyer and Doering (2012), in the content area of language arts, the integration of technology supports:

  • word fluency and vocabulary development
  • comprehension and literacy development
  • writing instruction

When technology is integrated into the classroom, the beginning reader can connect letter and words by sight and sound. Improved letter and word fluency leads to improved vocabulary. Once reading, student engagement continues through the use of digital text. Digital text differs from written text in that it is found on the Internet or part of a software package. Digital text is more flexible than written text as the student can listen, search, rearrange, condense or annotate the information. This flexibility makes digital text a great solution for students will different learning styles and leads to improved comprehension.

Lastly, writing skills are improved through the use of technology. Information organizing software makes starting the writing process easier as information is more easily manipulated and arranged. Word processing software makes drafting, revising and editing easier by offering a variety of tools like grammar and spell checks. Classmate and instructor feedback also facilitate the revision and editing process when students post their work online.

Arts

Technology has played an important role in the arts and today’s use of digital technology is no different. For the student, the use of digital technology when creating art increases student engagement and sense of connectedness to the creation process, as well as the finished product. According to Roblyer and Doering (2012), the tools accessible to today’s student include:

  • music creation and production
  • multimedia creation and production
  • graphic design and manipulation
  • virtual field trips to different eras or distant locations

Digital technology allows a student to learn musical notes or create a musical composition without even physically touching an instrument or create an image without getting out the paints and paintbrushes. Similar to the use of technology in the area of social studies, students can learn art history by interacting with times gone by, learning from experts, or visiting far away museums. The technology skills acquired from the arts content area can also be transferred over to the creation of materials used to demonstrate competency in the other content areas.

Roblyer, M.D. and Doerling, A.H. (2012). Integrating Educational Technology into Teaching (6th Ed.). Allyn & Bacon.

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2 thoughts on “Relative Advantage of Using Technology to Enhance Content Area Learning

  1. Paula,
    I think you did an amazing and very thorough job of analyzing the relative advantages to integrating technology into all content areas. I really appreciated the time you took to include descriptions and examples for each of the content areas. Nice work!

  2. Paula,
    This is a very comprehensive post – a very thorough summary of the text. I do wonder, thought, about the use of simulations or virtual field trips as a replacement for the actual experience. As a rural educator, we make use of many virtual experiences for our students, but we still strive to take them to live musical performances, art gallery exhibitions, science trips and other field trips. It’s important that we use technology to enhance current practices, but not replace them for the sake of cost effectiveness or convenience.

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