Just as we focus our attention more on the standards students are learning than the specific content we provide, the TAR model helps us to reframe our use of technology away from the apps or devices we’re using to the overall impact their implementation has on student learning. Technology is a tremendously powerful tool and it can impact learning when used in a wide variety of ways, but we will see the greatest benefit when we understand and plan for the most effective use in a given situation.
Sometimes technology is truly transformative when it’s used to allow students to have learning experiences that are unimaginable without the technology tool. Examples of transformative uses include opportunities for students to collaborate with others across the country or globe to complete a project, accessing scientific data previously unavailable to conduct research, and using software and Web 2.0 tools that allow students to design, test and build things that would be impossible without technology. These opportunities are engaging for students and represent the greatest powers of technology.
At other times, technology can be used very effectively to amplify the power of traditional learning. When students use internet search tools to identify multiple primary sources of information, or use Google forms to administer a survey or to take a quiz that can be graded automatically, or when they use a blog to communicate their ideas more widely than traditionally possible, technology is amplifying what was previously possible through increased reach, communication and efficiency.
Finally, it is perfectly acceptable to use technology as a tool that replaces traditional classroom activities. For instance when students answer questions or write an essay in a Google Doc, or drill math facts with an iPad app, or look up a definition using Google instead of a dictionary, that’s a replacement strategy. While this is the simplest way to integrate technology, that does not mean that it’s inherently inferior to the other two. The value of technology implementation is in the THINKING it promotes in students, not in the novelty or sophistication of the technology task.
For this reason, we are overlaying the DOK levels with technology integration strategies to give teachers a means to evaluate the two systems simultaneously. The Thinglink below shows several examples of technology integration in high school ELA that fall at a variety of DOK and TAR levels. Just because an assignment is a transformative use of technology doesn’t mean that it’s a high DOK level, and vice versa. Teachers need to carefully consider the standard, the instructional DOK level that will lead to student understanding and the technology tools and expectations that fit most effectively with the overall plan. Bigger isn’t always better.
Throughout the year teachers will have the opportunity to work with both building technology coaches and instructional coaches, as well as through content teams, to explore the interactions between DOK and TAR and to make plans for how you can teach standards in the ways that lead to the most significant student learning.