The 5W.5E Concept for Integrating Technology into the Classroom

2/23/2009 7:00:00 AM

5W/5E: Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, and Evaluate

by Wanda Walters

The goal of this article is to illustrate that by combining the 5W’s with the 5E’s an instructional planning tool emerges that allows teachers to easily, seamlessly, and efficiently infuse technology into any instructional program. The strategies presented are appropriate for all grade levels and content areas.

You may be wondering “Why yet another technology integration tool?” The CEO Forum, School Technology and Readiness Report, 2001, stated that Technology can have the greatest impact when integrated into the curriculum to achieve clear, measurable educational goals. Certainly, school districts have embraced this position, as evidenced by the infusion of instructional technological resources that are currently available. Somehow we expect schools to use word processing, spreadsheets, Email, database, multimedia, the Internet, CD Roms, templates, and more. These resources are all acquired with the implicit objective to further support student understanding and increase achievement of educational objectives But the requirement of high-stakes mandatory state testing, the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), time constraints, and training issues have teachers struggling to integrate the abundance of available technologies into their instructional day. It is still not unusual to walk through many schools and see state-of-the-art computers being under-utilized and the supporting resources sitting idly on shelves collecting dust. Many teachers are often so overwhelmed by the magnitude of all that is required of them that they cannot conceive where to begin to “add another thing.” Too often they simply elect not to use the invaluable technological tools that are available – to the detriment of today’s students, who are very attuned to learning in such a modality. Teachers rationalize the under-use of instructional technology with comments like, “People have been educated without technology for centuries.” While most educators are comfortable with using word processing and Email for their own productivity, the real technology challenge for most teachers is incorporating a strategy to effectively and meaningfully integrate all of their available technologies into their instructional program to bolster student achievement. For those teachers who want to use technology in their program, there is that ever pressing question, should instruction drive technology or vice versa? Should a teacher examine his instructional goals and then determine the technology, or does one look at the available technology and then decide how to apply it to the instructional program? Are there times when both approaches are appropriate? As teachers use the 5W/5E planning tool, it becomes apparent that the instructional goal must be the foremost consideration when applying instructional technology.

The 5W/5E model
We are all familiar with the 5W’s: What, Who, Where, When, and Why. We begin by asking the 5 W’s as it applies to curriculum and integrated technology.

   1. What?
         a. What is the instructional goal?
         b. What technologies are available?
         c. What technologies would the educator like to use?
   2. Who is being targeted for the infusion of technology?
         a. Whole group?
         b. Flexible group?
         c. Students with differentiated needs?
   3. Where will the technology be delivered?
         a. In the classroom using a teacher presentation system?
         b. In the classroom computer center?
         c. In the computer lab?
         d. With resource/peer support?
   4. When will the technology infusion take place?
         a. As a warm-up or wrap up activity?
         b. After a particular lesson?
         c. What is the timeline?

      Next is the most important question that the teacher needs to ask herself: Why is she using technology?

      Let me cite an example of the value of teachers being able to articulate their reason for using instructional technology.

      As a technology trainer, I was listening to one of our very fine teachers sharing an integrated technology lesson that she developed. When asked why she designed that lesson, she looked quizzically and responded, “Because we were told to develop a lesson using technology for our next assignment.” After listening to my 5W/5E presentation, she remarked, “Now I know why I developed that lesson, I wanted to evaluate my students understanding of the social studies vocabulary….thanks for giving me the words.” I feel as though this teacher was pleasantly reminded that she did in fact have an educational purpose before she had a technology goal.

   5. Why is the teacher using technology to address educational objectives?

      To answer this question, the Biological Science Curriculum Study’s 5E model is infused with this W.

         1. Is it to engage students in the topic? For example, a teacher may use an interactive Website as a warm-up activity to begin a unit on fractions, and then continue the lesson with manipulatives and/or text resources .

            Is the goal to provide the students the opportunity to further explore the concept? An instructor may assign students a particular CD ROM, Website, or utilize designated templates.

         2. How about using technology to explain an objective? Technology may be used to further clarify the concept and define relevant vocabulary.
         3. Could the most appropriate use of technology be to provide students with the opportunity to elaborate and build on their understanding of the concept by applying it to new situations? This is especially true when it is evident that students have already mastered a particular baseline goal and are in need of a more differentiated, higher-leve- thinking, educationally-related experience.
         4. Finally, would the teacher’s intent be to assign students technology-based activities that will help them and the teacher to evaluate their understanding of the concept? For example, a teacher may direct students to open a paint program and show her that that they understand the concept that 9/12 = 75%.

Using Biological Sciences Curriculum Study 5E constructivist model: Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, and Evaluate, teachers are better able to articulate their educational purpose for their selection and defend the appropriateness of the chosen technology. Another advantage of incorporating the use of the 5E model is best summarized in the quote below.

“The 5E model provides teachers with a simple formula for designing quality experiential instructional units without the need to study brain hemispheres, research elaborate pedagogical theories, or pay consultants healthy ransoms to part with their personal models.”

The 5-E model is based on a constructivist philosophy of learning (Trowbridge & Bybee, 1990). The theory of constructivism encourages educators to focus on making connections between facts that are required and tailoring instructional strategies that allow students to actively construct meaning and foster understanding of objectives. Effective use of technology is the perfect instrument to achieve this goal.

During the past year, I have discussed the 5W/5E concept with countless colleagues and the response has been virtually unanimous. “This makes so much sense.” “It is so logical, understandable and doable.” Many School Based Technology Specialists (SBTS) that I’ve had the pleasure of working with are planning to use the 5W/5E framework to organize technological resources for their teachers during the upcoming school year.

Below is an outline and sample of how to use the 5W/5E Technology Integration Tool. The next time you are planning to use technology within your instructional program, try using the 5W/5E model. You will be glad you did.

Most of the resources used in the examples are web based. All links can be found on the free bookmarking website My guest ID there is solmath.

A supporting PowerPoint presentation and a .pdf of colorful 5W/5E bookmarks for teachers are both available upon request.


Click here for larger view

    * Click here for Sample 5W/5E Technology Integration Model (pdf, 16K)


Moersch, Chris (2002). Beyond Hardware: Using Existing Technology to Promote Higher-Level Thinking. Eugene, Oregon: ISTE,101.

Email: Wanda Walters

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