My Recommendations for Future Instructional, Environmental, and Philosophical Shifts

I recently had the opportunity of touring a number of live classrooms in a nearby school. The recommendations I made to that school community follow, based entirely upon what I did and didn't see.

My guess is that these recommendations also apply to most schools around the globe.

  1. Compare and contrast the technology saturation levels of your students’ home and school life. To what extent are students required to ‘power down’ as they enter the classroom? What behaviors and patterns of learning and information acquisition might be shared within home and classroom environments? (See also Means et al., 2009 and Zhao et al., 2005.)
  2. Consider widening the range of technology used during instruction. Identify the most effective tool for the task and subject matter at hand. Just as the cafeteria provides variety in its menu, so should every teacher vary instructional techniques (Schrum & Levin, 2009; Pitler, et al., 2007). Continual PowerPoint doth not an effective teacher make.
  3. Consider carefully how technology might be used to enhance instruction for students of varying proficiency, cultural background, and need. How might technology be used to differentiate instruction (Christensen, Horn, & Johnson, 2010)? How might technology also help to ensure that the instruction each student receives is the same and/or sufficient? (For example, are the students in the back of your classroom really participating in the same learning experience as those in the front? Can they see and hear as clearly as you once might have supposed?)
  4. Methodically examine your use of technology as it relates to assessment and feedback. Might student response systems (clickers), online assignments, and other technologies improve your understanding of the knowledge gaps your students possess? How might technology also improve the feedback you provide to, and receive from, your students (Hattie & Temperley, 2007)?
  5. If instruction requires that students receive instead of create, consider varying the media and medium used to enable learning. With technology, teaching need not be limited to uniquely verbal, aural, or textual communication (Bellanca & Brandt, 2010). Moreover, learning need not take place only within walls of your school (U.S. Department of Education, 2010; Collins & Halverson, 2009).

Consciously, I've left the recommendations open for some interpretation. Yes, I remain a firm believer that teachers and other leaders in the school should think carefully and critically about the learning environments they create.

After all, the adults in the room usually control much of the environment that students are expected to inhabit. If you happen to be one of those adults, how much critical thought have you put forth?



Bellanca, J., & Brandt, R. (2010). 21st century skills: Rethinking how students learn. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.

Christensen, C., Horn, M., & Johnson, C. (2010). Disrupting class. How disruptive innovation will change the way the world learns. New York: McGraw Hill.

Collins, A., & Halverson, R. (2009). Rethinking education in the age of technology: The digital revolution and schooling in America. New York: Teachers College Press.

Hattie, J., & Temperley, H. (2007) The power of feedback. Review of Educational Research, 77(1), 81-112.

Means, B., Toyama, Y., Murphy, R., Bakia, M., & Jones, K. (2009). Evaluation of evidence-based practices in online learning: A meta-analysis and review of online learning studies. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Dept. of Education, Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development. Retrieved from:

Pitler, H., Hubbell, E. R., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works.Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Schrum, L. M., & Levin, B. B. (2009). Leading 21st-century schools: Harnessing technology for engagement and achievement. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

U.S. Department of Education. (2010). Transforming American education: Learning powered by technology. Retrieved from

Zhao, Y., Lei, J., Yan, B., Lai, C., & Tan, H.S. (2005). What makes the difference? A practical analysis of research on the effectiveness of distance education. Teachers College Record, 107(8):183684