Keep it simple

Welcome to Learning Event 5 (#LE5): Keep it simple

(Need more info about Learning Events in general? Visit the Learning Commons for a full description of this series.)

Learning Event 5 (#LE5) focuses on successfully but simply integrating technology into your courses. We live in a networked, digital society, but many educators remain uncomfortable with the idea of integrating tech into their classrooms for many reasons, including lack of preparation and tools, negative perceptions about technology in general, and the constantly changing suite of tools available.

One of the secrets of technology integration is to start small. Begin by thoughtfully embedding a single service, tool, or app to see how it will help support learners. Does your new tech improve student learning? Does it align with the learning goals you set when you backward planned the course? If not, you should reconsider adding that technological component. In short, technology use for technology’s sake will almost always fail. A better course of action is to start small and keep it simple.


Technology integration: When effectively embedded into the curriculum, there are numerous opportunities to maximize learning objectives in your course. Instructional technologies can increase student engagement and motivation. Technology can provide on-the-go access to content as you eliminate the idea that course materials only include a textbook and/or classroom. Technological services help build learner independence and help students practice using the tools and skills they’ll need in their careers.  Technology can also save time for educators and make some of the most difficult instructional and administrative tasks quick and easy.

Simply put, technology integration is the practice of integrating, weaving, or embedding technological services, products, and tools into teaching, learning, and assessment. While surface-level technology integration can be useful at times, the thoughtful integration of technology aligned with learning goals and assessments produces maximum results for educators and students.

A popular model to consider as you integrate technology into your instruction and evaluate its effectiveness is the SAMR model. This framework was created by Dr. Ruben Puentedura and describes four different degrees of classroom technology integration: Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, and Redefinition. Substitution and Augmentation are considered “Enhancement” steps, while Modification and Redefinition are “Transformation” steps.

The SAMR model is helpful when thinking about a functional change in learning activities via the technology you integrate into your course and can help improve the mixture of no-, low-, and high-tech course components over time. An example of each step is listed below:

  • Substitution – Students print out a worksheet, fill it out, and submit it to the instructor in class or online.
  • Augmentation – Students complete a quiz using a Google Form instead of using pen and paper.
  • Modification – Students write a response to a prompt and record an audio podcast to lend an authentic voice to their response.
  • Redefinition – Students collaboratively read and annotate a document using Hypothesis and then use their comments to write synthesis posts about the content.

Check out the materials presented below to learn and engage more!


How to Integrate Tech When It Keeps Changing  – Todd Finley. “Asking if technology enhances learning is like asking if dogs are playful. Whether we’re discussing tech or those furry mouth-breathers, the answer is the same: it depends on the situation. Here’s a better line of inquiry: how do you coordinate knowledge, instructional practices, and technologies in order to positively influence academic achievement?.”

Six Trajectories for Digital Technology in Higher Education – Malcolm Brown. “Six individual trajectories of digital technology are enabling the ambitious goal of a responsive, personalized digital learning environment for higher education.”

Three Ways to Think About Classroom Technology Integration  – eChalk.The three models of classroom technology integration below, while very different from one another, each can provide a starting point for thinking about how technology is used in the classroom today and what teachers and technology leaders may want to aspire to in the future.


How to Apply the SAMR Model with Ruben Puentedura (6:53)

Technology Integration Matrix (TIM) –  2013 ISTE Presentation (11:39)

What is the SAMR Model and what does it look like in schools? (2:11)


How does your use of instructional technologies improve student learning in your course(s)?


Consider the digital texts and tools you use during instruction and how they affect student learning.


Keep it simple and start small as you embed instructional technologies into your course(s).

As Andrew Marcinek indicates in this post, technology integration is a challenge; you should always have a no-tech Plan B, stick with what works, and control your controllables. Although Marcinek’s intended audience is K-12 educators, his guidance is just as applicable as we consider technology integration in higher education. Marcinek asks three questions:

  • How will the technology or application I’m integrating help students grow in their learning?
  • How will the technology or application help them achieve their goals?
  • What is the comfort level for integrating the technology or application?

We would love to hear about what you created or implemented as a result of this Learning Experience! Please send an email to if you have something to share!