9.2 Replace, Amplify, and Transform

Technology in the classroom (face-to-face or online) can serve different purposes. One way to categorize these purposes is the RAT framework (Hughes et al., 2006). The introduction of new technology can lead to the replacement, amplification, or transformation of teaching and learning. Technology as replacement occurs when the new technology provides “different means to the same instructional end” (p. 2). An example of replacement would be a teacher who has students use word processing software to highlight unfamiliar words in a text where they formerly used a highlight marker on a printed page. Amplification refers to increases in efficiency and productivity.  For example, when teachers use word processors to prepare and then continuously update teaching materials, or spreadsheet software to track and calculate grades, they are increasing their efficiency and productivity without fundamentally changing the task at hand.

While replacement and amplification are valid reasons to integrate technology into the teaching and learning environment, teachers are also encouraged to look for ways technology might transform what they do.  Transformative uses of technology fundamentally change some aspect of the learning process. For example, Hughes et al. (2006) give the example of an English teacher incorporating a writing assignment using hypertext. A hypertext narrative is fundamentally different from a linear narrative in that hypertext incorporates different types of thinking and writing skills, so the technology used in this case can be viewed as transforming the instructional goals and the learning process.

The simplicity of this early taxonomy for classifying technology use is a double-edged sword: it is easy to understand, but risks attributing too much power to technology tools rather than how the tools are integrated into the teaching and learning context. The next topic, TPACK, looks at technology integration in a larger context.


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Foundations of Educational Technology by Penny Thompson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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