The Technology Integration Matrix was not designed simply to promote the use of technology, but rather to encourage the use of whatever technology is available to promote effective, researched-based pedagogy. When constructing the TIM, we examined how technology could support five characteristics of effective classroom practice. While there are many characteristics we could have chosen, we found that the five overlapping characteristics of Active Learning, Collaborative Learning, Constructive Learning, Authentic Learning, and Goal-Directed Learning subsumed much of what research indicates are the most effective practices.

In this post, we’ll look at Active Learning. The Active characteristic makes the distinction between lessons in which students passively receive information and lessons in which students discover, process, and apply their learning. There is a night-and-day difference between a classroom of students with glazed-over eyes awash in the flow of information from a teacher’s lecture or drill-and-practice software, and a classroom of students where the lesson is so arranged that they must actively “do something” with the content and think about what they are doing.

At the ENTRY LEVEL, students are simply the receivers of information, whether from a teacher’s lecture, a textbook chapter, or any sort of computer-based training or drill-and-practice program. Certainly, there is a place for lecture (hopefully interspersed with student activities that engage the content) and a place for drill-and-practice software (hopefully as a means to an end and not the end itself). An effective teacher is able to operate at a range of technology integration levels. But if all lessons are at the Entry Level, then the teacher is certainly not implementing practices that have been demonstrated to be effective. We would offer whatever PD or coaching was needed for the teacher to take it to the next level.

And that next level would be the ADOPTION LEVEL. Now, at least, the students are directly using the available technology. However, the teacher strongly regulates activities. This is still very much a teacher-centered classroom where the students have little to no choice about their technology use. We should recognize that Adoption does represent a significant advance over the Entry Level and that students need to learn at least some of the conventional uses of technology tools. Nonetheless, at this point the focus is primarily on the tools and how they are supposed to be used rather than a focus on conceptual understandings and instructional content.

By the ADAPTATION LEVEL students start to have some choice and opportunities to explore the available technology and the teacher begins to act more as a facilitator. Students have to carefully consider the content they’ve been asked to work with so they can decide which technology tool or tools they want to use. Now not only are they “doing something” with the content, they are also thinking about the things they are doing—the hallmark of Active Learning.

At the INFUSION LEVEL, student access to available technologies supports a more student-centered classroom. The teacher guides, informs, and contextualizes student choice of technology tools and is flexible and open to student ideas. The availability and variety of technology tools promotes deep thinking about the instructional content to determine which technologies to utilize. Students manipulate and organize the instructional content and connect it to their previous learning.

Finally, at the TRANSFORMATION LEVEL, the classroom becomes truly student-centered. The students have broad access to technology tools and the ability to use them in complex ways. The focus of student activity can now be completely on the content rather than worrying about how to use specific technologies. Students’ use of technology becomes more self-directed and they are fully engaged with the instructional content. The teacher facilitates lessons in which students are engaged in higher-order learning activities that may not have been possible without the use of technology tools.

No teacher is going to conduct lessons that are at the Transformation Level 100% of the time. There may be times when even the lower levels are appropriate for a particular lesson. However, we certainly encourage teachers to move toward higher levels of technology integration as they are able, because those levels better support effective characteristics of a learning environment that lead to greater student success. The TIM can provide clear guidance for teachers as they increase the level of technology integration in their classroom and consequentially implement pedagogical practices that lead to student success.


Roy Winkelman is a 40+ year veteran teacher of students from every level kindergarten through graduate school. As the former Director of FCIT, he began the Center's focus on providing students with rich content collections from which to build their understanding. When not glued to his keyboard, Dr. Winkelman can usually be found puttering around his tomato garden in Pittsburgh.

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