Creative Education
2011. Vol.2, No.2, 130-135
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. DOI:10.4236/ce.2011.22018
Redefining Technology Role in Education
Ali Sharaf Al Musawi
IInstructional and Learning Technologies Department, Al-Khodh, Oman.
Received February 25th, 2011; revised April 13th, 2011; accepted May 24th, 2011.
The paper is a conceptual attempt to explore the new roles of technology in education which has increasingly
become more than a sole medium, as was its description in the past. Basically, the key idea is that technology,
with the powers of ICT, in education has now three main roles, namely: a medium/resource, a management, and
a delivery. These new roles, when combined, could set the stage for restructuring the education institutions in an
innovative way that leaves the current education system in history.
Keywords: Educational T e c hnology, Roles, Education, E-Learning
Historically, audiovisual movement at the beginning of the
twentieth century adopted the use of new innovations of film
and audio to reach a diverse audience with an emphasis on
educational materials production by faculty to improve their
teaching. Learning theory, systems theory, and information
theory then merged to form the instructional design approach
which, in practice, shifted the evaluation to the learners meas-
uring their achievement according to prescribed learning objec-
tives in observable format within eight domains of learned ca-
pabilities and tasks. Programmed learning also evolved and
applied in the 1950s followed by the visual model of the stages
of instructional systems design in the 1960s (AECT, 2004).
Programmed learning was based on many of the same princi-
ples to which Bork and other enthusiasts of educational tech-
nology allude: clearly stated behavioral objectives, small
frames of instruction, self-pacing, active learner response to
frequent prompts and questions, and immediate individualized
feedback to responses.
These principles were in turn based on the behaviorist pre-
cepts of the noted psychologist B. F. Skinner, and were imple-
mented in the United States at the University of Illinois in 1960
(AECT, 2004). Instructional strategies, needs analysis, and
communication theory were incorporated in other instructional
systems and communication models. Constructivism applica-
tions lead to active environment based on interactions and
learning activities in project based learning, inquiry based in-
struction, and student-centered learning. Acquisition of col-
laborative, management, metacognitive skills and Reflection is
important for designers throughout the entire instructional de-
sign process. In addition, prototyping enables designers to learn
from other design projects and apply it to new designs in order
to increase efficiency using new technologies and innovations.
New Technologies
Technology is changing the way faculty teaches and students
learn. It becomes a critical complement to the educational ex-
perience, opening more opportunities for the learner than can be
encompassed by one campus. Advances in technology mean
that it can now be an effective tool in learning and development.
Many organizations and educational institutions are utilizing
technology for a variety of reasons.
Literature on educational technology has a narrow focus on
the characteristics of the technology itself but to gain a full
understanding of why a particular piece of technology is or is
not used, or used in particular ways or has a particular impact,
we need to pay careful attention to the social context of its use
and incorporate business values, and workplace skills (Kandl-
binder, 2004: pp. v). It is important to know the way through
which technology is used to support learners, and make learn-
ing more efficient and the learning experiences more memora-
ble, improve access to ideas and information, enhance and ex-
tend an individual’s abilities to express themselves. Students in
different social positions can have very different experiences
with the same technology.
Technology Role in Question
The need to redefine technology role in education is in-
grained in literature. As Roblyer (2005) stated: “If technology
is to be viewed as having a clear and essential role to play in
education, it must have a clearly articulated research agenda
and high quality studies that both document and shape its im-
pact.” In relation to subject area such as mathematics, Kissane
(2003), suggests that technology has three roles: a computa-
tional role (humans using technology to complete difficult
mathematical tasks), an influential role (availability of tech-
nology needs to be considered in deciding what is most impor-
tant for the mathematics curriculum), and an experiential role
(new possibilities for teaching and learning mathematics by
technology). Masood (2004), after conducting a content
analysis of (200) articles of the Educational Technology of
Research and Development (ETR&D) for most dominant
themes emerged, grown, or diminished in the field of educa-
tional technology, concludes that the top ranked content
analysis concept cluster is “delivery systems or media format”
which consistently appeared first.
This paper tries to answer the question: “whether we should
continue to consider educational technology as a sole medium
(represented by the famous example of a wagon transferring
A. S. A. MUSAWI 131
goods) or should it be considered as a major component of the
educational system?” The study contributes to the efforts of
understanding the changing technology roles in education and
gives exemplary guides for this change management.
Emerging Roles of Technology in Education
It seems that education empowered with the conventional,
information, communication, and digital technologies has taken
three distinctive roles in education which require us to distin-
guish between. These roles cover educational technology sys-
tem stages of: the medium or resource role, the management
role, and the delivery role (see Figure 1).
Medium/Resource Role
Technology as a medium includes many formats and is used
to enhance rather than replace instructors where instructor de-
termines the pace for technology integration.
Technology also plays a “resource” role where information is
at instructors’/students’ fingertips. Thanks to digital technology,
all types of traditional audio visual materials such as: books,
transparencies, photographic slides, PowerPoint slides, compact
discs, videotapes, audiotapes (and their accompanying presen-
tation equipment of various projectors and computers) are “di-
gitized” in several formats, stored, and retrieved in huge “re-
source” repositories. The library, as a physical resources place,
is about to be completely replaced by “e-books” and digital
libraries accessible anywhere, anytime, and by anyone. “Re-
sources” seekers are also about to be replaced with “e-com-
munities” and virtual research centers. This forms a global re-
source system of technology supported education.
Instructional materials can be now saved on student’s home
computer and used on computers at school using the flash
drives. Students can take photos or record video on school ac-
tivities for inclusion in projects and assignments. Mobile de-
vices such as: iPods, mobile phones, Mp3 players, and PDAs
can become more functional and useful (Spence & Haughey,
2005). Most students have mobile devices nowadays which can
be used to enhance students’ engagement and use of technology
in and outside the classroom. Students become able to upload
their portfolios and diaries onto these devices and store school
timetables. Teachers can use these devices to text student in-
formation about assignments or remind them about home-
work’s due dates. Students, on the other hand, message teachers
Management Role
Delivery Role
Technology in
Figure 1.
Technology roles in educa t i on.
with work and ideas and getting help when they require it. Mo-
bile devices can be utilized by teachers to record student reading,
map student progress and celebrate the successes of students.
Students can use them to record lessons to help them under-
stand complex and difficult concepts. They can be used to
speak with experts on certain research or school work. Rutz, et al.
(2003) perceives that the use of educational technology im-
proves student performance.
Futuristic educationalists see that education, through tech-
nology role as a medium/resource, will become highly interac-
tive, individualized, flexible, and accessible (Garson, 2000).
People in a diverse range of work places will use portable de-
vices such as laptops and phones to learn and students can re-
view their work in class at any time where the use of these de-
vices will free up the reliance on physical labs. Moreover, the
reliance on wireless technology should enable the students to
download information from internet. This should ease their
“connectedness” with the world.
However, there are some concerns about the role of technol-
ogy as a medium/resource in learning on the depersonalization
of education and the substitution of “real people” with technol-
ogy. In addition, mobile devices can make students misusing
time in class (Spence & Haughey, 2005). Inappropriate use of
these devices may include: taking photos, texting friends, play-
ing games, cheating in exams. Further, computers are to some
extent expensive and internet is not available to every student,
and its speed is not the same in all geographical regions. This
may lead to the issue of digital divide which means that there is
less opportunity to take part in the new information-based soci-
ety. It also means that there is less opportunity to take part in
the education, training, shopping, entertainment and communi-
cations opportunities that are available on line. Digital divide
may also include fe males’ and some soci al classes’ rese rvations
about the computer culture. Gender equity in technology access
and knowledge to master skills is important. Barriers to incor-
porating instructional technology as a medium/resource may
also include insufficient or obsolete hardware and software,
inadequate facilities and support services, lack of time and
money, inappropriate reward structures, scarcity of information
about good practice, and underestimating the difficulties in
adopting new technologies, and theft (Spence & Haughey,
Management Role
Technology has transformed many non-instructional campus
functions, including enrollment management, registration,
timetabling, billing, and financial aid, parking services, library
services, payroll, and employment resources. Technology helps
us to manage growth in personnel by designing institutional
webpages, promotional materials, and departmental portals, and
conducting interactive teleconferencing interviews. Adminis-
trators use technology either to perform routine tasks to maxi-
mize productivity and/or assist staff in completing non-me-
chanical tasks.
Faculty members are now highly dependent on technology
for administrative purposes as well as for teaching and research.
Technology encompasses the role of faculty members in: re-
source-based learning; organization of course delivery, in-
volvement in academic decision-making, academic staffing and
recruitment, students’ monitoring and evaluation.
Technology can take the management role in fields of:
teaching support and technical service; institutional administra-
tion, distribution and production of instructional materials;
provision of consultancy on the curriculum; academic staff
professional development; provision of formal and informal
blended courses; and engagement in research. Administrators
should look into the implications of using technology in educa-
tion in terms of: infrastructure, technical support, professional
development, institutional planning, and relevance to institu-
tional mission. These issues are greatly related to factors such
as: technological competencies, technophobia, skilled staff
recruitment, availability and accessibility to computers and
internet, online services provision, and organizational environ-
ment of innovation and change.
In achieving its management role, technology has first to be
disseminated throughout the institution using prototypes and
cases so faculty, administrators, and students perceive its bene-
fits and advantages. Second, technology should be localized to
the institutional administrative environment needs so people
have sense of ownership. Third, technology needs to be applied
and adapted by the staff and the students to realize and feel its
positive effects on their administrative performance. Finally,
they need to collectively assess technology policies and prac-
tices in institutional management. This assessment should be
shared in an institution-wide practice form and integrated
throughout the institution in order to increase technology effec-
tiveness as its impact on administrative tasks is general; local
innovative instances should be followed in other areas and lo-
cations. Integrated efforts of administrative leaders in academic,
educational, and technological fields get the most out of coor-
dination and support. This could take forms of committees to
share ideas, exchange experiences, set plans and strategies, and
make decisions on using technology for administrative pur-
Technology role in management can affect institutional cost-
effectiveness. Technological applications improve the quality
of education in institutions by making the lecturers seeable,
readable, and hearable for ever-increasing number of students
and crowded classes. Spence and Haughey (2005) mention that
the use of technology in education can no longer be ignored
because instructors are using it and students are demanding it.
They call on colleges to review their mandate in terms of the
integration of educational technologies and prepare for in-
creased demand in the use of technology in teaching by plan-
ning for capital expenditures as well as allocating funds for
instructor support through this growth. Technology can save
institutions’ expenditures and make them better cope with the
continuous cuts in their budgets. However, planners and ad-
ministrators should be aware of tailoring their technological
plans to match the real needs of teaching and learning processes
and institutional mission and strategies, and that they keep ab-
reast of advanced technologies to get optimal return on invest-
ment on the long run.
Delivery Role
ICT are progressively being used to enhance the instructional
process. In addition, web-based learning becomes an integral
component of student-faculty communication managed by
e-learning management system e.g. Blackboard, WebCT, and
Moodle. Therefore, technology is transformed to have a new
role, a delivery one, through e-learning, multimedia learning,
virtual learning, or m-learning using Internet and mobile de-
vices capabilities to deliver knowledge and instruction.
E-learning can be defined as a delivery method that com-
bines a variety of non-traditional instructional techniques, tools,
and approaches to design, develop, manage and evaluate the
learning process. It considers students’ needs, technological
feasibility, and a professional preference. It can be supported by
other technological delivery modes such as: web-resourced
learning, mobile learning, virtual learning, and blended learning.
E-learning, as a delivery mode, has the following features:
Flexibility: it offers self-learning modules that may be
completed by the students taking their preferences in con-
sideration (Landen, 1997) at their pace and/or time.
Accessibility: combining various online delivery methods
should extend the students’ access and choices to learn
knowledge from any location.
Feasibility: E-learning can reduce and balance instructional
costs to the minimum by combining various online delivery
methods that use simple self-paced materials, documents,
case studies, recorded events, text assignments, and Po-
werPoint presentations.
Collaboration: Students may collaborate to learn using var-
ious methods while linked through educational technologies
anywhere and anytime.
E-learning will be therefore disseminated to learners deliver-
ing education to them in their places beyond the barriers that
may impede learning in the traditional instructional environ-
The new technology roles in education have affected many
aspects of the existing structures of “traditional” institutions
and it will continue to affect them for years to come. In this part
of the paper, I will present three future transformational effects
in higher education institutions. However, these changes can
later lead to even more advanced and revolutionary ones.
Learning Theories and Content Design
The need to probe the ways of integrating technologies in
teaching and learning triggers the efforts to understand its im-
plementation and theorize for its effects on both the students’
achievement and content design. For instance, technogogy, a
learning model adopted by Idrus (2005), is defined as the
transformative use of technology to foster learning where the
power of multimedia and Internet makes it possible for tech-
nology to cater for the needs of pedagogical and andragogical
elements that can be viewed from the standpoint of technology.
Technogogy combines technology and pedagogy and allows the
content design for a continuum from the young to the adult in a
way that addresses both learning needs and activities.
Siemens (2005), on the other hand, proposed connectivism
which is a new theory of learning incorporating learning styles
and the use of technology and networks. He stated that: “in-
cluding technology and connection making as learning activi-
ties begins to move learning theories into a digital age. We can
no longer personally experience and acquire learning that we
need to act. We derive our competence from forming connec-
tions”. Connectivism, a theory based on that knowledge exists
A. S. A. MUSAWI 133
in the world rather than in the head of an individual, integrates
previous learning theories (i.e. behaviorism, cognitivism, and
constructivism), social development, and technology to con-
struct a new learning theory for the digital age. Commenting on
the limitations of the previous theories, he states that:
“A central tenet of most learning theories is that learning oc-
curs inside a person. Even social constructivist views, which
hold that learning is a socially enacted process, promotes the
principality of the individual (and her/his physical presence—
i.e. brain-based) in learning. These theories do not address
learning that occurs outside of people (i.e. learning that is
stored and manipulated by technology)”. (Siemens, 2005)
The content design in this theory indicates that learning and
knowledge rests in diversity of opinions through a process of
connecting specialized nodes or information sources where it
may reside in non-human appliances. According to connectiv-
ism, capacity to know more is more critical than what is cur-
rently known and, therefore, nurturing and maintaining connec-
tions is needed to facilitate continual learning where the ability
to see connections between fields, ideas, and concepts is a core
skill. Hence, currency (accurate, up-to-date knowledge) is the
intent of all connectivist learning activities and decision-mak-
ing is itself a learning process (Siemens, 2005).
The notion of connectivism has implications in all aspects of
life; namely, management and leadership because complete
knowledge cannot exist in the mind of one person and, thus,
requires a different approach to creating an overview of the
situation; media, news, information institutions which are being
challenged by the open, real-time, two-way information flow of
blogging; personal knowledge management in relation to or-
ganizational knowledge management; and design of learning
environments (Siemens, 2005). Again, these new learning theo-
ries and models substantiate arguments addressed in this paper
calling for redefining the role of technology in education spe-
cifically in its relation to content design.
Saying this, one should not ignore the importance of tradi-
tional learning theories and pedagogical approaches as one can
also teach mathematics, for example, in a Socratic manner
(Garlikov, n. d.) as it gives the students and teachers a chance
to experience the attendant joy, enthusiastic participation, in-
ventiveness, and excitement of discovering (often complex)
ideas. Nonetheless, questioning, brainstorming, and role play-
ing are teaching methods and techniques that were used in the
past but can be supported by the appropriate and innovative use
of technology. Kramarski and Gutman (2006) found that stu-
dents studied mathematics through e-learning supported with
self-metacognitive questioning significantly outperformed their
colleagues who studied the same subject using e-learning but
without explicit support of self-regulation in problem-solving
procedural and transfer tasks regarding mathematical explana-
tions. They also found that the first group of students outper-
formed their counterparts in using self-monitoring strategies
during problem solving. In addition, Garrido (2002) investi-
gated webstorming, software based in brainstorming techniques
for decision makers on the web, and found that it was indicated
as a possible consensual solution for the proposed challenge
and characterized with interaction and cooperation. Vijayaku-
mar (2011) stated that “technological brainstorming will facili-
tate the thinking process and provide sufficient content for the
learners. Above all teachers need to familiarize themselves with
technological tools available for brainstorming, and enable the
learners achieve the learning objectives.” However, he added
that a good teacher should balance and blend the technological
and traditional methods.
Colleges of Education
Mishra and Koehler (2006) proposed a framework on the
teacher education requirements in the digital age constructed of
the Technology Pedagogy Content Knowledge (TPACK) where
teacher candidates should be trained in a blend of the three
(technologic, instructive, and academic) areas. They, therefore,
are required to master the skills of: Technology Content Know-
ledge, Technology Pedagogy Knowledge, and Pedagogy Con-
tent Knowledge. Kinuthia, Laurie, and Clarke (2010) studied
the potential of technology integration teaching cases to de-
velop pre-service mathematics teachers’ Pedagogical Technol-
ogy Integration Content Knowledge (PTICK) and indicated that
the development of PTICK as a whole and individual aspect of
PTICK. They observed enhanced pedagogical knowledge and
reflective knowledge and found that placing the instructional
technology course within the pre-service teachers’ program is
important as the pre-service teachers were better able to draw-
ing connections between case concepts and mathematics peda-
gogy content. Within these findings, I believe that education
colleges and departments will cease to exist in their traditional
forms and be organized in a way that reflects these new tech-
nology roles in education and the need to integrate and develop
the three (technologic, instructive, and academic) skills. The
re-arrangement of the colleges could be seen as follows:
At least, some departments are expected to merge together
in the foreseen future. Obviously, three traditional depart-
ments; namely, “curriculum”, “teaching methods”, and
“educational technology” departments will eventually form
new departments.
We start to witness this by many studies conducted in areas
linking curriculum content and teaching methods to tech-
nology-based delivery modes. With time, traditional teach-
ing methods (e.g. individualized learning, cooperative
learning, discussion, brainstorming… etc.) will be inte-
grated in new technology-based delivery modes. In fact,
many of these traditional methods are indeed implemented
using online technologies in forms of collaborative com-
munities, social networks, educational forums, and virtual
learning environments. One can easily look at web 1.0, 2.0
and 3.0 to realize the major effects of technology on teacher
preparation and his/her ole in schools (Alison & Alison,
2010; Richard, 2009; Kumar, 2009; Topcu & Ubuz, 2008).
Therefore, education colleges and departments will need to
keep abreast of these new trends providing students with a
more sophisticated and informed approach to learning
technologies in an autonomy-supporting environment
(Landen, 1997; Kandlbinder, 2004: pp. ii). To achieve that,
they will need to shift their focus to prepare new genera-
tions of educational graduates and workforce with skills in
online, mobile, and blended course design, instruction, and
In summary, colleges of education should be restructured
and start to institute departments of: “e-learning”, “blended
learning”, “mobile learning”... etc. through which tradi-
tional teaching methods and content design will be inte-
grated and taught under “online teaching/learning delivery
Technology Services
Technology services will be also organized in a “virtual
educational technology and resources center” (VETRC) in-
cluding traditional library and information services. I will pro-
pose a model to organize a VETRC to serve its e-community
members with different technical, production, and instructional
resources that incorporate these new roles.
First of all, such a center needs to have an instructional
development (ID) service to: increase the clients’ awareness
of virtual instructional media and assist them to design, de-
velop and implement their use in teaching. ID service
should be incorporated as an in-service training program for
its e-community members. This means that this service runs
online workshops to train its clients to design media and
courses tailored to their audiences’ needs and abilities. ID
service is also expected to conduct research with regard to
technology-enriched delivery environments and modes.
Second, the VETRC has to recruit competent instructional
technology specialists and designers. Those should acquire
four skills: design, development, implementation, and
evaluation of instruction (Rempel, Montgomerie, & Szabo’s,
1998). They need to focus on providing their e-community
members with the required technology-based instructional
knowledge and skills. A key role of these technologists will
be always to help their clients integrate new technologies
into their instruction.
Third, a VETRC needs to have a technical service that de-
sign, develop, and produce the instructional resources using
the cutting-edge technologies capabilities to serve their cli-
ents’ academic needs by using technology-enriched appli-
cations such as simulations, robots, and gaming to create
virtual learning environments of science laboratories,
e-books, and 3-D maps. This service should produce and
launch tools through which the e-communities will interact
with each other. These tools include: e-mails, learning con-
tent management systems (LCMSs), websites, wikis, social
networks, blogs, and other software.
Fourth, the virtual center has to administer the online deliv-
ery by installing learning management systems (LMSs) and
digital libraries and providing training and support to the
clients, especially faculty members, to manage and offer
online courses to their audiences.
Fifth, a technical service should be part of the VETRC in
order to provide the clients with any required technical as-
sistance and respond to possible system, network, me-
dia/resources d igitization, and/or equ i p ment needs / re p airs.
Roles of technology in education can no longer be ignored as
lecturers and students demand to have more technologies. They
need to use them in many aspects in their daily activities. It is
not acceptable anymore to describe educational technology as a
medium only. It is more than that. It has three ro les: a resou rce,
a management, and a delivery/teaching mode. These roles dic-
tate that institutions enter a transformation phase that actively
responds by restructuring themselves in a way that incorporates
the technolog i c al changes.
To achieve this, educational environments and courses en-
hanced with appropriate interactive resources, management
support, and delivery modes can promote institutional structure
and their students’ learning. Colleges of education, for example,
need to combine their academic programs and make sure they
reflect an integrated technology based approach. Traditional
technology services need to go “digital” in terms of resources
and “online” in terms of managing these resources link to “vir-
tual” classroom in terms of delivering instruction. This will
require them to offer “on-demand” training on technology skills
to lecturers and students providing them with a solid infra-
structure of ID and IT Specialists, who understand technologic
and pedagogic principles to design, develop, implement, and
evaluate the learning resources.
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