21st Century Literacies

Navigating Technology in the Classroom
This chapter critically examines the transformative promises of educational technologies. The chapter suggests that effective instructional methods are pivotal for student learning, more so than the media (technology) or the modality (environment) used. Various models for evaluating technology use in education are provided, including SAMR, PICRAT, and the 4E Framework, which help educators optimize technology integration to enhance learning outcomes. The chapter concludes with insights into digital literacy, emphasizing the necessity for educators to develop skills that go beyond mere familiarity with tools, to actively transform and personalize the learning experience.

When we think about educational technologies, we tend to think of those technologies that have transformative uses in P-12 classrooms today - personal computers, the Internet, artificial intelligence. But before we saw the rise of the computer and the Internet in the classroom, educational technology consisted of technologies like the interactive white board, document camera, overhead projector, and even earlier, the typewriter and calculator! A common characteristic of emergent technology is their claim to be transformative, often touted as a panacea for education. Consider the 1922 and 1925 quotes from Thomas Edison (Image 1) in relation to the impact that television would have on education.

“I believe that the motion picture is destined to revolutionize our educational system, and that in a few years it will supplant largely, if not entirely, the use of textbooks. I should say that on average we get only about two percent efficiency out of textbooks . . . The education of the future, as I see it, will be conducted through the medium of the motion picture, a visualized education, where it should be possible to obtain one hundred percent efficiency.”

“In ten years, textbooks as the principal medium of teaching will be as obsolete as the horse and carriage are now … There is no limitation to the camera.” (from The Flickering Mind, Oppenheimer, 2004).

Image 1. Thomas Edison circa 1922.

Thomas Edison
Image is in the public domain from Wikimedia Commons.

Edison’s predictions were mostly wrong. We still have textbooks and the video lesson has not wholly replaced, or largely supplanted, the in-person lesson. So why did the television fail to live up to Edison’s hype? Well, let’s consider the role that technology actually plays in education.

The 3Ms: Media, Method, and Modality

When planning and delivering instruction with technology, you should consider the Media, Method, and Modality you use. Media encompasses the tools and resources we use to teach, including laptops, learning management systems, the Internet, and even paper, pencils, and textbooks. Method consists of the pedagogies we use to deliver instruction - lectures, guided notes, groups discussions, project-based learning, etc. Modality consists of the environment in which we teach - in person, online, or a blend of the two.

The M that matters most is Method. The following video provides an excellent overview of how we can think about the 3Ms as part of our instruction.

3 M's - Media Method Modality and Their Roles in Educational Technology Use

While all three factors are important, Method holds the greatest significance. In a historic debate between Dr. Richard Clark and Dr. Richard Kozma (see Clark, 1994; and Kozma, 1994), Clark argued that the instructional methods used by educators are more crucial than the media used, stating that "media are mere vehicles that deliver instruction but do not influence student achievement any more than the truck that delivers our groceries causing changes in nutrition" (Clark, 1983, p. 445). On the other hand, Kozma believed that different media can influence cognitive processes and learning outcomes when effectively integrated into the learning environment. This debate prompts educators to explore the interplay between instructional methods and technology used to enhance learning outcomes. Image 2 helps to clarify the relationship between the 3Ms.

Image 2. The 3Ms Impact on Student Learning

The 3Ms. Media and Modality indirectly impact learning outcomes. Methods directly impact Learning Outcomes.

“Student Learning: 3Ms” is created by Dr. Cecil R. Short and licensed with a CC BY NC 4.0 International License.

Evaluating Educational Technology Use

There are many frameworks that we can use to ensure technology provides the transformational potential it promises. This chapter presents three such models. The first is the SAMR model. SAMR, introduced by Puentedura in the early 2000s (see Hamilton et al., 2016), is an acronym for Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, and Redefinition. The second is the PICRAT model, which uses acronyms for Replace, Amplify, Transform (Hughes et al, 2006) and Passive, Interactive, Creative (see Kimmons et al., 2020). Lastly the 4E framework from Borup et al. (2022) builds off of David Merill’s (2009) e3 framework and Liz Kolb’s (n.d.) TripleE framework to determine the potential of technology-mediate learning.


The SAMR model categorizes technology integration into four stages: Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, and Redefinition. Substitution involves using technology as a direct substitute without adding significant value, while Redefinition allows for the creation of new learning experiences. The model encourages educators to progress from lower to higher levels of technology integration, aiming to leverage the full potential of educational technology.

Image 3. SAMR Model

SAMR Model

SAMR illustration is by Lefflerd at Wikimedia Commons and used under CC BY SA 4.0 International License.

For example, as Substitution, physical textbooks are replaced with digital textbooks on tablets or laptops, providing convenience but no significant enhancement to the learning experience. In contrast, Redefinition involves students collaborating on shared online documents or presentations using cloud-based tools like Google Docs or Slides. This enables real-time collaboration, instant feedback, and synchronous co-creation, transforming the learning environment beyond traditional boundaries.


The PICRAT framework, developed by Kimmons et al. (2020), is a technology integration model for teacher education. It consists of two parts: PIC and RAT, addressing the student's relationship with technology and its influence on the teacher's practices, respectively. The framework categorizes student engagement as Passive, Interactive, or Creative, and evaluates teacher practices as Replacement, Amplification, or Transformation. These responses are organized in a visual matrix (Image 4), emphasizing active and transformative technology practices in the top-right quadrant.

Image 4. PICRAT


The PICRAT Matrix is by Kimmons et al. (2022) and used with a CC BY 4.0 International License.

PICRAT promotes self-reflection and guides educators in enhancing student engagement and learning outcomes through interactive and creative technology integration. It highlights the importance of pedagogical practices over the technology itself, empowering educators to critically assess and improve their use of technology. While Passive-Replacement practices may be less engaging and transformative, this level doesn't imply bad pedagogy, instead encouraging educators to explore ways to make their practices more engaging or transformative. Let's consider examples at the lowest and highest levels of the PICRAT model.

Passive-Replacement. The teacher uses a digital slideshow presentation as a direct substitute for a chalkboard or whiteboard, where students passively receive information without interactive engagement. This practice replicates traditional lecture-style teaching but with digital tools. It could be amplified by providing slides to students for note-taking or self-paced progression.

Creative-Transformative. The teacher incorporates a digital storytelling project, allowing students to create multimedia stories using various digital tools. Students actively engage in planning, creating, and sharing their stories, fostering creativity, critical thinking, and communication skills. This practice empowers students to become active creators of meaningful content, providing transformative learning experiences.

The 4E Framework

The 4E Framework, developed by Borup et al. (2022), evaluates the effectiveness of technology-mediated learning strategies like blended learning. It consists of four criteria: Enable, Engage, Elevate, and Extend (Image 5). We’ll take a closer look at each one of these areas.

Image 5. The 4E Framework

The 4E Framework

"The 4Es" by Jered Borup is used with a CC BY SA 4.0 International License.

Enable. This criterion assesses if technology-mediated learning enables new types of activities and goes beyond mere replacement. It emphasizes the need to amplify or transform learning activities for improved outcomes, as explained in the PICRAT framework.

Engage. This criterion examines meaningful student interactions with others and course content. Engagement is divided into behavioral, emotional, and cognitive dimensions. The best activities balance passive, interactive, and creative engagement, promoting behavioral, emotional, and cognitive involvement.

Elevate. This criterion evaluates whether learning activities include real-world skills and authenticity. Technology-mediated learning should develop 21st-century skills and connect learning to real-world contexts, and may involve stakeholders who benefit from students' work.

Extend. This criterion considers personalized learning opportunities and flexibility. Technology-mediated learning allows for flexible access to resources and activities beyond the classroom, with varied paths to demonstrate mastery or self-directed learning goals.

Digital Literacy Skills

In the 21st century, digital literacy is a vital skill for teachers to possess. It encompasses many aspects of using technology to effectively teach rising generations. Entire books and courses can cover such topics. But I will end this chapter with three more areas you should be familiar with.

Blended Learning

Blended learning refers to the strategic integration of traditional in-person teaching with online or digital learning experiences. You can implement blended learning models, such as the flipped classroom and flex model, to multiply their efforts in the classroom and better personalize their instruction to their students’ needs, abilities, and interests. The flipped classroom involves students accessing instructional content online before class, allowing for more interactive and collaborative activities during in-person sessions. The flex model allows for a personalized and flexible learning experience within the classroom, combining online and offline activities to personalize learning.

Use of Digital Tools

You should be familiar with and proficient in using various digital tools, including learning management systems, educational software, and AI. Learning management systems, like Moodle or Canvas, facilitate the organization and delivery of online course content, assessment, and communication with students. Educational software and AI tools provide additional resources for teaching and learning, such as interactive simulations, virtual labs, adaptive learning platforms, and intelligent tutoring systems.

Copyright and Digital Citizenship

Teachers need to have a solid understanding of copyright laws and regulations to ensure they and their students respect intellectual property rights. They should be knowledgeable about fair use, Creative Commons licenses, and proper citation practices when using digital content. Moreover, teachers should guide students in developing responsible digital citizenship skills, including ethical online behavior, internet safety, digital etiquette, and responsible use of technology.


The history of educational technology showcases the ever-evolving nature of tools and resources used in classrooms. While newer technologies like personal computers, the Internet, and artificial intelligence have gained prominence in recent years, it is important to remember that emergent technologies often claim to be transformative and hailed as solutions for a myriad of educational challenges. However, the reality is that the most significant factor in student learning is the instructional methods employed by you, the educator. Media and modality only serve as indirect influences. Therefore, it is essential to focus on leveraging technology to implement transformative instructional methods rather than solely relying on the technology itself.

There are several evaluation frameworks that can guide educators toward the effective use of educational technology. The SAMR model emphasizes progressing from substitution to redefinition, encouraging educators to leverage the full potential of technology to create new learning experiences. The PICRAT framework prompts self-reflection and considers the relationships between technology, student engagement, and teacher practices. The 4E framework focuses on enabling new activities, engaging students, elevating learning through real-world skills, and extending learning beyond traditional boundaries. The use of these frameworks can help you develop digital literacy skills to harness the transformative potential of educational technology and create meaningful and impactful learning experiences for your students.


Borup, J., Graham, C. R., Short, C. R., & Shin, J. K. (2022). A Framework for Evaluating Blended Teaching. In J. Borup, M. Jensen, K. T. Arnesen, C. R. Short, & C. R. Graham (Eds.), K-12 Blended Teaching: A Guide to Practice Within the Disciplines, 2. EdTech Books. https://edtechbooks.org/k12blended2/evaluating_bt

Clark, R. E. (1983). Reconsidering research on learning from media. Review of educational research, 53(4), 445-459.

Clark, R.E. (1994). Media will never influence learning. Educational Technology Research and Development. 42 (2), 21-29. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02299088

Hamilton, E. R., Rosenberg, J. M., & Akcaoglu, M. (2016). The Substitution Augmentation Modification Redefinition (SAMR) model: A critical review and suggestions for its use. TechTrends, 60(5), 433–441. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11528-016-0091-y

Hughes, J., Thomas, R., & Scharber, C. (2006, March). Assessing technology integration: The RAT–replacement, amplification, and transformation-framework. In Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference (pp. 1616-1620). Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE).

Kimmons, R., Draper, D., & Backman, J. (2022). PICRAT: The PICRAT Technology Integration Model. In (Eds.), EdTechnica: The Open Encyclopedia of Educational Technology. EdTech Books. https://edtechbooks.org/encyclopedia/picrat

Kimmons, R., Graham, C., & West, R. (2020). The PICRAT model for technology integration in teacher preparation. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 20(1)

Kolb, L (n.d.). Triple E Framework. https://www.tripleeframework.com/

Kozma, R.B. (1994). Will media influence learning? Reframing the debate. Educational Technology Research and Development. 42 (2), 17-19. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02299087

Merrill, M. D. (2009). Finding e3 (effective, efficient, and engaging) Instruction. Educational Technology, 15-26. https://www.jstor.org/stable/44429676

Oppenheimer, T. (2004). Education’s history of technotopia. from The Flickering Mind. https://www.nytimes.com/2004/01/04/books/chapters/the-flickering-mind.html

Cecil R. Short

Emporia State University

Cecil R. Short is an Assistant Professor of School Leadership and Director of Secondary Education at Emporia State University. His research focuses on Personalized Learning, Blended Teaching, Open Educational Resources (OER), and OER-Enabled Practices. Before earning his Ph.D. in Instructional Psychology and Technology from Brigham Young University in 2021, Dr. Short served as a high school English teacher outside Kansas City, Missouri. More about Dr. Short and his work can be found online at www.cecilrshort.com.

This content is provided to you freely by EdTech Books.

Access it online or download it at https://edtechbooks.org/effective_teaching_in_the_secondary_classroom/21st_century_literacies.