The ways in which instructors use technology in the classroom impacts instructional methods, student learning, and/or the development of curricular goals via replacement, amplification, or transformation of existing lessons and activities (Hughes, et al., 2006). The Replacement, Amplification, Transformation (RAT) model (Hughes, 1998) identifies the primary purposes for technology integration. Figure 1 defines these technology-use purposes.
Artwork Depicting the RAT Framework
Originally developed as a research tool to study the "nature of technology-supported practices teachers developed and implemented in their teaching" (Hughes, 2022), the tool was later developed for use as an instructor self-assessment framework for critically determining how an instructor's use of technology best served themselves and their students "as a means to some pedagogical and curricular end" (Hughes, Thomas, & Scharber (2006). The RAT framework is organized around three themes and dimensions outlined in the RAT Question Guide (Hughes, 2022). In this guide, Hughes also proposes ways to consider these themes and dimensions at the school/district level. Themes include instructional methods, student learning, and curriculum goals (Hughes, et al., 2006). Each of the themes is further broken down into dimensions (see Figure 2).
Technology Use Impact Themes and Dimensions of the RAT Framework
Table 1 and the following discussion focus on an example of a grammar lesson that might be taught in an elementary classroom by purpose. The more impact the technology use has on the three dimensions (instructional methods, student learning, and/or curriculum goal development), the more likely the use is transformative for that particular instructor and their learners.
RAT Framework: Examples by Purpose
Original Activity: Students use highlighters in different colors to mark parts of speech on a worksheet printed from the teacher’s computer files. Students might exchange papers for grading purposes.
Using the example from Table 1, as a replacement, technology moves the non-digital instructional methods, objectives, and ungraded or graded activities to an internet-based format. The use of a digital document as replacement for a printed document, which still asks students to highlight the parts of speech in different colors, does not change how the educator teaches, how/what the students learn, or the previously established curriculum goals.
As amplification, technology enhances or makes more efficient the instructional methods, the student learning processes, and/or the curriculum goals. For example, Hughes et al. (2006) describe a teacher who created tests, handouts, and other documents in a word processing application in the early days of technology use in the classroom as opposed to using handwritten or typewritten documents. This act served as amplification, according to the teacher’s self-assessment, because it created an archive that she could later modify without having to recreate the whole document. In the early days of migration from workbooks and mimeo copies to digital files stored on computers, this would have been revolutionary. Although it did not enhance student learning or curriculum goals, this act significantly enhanced instructional preparation, making this use of technology an example of amplification.
In the Table 1 example of amplification, students are still identifying parts of speech, but they are using technology to help identify words that may not already be familiar with, such as vocabulary terms from new content being learned, and the tools allow the students to create their own sentences containing all the proper parts of speech. The technology use also changes curriculum goals by moving beyond parts of speech identification into application and evaluation of that knowledge and enhances the learning process for students by making the experience more student-centered and relevant. Moreover, the technology use amplifies the student learning process by expanding student interaction and knowledge exchange with each other within a space designed for back-and-forth dialogue around the application of learned skills. Finally, the use of commenting and editing tools in either synchronous or asynchronous modes allows for increased efficiency in peer review.
For transformative technology integration, the technology must significantly change any of the identified dimensions within the educator’s instructional methods, the students’ learning processes, and/or curriculum goals. In Table 1, an example of transformative technology included having students use technology to create a game and learn from each other or from students in other classrooms as they played and evaluated the accuracy of each others' creations. This changes all three themes of teaching and learning and various dimensions within those themes in the following ways:
The RAT framework was created to help educators to develop technology-integrated lessons and to assess the worthwhile use of the chosen technology (Hughes et al., 2006). Originally developed for K12 preservice and in-service teachers and later applied to K12 school administrators at a programmatic level, the RAT model has been implemented in higher education also. For example, Billingsley, Smith, Smith & Meritt (2019) used the RAT framework as a lens to conduct a systematic literature review of immersive virtual reality (VR) used in teacher preparation programs to help address today's field placement limitations. Specifically, the authors looked at studies that explored the potential revolutionary use of immersive VR in teacher education as a training tool to learn about specific concepts, develop classroom and behavioral management skills, engage in role-playing scenarios or simulations, etc. They explained their rationale for using the RAT framework as follows:
By knowing the extent to which VR has been previously utilized, whether the technology replaced, enhanced, or transformed learning, teacher educators can decide whether these virtual experiences, indeed, broaden teacher candidates’ learning experiences and justify the resource commitment (Billingsley et al., 2019).
In another example, Dang, Smidt, Schumann, Funke, & Magassouba (2012) used the RAT framework as a lens to identify technology-use purposes related to the affordances found through a CMS/LMS system. While 9 professors and their courses were studied, this paper focused on one of the professors and his use of technology tools within the LMS for his online graduate-level education course. Overall, increased efficiency made using the LMS an amplification of typical physical classroom practices. When broken down by specific tools used within the LMS, some were identified as replacement, while others were marked as amplification.
While no transformative purposes were identified, the potential existed for the professor's use of several tools. The authors identified three tools used as having current amplification purposes with the potential for transformative use: (a) the professor's minimalist use of the Content tool that helped students in the flow of learning new material; (b) the structure, both small group and whole class, within the Discussion tool that helped to create "content-rich and student-driven discussions" (Dang, et. al, 2012); and (c) the purposefully-designed use of small-group chat.
Although transformative technology use often elevates the learning experiences of students and helps to engage higher-level cognitive thinking skills, the RAT framework does not suggest that all classroom technology use must be transformative, nor that it is a level of technological use to be achieved as part of a sequential technological improvement plan. In fact, there are times when instructors may purposefully decide not to make their lessons transformative due to time constraints, technology access barriers, or misalignment with school/district scope and sequence plans. Furthermore, transformative technology use as defined in the RAT model is subjective and, in the case of teacher self-assessment, a personally-determined attribute—meaning that what might be transformative use for one instructor, their students, and/or their curriculum goals may not be considered transformative for others. In RAT, transformative use of technology is not synonymous with the use of revolutionary technologies or the use of the latest technology tools and trends, unless it happens to support transformative teaching and learning and/or development and achievement of transformative curricular goals. Rather, technology integration should be a purposeful, planned event with the benefits and drawbacks of its use fully realized and understood.
Billingsley, G., Smith, S., Smith, S., & Meritt, J. (2019). A systematic literature review of using immersive virtual reality technology in teacher education. Journal of Interactive Learning Research, 30(1), 65-90. Retrieved from https://edtechbooks.org/-BWTV.
Dang, T. N., Smidt, E., Schumann, J., Funke, L., & Magassouba, Y. (2012). Analyzing CMS affordances through the RAT rramework for online language teacher education: A case study. Global Science and Technology Forum. Retrieved from https://edtechbooks.org/-kRSG.
Hughes, J. E. (2000). Teaching English with technology: Exploring teacher learning and practice. Ph.D. thesis, Michigan State University. Retrieved from https://edtechbooks.org/-MzF.
Hughes, J. E. (n.d.). Replacement, amplification, and transformation: The R.A.T. model. Techedges. https://edtechbooks.org/-tkk.
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). Retrieved from https://edtechbooks.org/-JXrh.
Hughes, J. E. (2022). R.A.T. Question Guide. Techedges.org. Retrieved 6/6/22 from: https://edtechbooks.org/-MJei.