Dimensions of teaching and learning with digital technologies

The AIM models and Tech Trumps that help to capture teachers intention are connected by six dimensions of teaching and learning, synthesised from a range of research in this field. Each of these six dimensions is designed to capture a key crossover between pedagogy and technology (as defined by the TPACK framework Explore the TPACK framework), a joining point if you will where research has shown that digital technologies can have a positive impact on learning outcomes. The six dimensions are:

  • Investigating - "Finding and evaluating information relevant to your topic"
  • Differentiating - "Adapting your teaching for all learners"
  • Collaborating - "Harnessing peer knowledge to enhance learning"
  • Motivating - "Providing a stimulating and engaging environment"
  • Planning - "Structuring your teaching and learning across time"
  • Assessing - "Undertaking formative and summative assessment"

Breaking teaching and learning down in this way allows individual educators to focus on each dimension in turn, rating their level of expertise against each dimension and helping them to plan for their professional development. The dimensions are in turn also mapped against the UK Government Teachers' Standards, helping teachers to tie their developing digital expertise with their broader development needs.

You can read more about the dimensions below, or measure your own expertise against them through our free online TPK Quiz.

Try the TPK Quiz


"Finding and evaluating information relevant to your topic"

If there is one thing that the Internet has done more than anything else, it has transformed the process of information exchange. Now anyone can share a thought in seconds, and likewise anyone else can find that thought just as quickly. This has its downsides though; where previously most information was in curated silos like libraries and museums, the bulk of information available online today has little inbuilt credibility. That has led to the new challenge of not only finding quality information, but also being able to evaluate its credibility.

Digital technologies can help in this process, for example by connecting us to multiple sources through powerful search engines such as Google and Bing, enabling triangulation Read more about triangulation at Wikipedia and hence data verification. Being able to both locate and evaluate information online is a key skill, and one that it is important to be able to model for students.

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"Adapting your teaching for all learners"

It is the nature of mainstream teaching that it has to be a group affair; the costs of educating every child individually would be astronomical, and the benefits of learning from others are very well established. Nevertheless, teaching in large classes necessarily involves teaching across a wide range of abilities and levels of understanding, and this can provide a significant challenge for educators.

Digital technologies are well known for their protean nature, i.e. they are often not fixed entities but are changeable according to need. This changeability can be used to support differentiation in the classroom, e.g. the same online Google doc could support a less able pupil in writing simple headings and paragraphs, but at the same time provide a much stronger support framework for more literate pupils, e.g. grammar tools and personal dictionaries.

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"Harnessing peer knowledge to enhance learning"

It is now widely accepted that one of the most fundamental ways in which we learn is through others. By watching others complete tasks, seeing how they approach and then tackle challenges, and discussing with them different ideas and perspectives, we learn different ways of achieving things in the world, and we make meaningful connections that change us; i.e. we learn.

Digital technologies can provide a strong framework to support collaboration, and can even offer us opportunities for working with others that would otherwise be impossible. They can link people from different spaces together through apps like YouTube, allowing previously unavailable perspectives to be explored, and can even cross boundaries of time, allowing people to encode their thinking for later exploration by others.

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"Providing a stimulating and engaging environment"

Whether students are motivated or not in the classroom makes a huge impact on their learning. It can help them stay focused on task, keep them in the right challenge spot for their best learning gains, or simply ensure that inappropriate behaviour is kept to a minimum. A more motivated and engaged student will unquestionably learn more than disengaged one.

Digital technologies can support educators by providing opportunities for gamification, turning a learning exercise into a fun challenge and an opportunity to compete with peers. Apps such as Kahoot can be used to transform an end of unit test into something more akin to an in-class gameshow, stimulating and engaging staff and students alike.

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"Structuring your teaching and learning across time"

Having a strong element of planning and structure around your teaching allows you to focus on the lesson in hand, and the immediate needs of pupils. It can also support other aspects of teaching such as differentiation by allowing you to be ready for all eventualities, and is crucial for long term success by ensuring that what you are delivering is part of wider scheme of work designed for long term learning.

Digital technologies can support planning by providing an always at hand note taking and reminder service. Notepads and physical paper can be lost or mislaid, but by using online services to store your planning, such as Trello or OneNote, your memory can be digitally enhanced. Similarly by adding reminders based on either place or time you can offload some of your thinking and stay on top of a busy teaching schedule.

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"Undertaking formative and summative assessment"

Knowing what is in the heads of your students is a tricky process at best, but at the same time is a crucial element of all teaching, and one that arguably should form the bedrock of teaching practice. Unless you know what your pupils know, how on earth could you know what to teach them?

Digital technologies can provide a quick and powerful way of gathering both formative and summative assessment information from your pupils. Dedicated apps such as Socrative can provide you with individual assessments of learning in the classroom, whilst free survey tools such as Google forms can provide both synchronous and asynchronous opportunities for assessment and feedback.

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Key References

Below are some useful references if you would like to learn more about the background to this work. For more citations and references please feel free to browse Dr Osborne's citation library at http://www.citeulike.org/user/richpb7.

T. Fisher, et al. (2012). `Teachers' knowing how to use technology: exploring a conceptual framework for purposeful learning activity'. The Curriculum Journal 23(3):307-325.

R. Hall, et al. (2014). `Defining a self-evaluation digital literacy framework for secondary educators: the DigiLit Leicester project'. Research in Learning Technology 22(0).

R. Osborne, et al. (2013). `Integrating technologies into 'authentic' assessment design: an affordances approach'. Research in Learning Technology 21(1):1-18.