The miracle of education technology or catching the RAT

The recent government inititative to enhance learning in academia by taking advantage of digital technology is not an easy task. More may not mean better, and the improvement is unlikely to be accomplished by the sheer presence of the digital tools and ubiquitous networking. Dismissing belief in supernatural powers of technology, educational experts suggest that the key is to adopt a perspective which sets the educator and the student in the driving seat:  Think not what a given technology can do for us, but what we can do with this technology as David Perkins from MIT has put it. Also, other experts on educational technology draw attention to how technology is used, which can have a transforming effect on learning.

The author of the “digital natives” concept, Marc Prensky (2012), distinguishes between the trivial and the powerful use of technology. When the new technology is being introduced, we first tend to replace the old tool with the new one while working with the same traditional tasks before we go on to embrace technology`s new potential. Exchanging emails with Word attachments instead of web-based editing in the cloud can serve as an example of common practice. Until recently. Prensky holds that only new ways of working/learning, which take benefit of the innovative technology affordances, can actually transform learning. So while watching a lecture on a laptop proves increased accessibility of knowledge, it can hardly improve learning processes to the same degree as creating a video or an animation on a given topic.

One of the established research-based views on technology integration in the classroom has been provided by Dr. Joan Hughes from the University in Texas, USA (2006). Although she investigated the teaching practices at the primary and the secondary school level, her distinction of three types in which technology can be integrated may be relevant to a broader educational situation.


It clearly resonates with Prensky`s views by recognizing that technology affords new teaching methods, learning processes and curriculum goals in opposition to the traditional, passive, transmission- based instruction. As Web 2.0, commonly available in most educational contexts, affords greater participation beyond the classroom walls, with the local and  global community, transformative learning in the digital age must involve interaction not just with the learning content but also, or perhaps primarily, with other fellow students and/or teachers. Not just as a knowledge consumer, but as a knowledge creator.

Originally used for assessing education technology integration, the RAT model includes  the evaluation tool as an aid in teaching. The purpose is more to describe rather than to prescribe the technology use as the author observes that  “the key to transformative technology integration is opportunities for teachers to learn about technology in close connection to subject matter content”. The RAT model is not meant to evaluate a digital tool without reference to an actual context in which it is being used. It approaches educational technology from a rational, evidence-based practice leaving miracles to the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.


Taking a practical perspective, think about the following examples of how technology can be used in the online/hybrid instruction.

Which technology can amplify, transform or just replace learning processes?

  1. Projecting a digital diagram or a timeline with gaps for students to fill in collaboration
  2. Crowdsourcing information on students` favourite innovator on the class wiki page
  3. Writing about one’s experiences and reflections on a blog
  4. Interviewing other subject experts or interesting people via videoconferencing when exploring a topic



Prensky, M. (2012) Trivia versus Power. Let’s be clear on exactly how we are using technology in education. Educational Technology. Available at:

Hughes, J. (2017) R.A.T. Model. Available at:

Hughes, J., Thomas, R. & Scharber, C. (2006) Assessing Technology Integration: The RAT – Replacement, Amplification, and Transformation – Framework. In: Crawford, C. M., Carlsen, R., McFerrin, K., Price, J., Weber, R. and Willis, D. A. (eds.), Proceedings of Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference 2006, March 2006, Orlando, Florida, USA: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE), p.1616–1620. Available at:

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