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Instructional Technology Trends in Education

Eric Zachary

California State University, Monterey Bay

December 15, 2017

IST 524 Instructional Technology

Dr. Sarah Tourtellotte


Instructional Technology Trends in K-12 Education

In the world of K-12 education, instructional technology is changing rapidly.

After the adoption of the Common Core State Standards at the beginning of the decade,

the look of a traditional school setting has been dramatically altered. According to

Jochim, McGuinn (2016), federal and local governments have invested hundreds of

millions of dollars to dynamically change many of the aspects of our educational system

in the United States. The CCSS were written with two goals in mind: to prepare students

to be college and career ready and to implement a national set of standards (Porter,

McMaken, Hwang and Yang 2011, p. 103). The results of the CCSS adoption have been

a continuous domino effect of educational change as school districts scramble to meet the

new expectations.

This chain of events has led to three major instructional trends in K-12 education.

Each of these areas have been directly influenced by the nearly nationwide adoption of

the CCSS. The major change has been a noticeable transition from a teacher-centered to a

more learner-centered environment. Additionally, there has been a shift from multiple-

choice standardized assessments to computer adaptive assessments, which provides more

concise student performance reporting. Furthermore, many school districts have

drastically increased the availability of technology to both students and teachers, thus

allowing for greater differentiation of instruction.

In educators’ efforts to better prepare learners for a 21st century workforce, many

trends have begun. One of the most noticeable trends, in the new common core

classroom, is the shift from traditional to more alternative learning strategies.

Cooperative, problem-based, and project-based learning have all become more prevalent

in recent years. By creating a learner-centered classroom, where students are active

participants in their learning, they develop a deeper understanding of the content.

The common core classroom has been designed for student collaboration. Across

the curriculum, collaborative group work can be seen in classrooms. In many classrooms,

traditional desks have been replaced with tables to encourage collaboration. The mandate

from the CCSS states “students must learn to work together, express and listen carefully

to ideas” (California Department of Education [CDE] 2013). There are many beneficial

skills that are developed while working in a collaborative learning environment. For

example, students build their academic skills by defending their own work with evidence,

while also gaining insight from their peers. Furthermore, by working in supportive

groups, students build confidence in their own academic ability.

Another form of alternative learning that has become more prevalent in the

common core classroom is the use of problem-based learning (PBL). Traditionally, K-12

public education has been very well structured. Teachers prepare a lesson, deliver direct

instruction, students practice, and then students are assessed on their learned knowledge

within the parameters of that structure. Research suggests that the problem with this

method is that in the real world problems are ill structured and unrelated. PBL employs

methods that allow students to learn through self-discovery. Torp and Sage (2002)

describe PBL as learning that “confronts students with a messy, ill-structured situation in

which they assume the role of the stakeholder… they identify the real problem and learn

whatever is necessary to arrive at a viable solution” (p. 15).

To further emphasize the necessity for PBL, the Smarter Balanced Assessment

Consortium (SBAC), a public agency tasked with creating the CCSS aligned state

assessment, has included what is referred to as a performance task (PT) as part of its

assessment design. According to the California Assessment of Student Performance and

Progress (2017), a PT is a “portion of the Smarter Balanced assessment that requires

students to answer a set of questions that are centered on a common theme or problem.”

The CCSS emphasize a need for students to develop greater procedural and critical

thinking skills. In an effort to prepare students for the state assessments, as well as their

college and careers, teachers are increasingly employing PBL scenarios as part of their

repertoire of teaching strategies.

Another form of alternative instruction that serves as an avenue for teaching

students in the world of the CCSS is the use of project based learning. Most of the CCSS

require students to demonstrate skills in complex ways. Furthermore, there are very few

standards that require a single step to complete. The CCSS asks students to not only

understand the content, but also have the ability to apply their learning to real life


Like many of the other alternative learning strategies, project based learning

requires inquiry, research, rigor, and it often requires collaboration. However, project

based learning differs from other alternative learning methods, in that the end result is not

a solution or a research paper, it is a product or performance that is shared with an

audience. Lenz, Wells, and Kingston (2015) state that “the true launch of a project is

when students hear not what they are going to learn, but what they are going to create”.

One of the biggest challenges that teachers face is getting their students to care about

what they're expected to learn. Project based learning allows students to discover new

content through discovery rather than dictation, which creates a sense of ownership in

their learning that may not be achieved using traditional learning methods.

Not only have the CCSS changed the way we deliver instruction, it has altered the

way we assess learning as well. In the past, the end of the school year state assessment

was a traditional paper and pencil, multiple-choice test. Although these tests offered a

form of measurable data, there were many flaws with the assessment system. Through

selective guessing, students were able to narrow down choices and pick the most logical

response without actually arriving at the answer through understanding. This allowed

students to demonstrate a level of proficiency that they didn’t actually possess.

Furthermore, in using a single set of questions based solely on grade-level criteria, there

was no true way to assess the students at their level. As a result, there was no usable data

for students performing both below and above grade-level. Multiple choice testing proved

to be imperfect and in need of modification.

Following the introduction of the CCSS two new assessments were created by the

SBAC as well as the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and

Careers (PARCC). Due to greater success and more widespread implementation, the

SBAC has become the prominent model for computer adaptive testing. The SBAC

assessment attempts to solve many of the authenticity issues that existed in the older,

multiple choice standardized tests.

Through the use of a computerized adaptive testing model, the SBAC assessment

is able to meet students at their performance level. The rigor of test questions increases or

decreases based on students’ correct or incorrect responses. Furthermore, the assessment

employs the use of multiple question types, including constructed response, matching,

questions with multiple correct answers, as well as multiple choice. The variation in

questioning provides a more authentic measurement of student ability by removing the

guessing strategies that come with strictly multiple-choice exams. The SBAC assessment

also contains a component referred to as a performance task. The performance task is a

problem-based, ill-structured scenario, which requires students to apply deeper critical

thinking skills. In all, the SBAC assessment is a much more challenging and

comprehensive evaluation tool that provides a more detailed picture of student learning.

As a result of SBAC’s implementation of computer adaptive testing, school

districts were tasked with figuring out a way to administer the test to every student in

grades three through twelve. Prior to the implementation of the CCSS, many schools had

a single computer lab that was shared between all of the classes at a school-site. School

districts soon discovered that it was not feasible to cycle hundreds, if not thousands, of

students through a single lab to complete the SBAC assessment within the small window

of time allotted to have all students complete the test. Many school districts are finding

the solution to this problem through the purchasing of a simple, inexpensive, internet

driven laptop computer known as a Chromebook.

The Chromebook’s relatively low cost has allowed many districts to purchase one

device per student. The widespread implementation of Chromebooks in the classroom has

provided many new educational opportunities. Furthermore, Google has created the

Google Suite, which is provided to educational agencies free of charge. Through the use

of Chromebooks, the Google Suite, and other free or low cost applications, it is clear, as

stated in District Administration (2014), that “Technology is bringing a wealth of

resources and making new things possible in terms of learning and achievement.”

The CCSS have altered the course of education in the United States. Educators

face many new challenges as pedagogical strategies continue to be researched, analyzed,

and modified to adjust the way instruction is delivered. Will these new educational trends

lead to achieving the goal of preparing today’s students for college and their careers? It

may be years before we know the full effect of the CCSS implementation, however, one

thing is certain, the technological implementation of the CCSS have provided educators

with a whole new world of instructional possibilities that would have been unfathomable

just a few short years ago.



California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (2017). Frequently Asked

Questions (FAQs) About the California Assessment of Student Performance and

Progress— Performance Tasks. Retrieved from

California Department of Education. (2013) California Common Core State Standards

English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and

Technical Subjects. Sacramento, CA: California Department of Education.

District Administration. (2014). Ensuring 1-to-1 success with Google for education: the

right tools are essential to reaping the benefits of 1-to-1. District Administration,

50(6). 16-17.

Jochim A., & McGuinn P. (2016). The politics of the Common Core assessments: why

states are quitting the PARCC and Smarter Balanced testing consortia. Education

Next, 16(4). p. 44-52.

Lenz, B., Wells, J., & Kingston, S. (2015). Deeper learning: transforming schools using

common core standards, project-based learning, and performance assessment.

San Francisco, CA: John Wiley and Sons Inc.

Porter A., McMaken J., Hwang J., & Yang R. (2011). Common Core Standards: The

New U.S. Intended Curriculum. Educational Researcher, 40(3). Retrieved from

Torp L., & Sage S. (2002). Problems as Possibilities: Problem-Based Learning for K-16

Education. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision & Curriculum