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How can technology be used to support the teaching of a traditional curriculum? A case study of Bolton School Boys’ Division

Written by: Nic Ford
4 min read

Digital technology has the potential to transform pedagogy and improve the retention of knowledge (Leer and Ivanov, 2013); (Diemar et al., 2013), but many schools are not fully taking advantage of this due to the absence of a clear framework for technology integration. For many schools, this void is filled by the SAMR model, which provides a framework for evaluating, selecting and using technology (Puentadura, 2006). It encourages teachers to plan tasks that modify and redefine the learning process using technology, creating a transformational learning experience for students (See Figure 1). However, this model focuses on tasks rather than the underlying pedagogy or learning process by starting from the premise that teaching actually needs to be redefined, rather than looking at how technology supports existing effective teacher practices. The SAMR model is therefore a task- and technology-focused model, which can distract planning away from practices that can actually support and enhance learning (Hamilton et al., 2016).

Figure 1 is titled "The SAMR model" and shows a graphic of four boxes. Under the heading "Transformation" are the boxes "Redefinition. Tech allows for the creation of new tasks, previously inconceivable" and "Modification. Tech allows for significant task redesign". Under the heading "Enhancement" are the boxes "Augmentation. Tech acts as a direct tool substitute, with functional improvement" and "Substitution. Tech acts as a direct tool substitute. with no functional change".

Mishra and Koehler (Mishra and Koehler, 2006) argue that the effective use of technology in the classroom is actually the relationship between three core knowledge bases; technology, pedagogy and content (TPACK) (See Figure 2). The advantage of this model is that it encourages teachers to evaluate how they can successfully integrate technology into their own unique practice, in their individual classroom contexts. This in turn enables teachers to fully integrate technology into the learning process, rather than it being an ‘add-on’ (Mishra & Koehler, 2006). This level of deep integration, where technology is used as a pedagogical tool for delivering subject content, is the approach that has been successful at Bolton School Boys’ Division.

Figure 2 shows the profile of a human head with three lines running through it. These are labelled "Pedagogical", "Technological" and "Content".

Figure 2: TPACK model showing the inter-relationships between 3 different types of knowledge; Technological, Pedagogical and Content (Mishra & Koeler, 2006).

Integrating technology into teaching and learning

At Bolton School Boys’ Division every boy is given an iPad to be used both in class and at home to work alongside traditional pedagogical approaches.  Finding the correct balance between these three knowledge bases has informed staff training programmes and has enabled teachers to select when it is appropriate to use the iPad, in line with the TPACK framework. Perhaps two of the best examples of TPACK integration are retrieval practice and feedback.

Retrieval Practice

Frequent low stake-testing is an essential part of the learning process. Using technology, teachers can quickly create and share tests or flashcards that can be used frequently to encourage retrieval practice amongst students. Every lesson can begin with a review of prior learning because all of the previous material is available to the students in an instant. This kind of daily review can strengthen learning and lead to fluent re-call (Rosenshine, 2012).  Furthermore, the instant access to tests and quizzes makes it easy for the teacher to space retrieval practice over time and interleave course materials. By using technology-based quizzes or tests to review content from previous weeks, months or years, teachers at Bolton are enabling the boys to embed that knowledge into long-term memory.


Feedback is consistently rated as one of the most effective learning tools with an effect size of 0.95 (Hattie and Timperley, 2007) and is often essential to acquiring new knowledge and skills (Deans for Impact, 2015). In Modern Foreign Languages for example, students can quickly make audio files in the target language and receive personalised feedback. This enables the teacher to hear how well each student is developing their spoken language and helps reluctant public speakers to progress. Technology also enables teachers to offer verbal feedback on work through personalised voice notes which can be pinned onto a simple photograph of their work in books, giving students detailed, accurate feedback whilst saving the teacher time. This approach has the added benefit of closing the time gap between a student handing in their work and receiving feedback.

In summary, our approach to using technology at Bolton School Boys’ Division is to see it as one of the three knowledge bases outlined in the TPACK model. This enables the teacher to plan for technology use in ways that support learning, rather than redefining tasks for little gain. The iPad helps us to deliver a traditional academic curriculum, giving instant access to course content, retrieval practice quizzes and effective feedback. The use of technology, in combination with pedagogical and subject knowledge may not always be exciting and engaging, but it is effective in promoting learning.


Deans for Impact (2015) The Science of Learning. Austin TX: Deans for Impact.
Diemar T, Fernandez and Streepey J (2013) Student perceptions of classroom engagement and learning using iPads. Journal of Teaching and Learning with Technology 1(2): 13–26.
Hamilton E, Rosenburg J and Akcaoglu M (2016) The Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, Redefinition (SAMR) Model: A critical review and suggestions for its use. Tech Trends (60): 433–441.
Hattie J and Timperley H (2007) The power of Feedback. Review of Educational Research 77(1): 81–112.
Leer R and Ivanov S (2013) Rethinking the future of learning: The possibilities and limitations of technology in education in the 21st Century. International Journal of Organizational Innovation 5(4): 14–20.
Mishra P and Koehler M (2006) Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge: A new framework for teacher knowledge. Teachers College Record 108(6): 1017–1054.
Puentadura R (2006) Transformation, technology and education. Available at: (accessed 2018).
Rosenshine B (2012) Principles of instruction: Research-based strategies that all teachers should know. American Educator, Spring: 12–39.
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