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This issue of CDTL Brief on Use of IT in Education discusses how IT can be used in various context to facilitate teaching and learning as well as factors that motivate or discourage faculty to adopt IT in teaching their courses.
April 2007, Vol. 10 No. 2 Print Ready ArticlePrint-Ready
A Conceptual Model to Guide the Use of ICT in Teaching and Learning
Mr Low Hon Loon, Alfred
Educational Technologist,
Centre for Development of Teaching and Learning

Tech and Tussels

Educators who are out-of-sync with Information Communications Technologies (ICT)'s evolution often feel alienated by it. The reason for this alienation is manifold: first, in their struggles to accept new teaching and learning technologies and second, in the conciliation between the features of new technologies against a teacher's pedagogical beliefs, which includes Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK). Put simply,

[PCK] refers to the most regularly taught topics in one's subject area, the most useful forms representation of those ideas, the most powerful analogies, illustrations, examples, explanations, and demonstrations-in a word, the ways of representing the subject that makes it comprehensible to others. It also includes an understanding of what makes of specific topics easy or difficult: the conceptions and preconceptions that students of different ages and background bring with them to learning. (Shulman, 1987, p. 9)

Consequently, when non-IT or non-ICT mediated PCK have been successful in many instances, alternative vehicles of mediation will make little sense to the teacher. A lot of effort on the part of leadership and change agents is required to overcome hindrances in adopting new technology. A teacher must be convinced that it is worth analysing the relationships between technology affordances (opportunities) against his/her pedagogical road map. To do this, conceptual models to facilitate connections between the two are necessary to assist teachers in translating technology functionalities into pedagogical content. In this paper, I would like to present these conceptual models.

Conceptual Models

In this section, we look at how contributions in contemporary research have put a face on (1) educational theories and (2) the intimate mechanisms that link ICT, learning and their sociocultural settings. Next, we examine how two models are integrated to provide a complete picture to guide innovations surrounding the use of technologies in teaching and learning.

Conole, Dyke, Oliver and Seale (2004) remind us that there is already a wide range of educational schools of thought and learning theories such as "behaviourism, constructivism and social constructivism. . In addition, other models of learning such as Kolb's experiential learning cycle, Javis' model of reflection and learning, Gardners theory of multiple intelligences and Flavell's theory of metacognition have a particular focus and emphasis" (Conole, et al., 2004, p. 18).

To encapsulate these educational approaches, Conole et al., (2004) extrapolated their characteristics and represented them on a Octahedron (see Figure 1) that consists of six components:

  • "Individual-inferring that the individual is the focus of learning.

  • Social-learning is explained through interaction with others, through disclosure and collaboration and the wider social context within which the learning takes place.

  • Reflection-inferring that conscious reflection on experience is the basis by which experience is transformed into learning.

  • Non-reflection-when learning is explained with reference to processes such as conditioning, preconscious learning, skill learning and memorization.

  • Information-when an external body of information such as text, artifacts and bodies of knowledge form the basis of experience and the raw material for learning.

  • Experience-when learning arises through direct experience, activity and practical application" (Conole, et. al., 2004, p. 23).


Figure 1. Octahedron encapsulating educational theories (Conole et al., p. 24)

Conole's et al., (2004) contribution of a clear, succinct and unambiguous oracular aid to plan and order learning activities is indeed a remarkable one. However, commissioning ICT affordances into learning designs must be done against a backdrop of sociocultural factors that could nullify the merits of ICT integration for all they are worth. To paint a vivid picture of this backdrop, Cole and Engeström's (1993, p. 7) model of activity system (see Figure 2) serves to alert us of "the intimate mechanism that link ICT, learning and their sociocultural settings." Unmediated functioning occurs along the subject (individual), the object (task) mediated by tools, at the vertex of the triangle. According to Lim (2002), humans abide in groups where labour is shared: the "continuously negotiated distribution of tasks, powers, and responsibilities among the participants of the activity system" (Cole & Engeström, 1993, p. 7), and dealings between the learners (subject) and community are dependent on the groups' mediating tools/artifacts, and rules, which are the "norms and sanctions that approximate the expected correct procedures and acceptable interactions among the participants" (Cole & Engeström, 1993, p. 7). "Activity theory has been successfully used to analyse success, failures and contradictions without simplifications. It offers a set of conceptual tools that can be supplied to various situations to understand the coupling of cognition and activity" (Lim, 2002, p. 413). The activity model of activity system is dynamic and transcends time where there are continual constructions and reconstructions of high level integration.

When we integrate Conole's et. al., (2004) Octahedron into Cole and Engeström's (1993) activity theory, it becomes clear that a teacher must pay a lot of attention not only to the dynamics but also to the components of the activity theory, in regard to the deployment of education theories (see Figure 3). For example, a teacher might plan to use the social constructivist pedagogy to educate students on the effects of pollution on the ecosystem. He planned to use cases, put questions in discussion forums and assigned roles to students with the aim of letting students make meaning for themselves through roleplay (where there is a division of labour in meaningmaking). Plotting his design on the Octahedron (Conole et al., 2004), the process of meaningmaking is skewed towards experience rather than information, and is nested within a reflective and social setting. But the teacher soon discovered that his students, who regarded social activities as a waste of their time, resisted the role-play exercises. At the same time, the instructional culture of the school centred heavily on blackboard teaching, and that all the PCs in the library available for research work were already taken up by other students.


Figure 2. The mediational triangle (Cole & Engeström, 1993, p. 7)


Figure 3. The fortified mediational triangle

Concluding Remarks

The model discussed in this paper can serve as an aid to plan and to scrutinise the purposes and quality of ICT-mediated learning activities, as well as make ICT affordances more explicit when desired educational theories are ascribed to, against the backdrop of the intimate mechanisms that link technology, learning and the sociocultural settings. The Fortified Mediational Triangle can also be used as tools to advocate or defend pedagogical positions in a learning episode against its intended outcomes. For researchers, the Fortified Mediational Triangle help frame useful questions to study the effects of ICT integration on learner subject matter competencies. For professional development, the Fortified Mediational Triangle helps to identify situate discussions in ICT mediated learning upon pedagogically informed framework.


Conole, G.; Dyke, M.; Oliver, M. & Seale, J. (2004). 'Mapping Pedagogy and Tools for Effective Learning Design.' Computers & Education, Vol. 43, Nos. 1-2, pp. 17-33.

Cole, M. & Engeström, Y. (1993). 'A Cultural-historical Approach to Distributed Cognition.' In Saloman, G. (ed). Distributed Cognitions: Psychological and Educational Considerations (Learning in Doing). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 1-46.

Lim, C.P. (2002), 'A Theoretical Framework for the Study of ICT in Schools: A Proposal.' British Journal of Educational Technology, Vol. 33, No. 4, pp. 411-421.

Shulman, L. (1987), 'Knowledge and Teaching Foundations of the New Reform'. Harvard Educational Review, Vol. 57, No. 1, pp. 1-22.

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Innovative Use of IT: A Surgeon’s Perspective
Let Go of My Lego!
IT and Experiential Learning
Using Blogs to Teach Philosophy
Factors Affecting the Adoption of Information Technology (IT) in Higher Education
A Conceptual Model to Guide the Use of ICT in Teaching and Learning