Tech Tools of the Teaching Trade

Technology is now a cornerstone of classroom life, but how can teachers ensure they use it effectively?

With the rise of remote learning, educators and students need to navigate through a dizzying array of technological tools, from hardware such as laptops, tablets, and mobile phones, to online learning resources like GeoGebra and YouTube videos, and learning management systems such as Echo, Canvas or Google Classroom. And it’s set to grow even more — the online education market is projected to reach US$ 350 billion by 2025.

In response, Western Sydney University researchers have des­igned a framework to help educators ensure such tools are used to their maximum potential.

The Technology Integration Pyramid (TIP), designed by Professor Catherine Attard and Professor Kathryn Holmes from Western’s Centre for Educational Research, is a comprehensive framework to assess the effectiveness of technology as a pedagogical tool. Attard believes it will help educators evaluate whether the latest technology will make their work more effective.

At the Pyramid’s base are the contextual elements of technology use. These are the things that make each classroom or tech use case unique, and what differentiates them in terms of how students would benefit from technology use.

The sides of the pyramid represent the four most important considerations to ensure effective technology use — pedagogy, the subject being taught, student engagement, and the technological tools themselves.

Need to know

  • Remote learning is an increasingly popular pedagogical method.
  • There are lots of technological options to choose from.
  • The TIP will help teachers evaluate which options are most effective.

The research that produced the TIP was gathered in mathematics classrooms. Attard and Holmes looked for teachers who were considered by their peers to be exemplary users of technology and studied the commonalities between their methods. This was complemented by interviews with students and parents.

Holmes says this research will help teachers understand that technology is just a tool, and that focusing on the teaching is the priority. In one example, a classroom that Holmes visited had children equipped with laptops who were all copying from a PowerPoint presentation on the board. “It was supposed to be a science lesson, but it was basically a typing lesson,” she recalls. 

Conversely, in a different school where students were not provided with devices, a teacher whose only technology was her personal phone, an app called Plicker, and an interactive whiteboard was able to conduct a multiple choice quiz that captured real time information about how well her students understood a topic. “You don’t need a lot of technology, it’s about your teaching practice,” explains Attard.Attard and Holmes are now turning the TIP into an accessible tool for teachers to ensure they use technology in the most effective and productive ways.

Meet the Academic | Professor Kathryn Holmes

Professor Kathryn Holmes is the Director of the Centre for Educational Research in the School of Education at Western Sydney University. She conducts research in STEM education and the factors that impact on student engagement and participation in the STEM disciplines. Her research involves working closely with school systems and teachers to develop pedagogical approaches that engage students and improve learning outcomes, particularly for students and teachers in disadvantaged schools. 

Meet the Academic | Professor Catherine Attard

Catherine is a Professor in Mathematics Education and Deputy Director of the Centre for Educational Research within the School of Education at Western Sydney University. She is also the current President of the Mathematics Education Research Group of Australasia. Catherine is a multiple award-winning educator who has transformed teaching and learning in primary mathematics at Western Sydney University for over 14 years. Her philosophy, while straightforward, is transformative: Catherine combines great dedication for teaching engaging mathematics with her own experiences as a primary classroom teacher to motivate and inspire pre-service and qualified teachers. Catherine has won several teaching awards, including a 2016 Australian Awards for University Teaching (AAUT) Teaching Excellence Award, an Office of Learning and Teaching citation for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning and the Western Sydney University Vice-Chancellor's Excellence in Teaching Award. Catherine's research is focused on student engagement with mathematics and issues surrounding the pedagogical practices that influence students' engagement. Catherine is also actively researching contemporary teaching practices through the use of digital technologies, and she is a Chief Investigator on an Australian Research Council Discovery grant investigating the practices of middle leaders in Australian schools.  Catherine is also the author of several popular teacher resource books and the Engaging Maths blog and website ( 


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Future-Makers is published for Western Sydney University by Nature Research Custom Media, part of Springer Nature.