A Rationale for Connected Classrooms

© 2016 Dr. Gary L. Ackerman

Even through the third decade of the 21st century is quickly approaching, and information technology (IT) is deeply embedded in the lives of our students, many educators are still reluctant to find a role for computers (in all of their variations), digital information, and social media in their classrooms. In this post, I argue there is a place for IT in every classroom, and my argument is based on four “E’s.”

Connected classrooms (Ito et al., 2013) have replaced classrooms in which technology is integrated as the best practice in creating technology-rich learning. In connected classrooms, technology infrastructure is leveraged to facilitate interest driven and socially motivated studies. In this post I argue educators can positively affect efficiency, effectiveness, efficacy, and equity through connected classrooms.


For generations of students, simple declarative and procedural knowledge was the focus of the curriculum and instruction. While some educators have minimized the importance of this type of knowledge, there is still a place for it in classrooms. (In other places I have argued for “exercises” to be a minority part of classroom work that are done in parallel with “authentic activities.”)

Through technology-mediated instruction (videos, worked examples, games, and other tools), these lessons can be presented with greater efficiency than they can be in traditional teacher-delivered lessons. The efficiency results from the precision with which content can be delivered (only those who need instruction get it) and the just-in-time or just-when-needed nature of this instruction (students can access it any time and as many times as they need it).

In many ways this displaces the teacher as the dispenser of information in the classroom. The advantage, of course, is that teachers can collaborate on identifying, vetting, and curating the collection of technology tools that provide efficient instruction.


A recurring theme in the literature on workforce development is that organizations are faced with unpredictable situations, and they need workers who can adapt to theses changing circumstances. While generations of educators have sought to give students experience applying what they learn to new situations (the dreaded word problems in math is the most common example), this work takes on renewed importance in the 21st century.

IT allows teachers to introduce scaffolding, social learning, and other active learning methods so that students find greater connection and relevance to the ideas they study. Through these strategies, the lessons are more effectively learned, so students are more likely to be aware of what they know as well as how and when to use it to solve new problems.


The purpose of school is to prepare students to fully participate in a culture’s economic, political, and social life. This is education’s strategic goal, and the degree to which an organization achieves its strategic goals.

Today, culture is dominated by digital information and technologies. Giving student experience participating in creating knowledge, evaluating the knowledge created by others, and finding new uses of IT and new types of knowledge, are all aspects of the information technology-rich landscape that were unfamiliar in the landscape of print-based information for which much pedagogy was designed.


It is an unfortunate reality that there remains a digital divide in the United States; disadvantaged students have less access to technology tools, and even if they do have access to the tools, they are more likely to be used for efficient instruction of procedural and declarative knowledge rather than more effective or efficacious purposes.

While efficient instruction may be a reasonable first step in creating connected classrooms, school and technology leaders must take steps to ensure progress continues as all students gain access to curriculum focused around increasing sophisticated and complex problems—problems they identify as relevant—in their schools.


Ito, M., Gutiérrez, K., Livingstone, S., Penuel, B., Rhodes, J., Salen, K,. Schor, J., Sefton-Green, J., Watkins, S. C. (2013). Connected Learning: An Agenda for Research and Design. Irvine, CA: Digital Media and Learning Research Hub.