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Forget the ABCs, Embrace the 3 Cs

Now that I have your attention–let’s begin.  Of course I do not truly believe you should forget about teaching the ABCs; however, if you use technology to enhance learning chances are your students will willingly learn their ABCs and come back wanting more.  Right?

Of course, technology enhances learning across the curriculum. Many respected educators, from Marzano to Robyler to Richards, agree that “interesting and well planned tasks, projects, and resources provide a key to harnessing the educational potential of digital resources, Internet communications and interactive multimedia to engage the interest, interaction, and knowledge construction of young learners.” (Richards, 2005) Simply put, technology enhances learning; and this is the most important part, if it is used appropriately and effectively. Of course, technology enhanced learning must be both interesting and well planned. More importantly, technology enhanced learning must have a purpose; it must support both the learning process and the learning outcomes. It is as simple as that. Period.

Dror takes this philosophy a step further by including the three “Cs”: control, challenge and commitment. The content area is not as important as much as how the content is presented and learned. Technology enhanced learning will work anywhere, any time  IF the three Cs are implemented. To ensure success, learning and engagement, the student must be in control—or at the very least—feel that he or she is in control of what is being learned. This is the first “C”. Technology supports student control beautifully. How, you ask? If a teacher introduces a project that allows students to choose how it is delivered, via technology, the project is more likely to be completed and learning is more likely to occur. Technology not only “gives students control over the format of the presentation it optimises and tailors the learning to the individual learner.” (Dror, 2008) Students learn differently, and technology allows them to control how the material is learned (eg. visual vs. auditory, text vs. diagrams, etc.) Finally, at the most basic level, if learners can “control the pace of learning (e.g., when to move on to the next item/page, and whether to repeat a section before moving on to the next)” they are also more likely to learn. (Dror, 2008)

The second “C, challenge, must also be present if learning is to occur. Technology, of course, can make learning more challenging if it is used properly. If content is “presented in an interesting way that requires the learners to think about it, to reflect and figure things out. If the learning feels more like a puzzle, a mystery that the learners solve, then it is challenging. If the learners feel that they have accomplished something, if they feel good about themselves, if they are proud, then the learning is challenging.” (Dror, 2008) Basically, mastery of content involves implementing problem solving, fostering accomplishment and facilitating acknowledgement  Interestingly enough, these three aspects of challenge can often be achieved via educational games. Technology helps students problem solve and, at the same time, it also allows students to share this achievement with others. Many students not only want to play the game, they also want others to see their score when done! Blogging, tweeting, or sharing the finished project allows the students to proclaim, “l made this!” It is like the modern version of “show and tell”, isn’t it?

Lastly, and not so ironically, the final “C” is the hardest to achieve. None of the above, nor all the technology in the world, will enhance learning if commitment is not present. Commitment is a tricky thing. Some students will readily commit to the learning, while others never will. Yet it is the key to the process. For some reason, again if used properly, technology can increase the likelihood that commitment will take place. Ironically the words commitment and engagement could be used interchangeably at this point. According to Edutopia, by using “technology tools and a project-learning approach, students are more likely to stay engaged and on task, reducing behavioural problems in the classroom.” (Why Integrate Technology into the Curriculum?: The Reasons Are Many, 2008) Clearly technology encourages commitment.

However, the three Cs aren’t enough on their own. Something else is required to ensure learning takes place. The three Cs, and of course technology enhanced learning, are more likely to improve student learning if they are implemented across the content areas. Simply put, it means this: if teachers in different content areas were to implement technology enhanced learning that promotes the three Cs significant improvements would be seen in student learning.  The key is shared responsibility. Content areas can no longer afford to work in isolation. Integrating technology is one way to unite the content areas and enhance or improve student learning at the same time. “Thus, it might be argued that an across-the-curriculum approach does not just complement and extend a more skills-focused and specialized use of technology in formal education, but is key to improving both teaching and learning.” (Richards, 2005)

Technology enhanced learning, the three Cs (control, challenge and commitment), and effective integration across the curriculum will deepen and enhance the learning process. According to Edutopia, “effective technology integration is achieved when the use of technology is routine and transparent and when technology supports curricular goals.” (Why Integrate Technology into the Curriculum?: The Reasons Are Many, 2008) This means that content area teachers need to incorporate technology enhanced lessons so that they become part of the students’ routine. Students should expect technology enhanced learning to part of their daily lives, and they should expect it to support their personal learning as well as curricular outcomes.


Dror, I. E. (2008). Technology Enhanced Learning: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Cognition distributed how cognitive technology extends our minds (pp. 216 – 223). Amsterdam: John Benjamins Pub. Co.

Richards, C. (2005). The Design of Effective ICT-Supported Learning Activities Exemplary Models, Changing Requirements, and New Possibilities .Language Learning & Technology. Retrieved November 10, 2012, from llt.msu.edu/vol9num1/pdf/richards.pdf

Why Integrate Technology into the Curriculum?: The Reasons Are Many. (2008, March 16). Edutopia. Retrieved November 11, 2012, from http://www.edutopia.org/technology-integration-introduction