Digital technologies in education

Digital technologies in education

Digital technology is a term that is being increasingly used in education in place of the now dated terms like ICT, educational technology, computer based education and Technology-Enhanced Learning.[citation needed]

The term digital technologies is used to refer to the ever-evolving suite of digital software, hardware and architecture used in learning and teaching in the school, the home and beyond.

Reference to digital technologies can be found in diverse recent education writings from across the world such as Prensky (2007), Schools in the Digital Age (2007), Media and Communications in Australian Families 2007 (2007), Lee and Gaffney (2008), Lee and Winzenried (2009) and Davidson and Goldberg (2009). It is used particularly in preference to the term ‘ICT’ which is seen as not only being limited, lacking precision and being dated but most importantly the acronym ICT does not adequately communicate the full implications of being digital, with its facility for increasing convergence and integration, and its impact upon traditionally discrete operations.

By referring to digital technologies, one accommodates the evolution of a suite of integrated digital technologies that can be accessed virtually anywhere, anytime. They are far more than just a few discrete technologies. Rather, it is about the use and impact of an ever-evolving suite of increasingly integrated digital technologies conceptualized as part of a digital ecosystem that can be adapted, based on needs and context. To illustrate, the smart phone, viewed as a digital technology, rather than a discrete technology, can be used as a phone, a camera, an MP3 player, or computer, or any blended combination of those functionalities, and in seamless conjunction with other digital technologies. In this way, digital technologies become defined in terms of the user’s need and context, shaping the ways in which the digital applications are used in multiple ways and with multiple digital applications. (Lee and Finger, 2009)

The concept of digital technologies also addresses the reality that the young enhance their learning informally, by teaching themselves how to use and apply the technologies and formally under guidance of teachers. However the other reality is that the youth of the developed world use the suite of digital technologies far more outside the formal teaching situation than within (Lee and Winzenried, 2009) and that formal classroom use constitutes only a minor part of the total overall use. Little is the surprise, as Meredyth et al (1999) and others have identified, the young acquire their digital competencies more outside the classroom than within.

In using the term ‘digital technologies’ one is also recognising that the young have these in their homes and on the move have normalised the use of an ever-evolving suite of digital technologies, use different elements of the suite in different situations and as such acquire their digital competencies from using a suite of technologies rather than a discrete technology.

The implications for teaching and learning – and indeed for the design of future curriculum - and for educational research are very considerable.


  • Australian Communications and Media Authority (2007). Media and Communications in Australian Families, Canberra, December 2007 ACMA [1]
  • Davison, C.N. and Goldberg, D.T. (2009). The Future of Learning Institutions in a Digital Age, Macarthur Foundation, MIT Press [2]
  • Illinois Institute of Design (ID) (2007). Schools in the Digital Age Illinois Institute of Technology [3]
  • Lee, M. and Gaffney, M. (Eds.) (2008). Leading a Digital School. Melbourne: ACER Press
  • Lee, M. and Winzenried, A. (2009). The Use of Instructional Technology in Schools – Lessons to be Learned. Melbourne: ACER Press
  • Lee, M. and Finger, G. (2009). Developing Networked School Communities Ning – [4]
  • Meredyth, D et al (1999). Real Time – Computers, Change and Schooling, Canberra, Department of Education, Training and Youth Affairs
  • Thomas, M. (Ed.) (2011). Digital Education: Opportunities for Social Collaboration. London & New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

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