The text Meaningful Learning with Technology by Jane L. Howland, David Jonassen, and Rose M. Marra, Fourth Edition (Boston: Pearson, 2012) was an engrossing read. The target audience for this book is elementary or secondary school teachers who have an interest or intention of incorporating technology into their instructional programs. Written from a constructivist viewpoint, the book was probably aimed at both beginning and intermediate technology users; teachers well-versed in classroom technology would probably find most of the material a review of what they already know.
The stated goal of the book is to describe and demonstrate a variety of ways that technology could be used to engage and support meaningful learning for. This goal is described in depth in the initial chapter, which defines the characteristics of meaningful learning, describes the components of pedagogy related to technology, and contrasts learning from technology to learning with technology. A lengthy discussion of instructional technology standards and how technology can be used to foster 21st century skills is also incorporated.
The volume is slender, but it includes chapters on all aspects of an instructional program. These aspects are grouped into nine broad categories which the authors have labeled inquiring, experimenting, designing, communicating, community building, writing, modeling, visualizing, and assessing. Each chapter provides topical objectives, relevant introductory information, recommendations for how technology can be used for that particular aspect, and descriptions of several software programs that relate to the topic of the chapter. In some cases, the authors present case studies showing how actual teachers have used a specific technological program in their classroom. Photographs, diagrams, charts, and tables further illustrate the material. Each chapter concludes with a short summary, a listing of the NET Standards and the 21st Century Skills that are addressed in that chapter, discussion topics, and a list of references. The book concludes with an epilogue containing a handy list of common sense criteria for deciding when and what types of technology to consider for specific learning tasks. Finally, the authors provide an appendix offering sample rubrics for assessing characteristics of technology to ensure their utilization will result in meaningful learning.
The authors do not provide step-by-step instructions for how to use each of the software programs described, nor do they purport to. Rather, they discuss the learning theory supporting the inclusion of technology and the benefit of technology on the overall learning process.
What did I gain from the book? A review of some learning theories and concepts I have already studied. A reinforcement of some educational philosophies I have already embraced. An in-depth exploration of NET Standards and the list of 21st Century Skills. An articulated rationale and a set of guidelines for incorporating educational technology in my classroom lesson plans. An expansion of my knowledge about educational technology tools for content areas other than Language Arts. A revisit of some software programs I have experimented with previously. An exploration of some software programs I have never heard of before. That’s quite a bit, actually.