By Liz Keren-Kolb
Engage, Enhance, and
Find out what these terms really mean when you integrate technology
Educators often say that technol- ogy is more than a gimmick or add-on, and that it should
engage, enhance, or extend learning in
ways that traditional tools do not. Yet
we seldom stop to define these terms,
and they can be confusing, especially
for teachers and preservice teachers.
Recently, I collaborated on an English language arts and technology
integration assignment with a literacy
instructor. We asked a group of our
student teachers to create technology-enhanced performance assessments
for eighth graders who had been
involved in book clubs. We told the
student teachers that the technology
must “engage, enhance, or extend” the
learning in some profound way that
traditional strategies could not.
After the performance assessments
were handed in, we found the student
teachers’ definitions of engaged, enhanced, or extended learning varied
greatly. For example, one student
teacher wanted to have his eighth
graders create a Prezi where the students would pick a character from a
novel and use quotes from the book
to explain the character’s position on
technology in society (the book club’s
overarching question was about technology in society).
The student teacher explained that
this was “true” technology integration because the eighth graders were
“engaged” in the excitement of using
an innovative tool like Prezi to create
The literacy instructor and I real-
ized that while yes, using technology
in and of itself is almost always a bit
more motivating or engaging, it does
not necessarily mean that students
will engage more in their understanding of the learning goals. Then the literacy teacher turned to me and asked
me the difference between engaging
via technology and enhancing with it.
Is one better than the other, she wondered. Should all technology integration engage, enhance, and extend to
be effective integration?
I realized that I needed to be explicit
with the student teachers as well as
with my teaching colleagues about
the difference between engaging,
enhancing, and extending learning
when integrating technology.
While we have studies that focus
on the importance of technological,
pedagogical, and content knowledge,
we rarely define the difference between engaging and enhancing or
discuss whether one is better than
the other when using technology.
That’s why I feel it’s important to
understand what we mean by these
words. Below I have defined the
terms engagement, enhancement,
and extension as they relate to
technology integration projects:
Engagement. The teacher is trying
to find a way to motivate or interest
Enhancement. This is using technology to develop understanding of learning goals that could not have been
accomplished without those tools.
Extension. The technology brings
learning outside the classroom
walls and into students’ everyday
lives, where they can continue to
grow after they leave school.