The Role of Technology in 21st Century Learning

In our increasingly connected 21st century world, technology takes a prominent place in our daily lives at school, at work, and at home. The rapid technological changes of our time have implications on the means by which educators teach and students learn.

"We need to respond to these changes and equip our students with the 21st century knowledge and skills they need today and for their futures by […] harnessing the capacity of technology to engage learners and to optimize and amplify student learning and achievement" [i].

For more information about 21st Century Learning, click here to access the EduGains webpage on this topic.

Technology can be a powerful tool to enhance student learning and promote mastery of 21st century competencies, because of its ability to [ii]:

  • increase student engagement and achievement by providing ways to situate learning in the real world as well as multiple and varied representations of complex concepts;
  • assist in assessment practices, particularly assessment for learning and assessment as learning, which facilitate instructional decision-making; and
  • facilitate communication and collaboration among students, parents, and educators.

Because of the key role that technology plays in 21st century learning, the government introduced the Technology and Learning Fund in 2014, which aims to “accelerate uptake of evidence-based, technology-enhanced, pedagogical practices focused on deeper learning and competencies”[iii].

The document Technology and Learning Fund: A Guide to Implementation 2017 provides other valuable information and resources for school districts, leaders, and teams. Click here to access the document Technology and Learning Fund: A Guide to Implementation 2017.

This video was submitted by a student in the Thames Valley District School Board as part of the LD@school Technology Video Contest.

Technology & Learning for All

“Various types of assistive technology, such as speech-to-text software, organizational software, and interactive whiteboards, enable students who have special education needs to access the curriculum. When these technologies became more widely available, teachers discovered that they could enhance learning for all students in the classroom. The discovery has transformed the way in which such technologies are being used in the classroom today” [iv]. Learning for All, p. 13

Technological tools that are “necessary for some”, turn out to be “good for all”, similarly to many other instructional approaches effective for students with LDs. Technology should be implemented within a Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework and as a means to differentiate instruction for a group of diverse learners.

Differentiated Instruction

“Differentiated instruction (DI) is based on the idea that because students differ significantly in their strengths, interests, learning styles, and readiness to learn, it is necessary to adapt instruction to suit these differing characteristics” [v]. Learning for All, p. 17

Technology supports DI by helping educators to differentiate:

  • Content: e.g., reading materials in different formats; auditory and visual supports; videos to explain concepts
  • Process: e.g., parallel activities with differing levels of support or challenge; freedom to explore topics relevant to personal interest; virtual manipulatives or simulations; activities to engage multiple modalities
  • Product: e.g., multiple options for students to demonstrate their learning; freedom to explore topics relevant to personal interest;
  • Affect/Environment: e.g., online portals to make learning materials accessible at all times; access to learning materials on personal devices so students may use accessibility features such as text-to-speech or visibility adjustments

Click here to access the article Differentiated Instruction.

Universal Design for Learning

“UDL encourages teachers to develop a class profile and then plan, from the beginning, to provide means and pedagogical materials that are tailored to draw on the strengths and meet the needs of all students and not only those with special education needs” [vi]. Learning for All, p. 14

Technology supports UDL by facilitating:

  • multiple means of representation: e.g., auditory and visual supports; tools to clarify vocabulary and symbols; accessing information via multiple media
  • multiple means for action and expression: e.g., varying ways in which students can demonstrate their learning; tools to support planning, organization, and time management
  • multiple means for engagement: e.g., allowing for more authentic learning tasks; providing different levels of challenge; fostering collaboration through shared files or message boards

Click here to access the article Universal Design for Learning (UDL).


[i] EduGains, n.d.

[ii] EduGains, n.d.

[iii] Council of Ontario Directors of Education, 2017

[iv] Ontario Ministry of Education, 2013

[v] Ontario Ministry of Education, 2013

[vi] Ontario Ministry of Education, 2013