We investigated how often teachers apply digital technology in their teaching and which student learning activities teachers initiate. Further, we analyzed factors relating to technology use. 410 teachers in our sample, representative for the state of Bavaria (Germany), reported that they spend a substantial amount of time using digital technologies in a typical lesson. Results indicated that rather teachers’ basic digital skills and technology-related teaching skills than digital technology resources are crucial. Even though a certain threshold level of digital technology is necessary in school, our results suggest shifting the focus from equipping schools to teachers’ skills using technologies effectively.
Digital technologiesTeachers’ skillsStudent learning activitiesTechnology use in classroomStructural equation modeling
Technology has become an integral part and distinct feature of modern societies (Fraillon, Ainley, Schulz, Friedman, 2014). The successful navigation of complex digital landscapes is proposed as an important prerequisite to participate in economic, social, and cultural life (OECD, 2015). The Covid-19 pandemic further emphasized the crucial role of technology in our daily lives – especially for teaching and learning in schools at home (Seufert, Guggemos, Sailer, 2021). Schools play a major role in preparing students for the challenge of using technology consciously and responsibly. Technology not only opens doors for social inclusion in modern societies, it also offers diverse opportunities for both students and educators to support teaching and learning processes (e.g., Castillo-Manzano, Castro-Nuño, López-Valpuesta, Sanz-Díaz, Yñiguez, 2016; Janssen Bodemer, 2013). However, simply being surrounded by digital technologies does not mean that we are able to use them effectively to our and others’ benefit (Considine, Horton, Moorman, 2009). Discussions about whether teachers and schools are taking advantage of the opportunities of digital technology in classrooms often results in discussions about technical facilities and availability of digital technology in schools. In anticipation of a successful implementation of digital learning in schools, governments around the world have arranged considerable investment in digital technology in schools (Kearney, Schuck, Aubusson, Burke, 2018). In light of the expectation that investments in digital technologies could result in improved learning achievement, findings from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) study 2012, which show mixed results regarding the relationship of computer usage in classrooms and students’ performance, might be considered devastating. On the one hand, students who use computers moderately at school tend to have better learning outcomes than students who use computers rarely. On the other hand, students who use computers very frequently at school perform substantially worse in most of the included learning outcome measures (OECD, 2015). Moreover, PISA 2015 showed that a very frequent use of technology was negatively related to an important outcome relevant for learning in the 21st century, namely collaborative problem solving. A possible explanation is that the way students interact with computers might displace learning content and other types of interactions (see OECD, 2017). Thus, the consideration of additional variables may be relevant when analyzing the relationship between technology usage and students’ learning outcomes. A crucial factor might be the type of student learning activities involving digital technology. From our perspective, an integrated approach to the frequency of digital technology use during teaching and student learning activities involving digital technologies in schools is needed in research.
1.1. Digital learning in schools
The frequency of digital technology use has been previously investigated from students’ and teachers’ perspectives. While the results from PISA 2009 and 2012 refer to data collected from students, the International Computer and Information Literacy Study (ICILS) 2013 and 2018 data reported here refer to data collected from teachers. PISA 2009 and PISA 2012 included basic indicators of technology usage from students by reporting the proportion of students who use computers at schools regularly and at least once a week. The average of all participating countries shows that in 2009, 71% of students use computers at school regularly, while in 2012, 72% of students use computers at school regularly (OECD, 2012; 2015). ICILS 2013 included the perspective of teachers regarding their technology usage during lessons and found that across all participating countries, 62% of teachers use computers frequently (Fraillon et al., 2014). However, technology usage during lessons varies considerably between countries. For example, in Germany, 34.4% of teachers were using computers frequently in their teaching (Eickelmann, Gerick, Bos, 2014). Results from ICILS 2018 show that almost half of the teachers are using digital technologies during their daily teaching. Again, results vary between countries, e.g. in Germany only 23% of teachers report to use digital technologies in their daily teaching (Fraillon, Ainley, Schulz, Friedman, Duckworth, 2019). These results show that digital technologies are spreading into schools and are part of teaching and learning practices. What these results do not show is how digital technologies are applied in classrooms. The mode of learning and teaching with technology is important, as the mere frequency of digital technology use shows mixed relationships with students’ learning outcomes in PISA 2012 (OECD, 2015). In the German sample in the ICILS 2013, computer usage in school even shows a negative relationship with students’ information literacy (Eickelmann, Gerick, Bos, 2014).
In light of these findings, the results from PISA and ICILS about different types of technology usage and different technology-related tools used in classrooms are of further interest. In PISA 2012, nine activities with digital technology, ranging from browsing the Internet for schoolwork to working on simulations at school, were included in a student questionnaire. Most frequently (42%), students were browsing the Internet for schoolwork, and least frequently, students were working on simulations at schools (11%; OECD, 2015). In ICILS 2013, different educational tools used by teachers were included in the teacher questionnaire: 30% of teachers used word processing and presentation software in most or all of their lessons, 23% of teachers used computer-based information resources in their lessons, and only 15% were using interactive digital learning resources (Fraillon et al., 2014). In ICILS 2018, teachers used word processing software (43%), presentation software (43%), and computer-based information resources (32%) most often. Interactive digital learning resources were used in most lessons by 22% of the teachers (Fraillon et al., 2019). These results demonstrate an increase in all activities involving digital technology from 2013 to 2018, but the overall pattern persists. Instructional approaches and related tools where learners are active participants, such as inquiry-based learning (see Donnelly, Linn, Ludvigsen, 2014; Tamim, Bernard, Borokhovski, Abrami, Schmid, 2011), simulation-based learning (see Sitzmann, 2011), game-based and gamified learning (see Clark, Tanner-Smith, Killingsworth, 2016; Wouters, Van Nimwegen, Van Oostendorp, Van Der Spek, 2013; Sailer Homner, 2020), or computer-supported collaborative learning (see Vogel, Wecker, Kollar, Fischer, 2017; Radkowitsch, Vogel, Fischer, 2020), have been implemented less often by teachers in their lessons (Fraillon et al., 2014, 2019; OECD, 2015). Ironically, digital technologies have the most promising potential to improve learning via such active learning approaches (Tamim, Bernard, Borokhovski, Abrami, Schmid, 2011). Learning is a process that should lead to relatively stable changes in the representations of attitudes, knowledge, and skills in the long-term memory of students. Active cognitive processing is a prerequisite for transferring knowledge to the long-term memory. Therefore, active cognitive processing is crucial for effective and sustainable learning (Wouters, Paas, van Merriënboer, 2008). The results from PISA and ICILS provide the first evidence that teachers are not yet succeeding in fostering learning activities, in which students actively use digital technologies (Fraillon et al., 2014, 2019; OECD, 2015).
When we speak of upper and lower ends of the ICAP continuum we do not want to imply that learning is always improved when we are employing learning activities towards the upper end (i.e., constructive and interactive). As introduced earlier, the different activities have optimal effectiveness for different types of learning outcomes (i.e., declarative knowledge vs. problem-solving skills). Probably, good teachers are able to orchestrate their lessons employing several types of learning activities in effective and efficient sequences. What seems important is that teachers know how and are able to initiate and guide the different types of learning activities. In this respect, digital technologies pose additional demands but also provide new opportunities to initiate and guide learning activities. Hence, it will be interesting to find out about the conditions under which teachers are also employing digital technologies to initiate and guide constructive and interactive activities with digital technologies.
Both the frequency of digital technology use during teaching and the type of student learning activities involving digital technology are probably influenced by teachers’ skills and by the digital technologies available in the school.
1.2. Teachers’ skills
What types of teachers’ skills are potentially relevant for the frequency of digital technology use during teaching and types of student learning activities involving digital technology? Teachers’ basic digital skills in terms of an “individual’s ability to use computers to investigate, create, and communicate in order to participate effectively at home, at school, in the workplace, and in society” (Fraillon et al., 2014, p. 17) may also affect the use of digital technology during teaching. In addition to basic digital skills, specific technology-related teaching skills during planning, implementing, and evaluating digital learning and teaching scenarios potentially relate to students’ constructive and interactive learning activities and frequency of digital technology use during teaching. We will introduce these types of teachers’ skills in the following sections (see 1.2.1–1.2.2).
1.2.1. Basic digital skills
Basic digital skills can be defined as a set of individual’s abilities to effectively and responsibly participate in economic, social, and cultural life via digital technologies (see OECD, 2015). To do so, a variety of basic digital skills is necessary. Based on the ICILS 2013 framework, understanding computer use, gathering information, producing information, and digital communication reflect central digital skills (Fraillon et al., 2014). Understanding computer use refers to the basic knowledge and skills in order to process information via digital technologies. Gathering information refers to searching, accessing, evaluating and managing information. Producing information with digital technologies refers to the transformation and creation of new products that may build upon existing ones. Communication refers to the exchange of information via digital technologies (Digital Campus of Bavaria research group, 2017; Fraillon et al., 2014; KMK, 2016).
For teachers, these basic digital skills are the foundation of their professional digital skills that we will come to call digital teaching skills. For students, basic digital skills are the target skills to acquire or further develop in schools. In other words, as a prerequisite, teachers seemingly need to have basic digital skills at their disposal to apply digital technology in the classroom and to foster their students’ basic digital skills (KMK, 2016; Krumsvik, 2011). Basic digital skills have found their way into school curricula for students and qualification profiles for teachers all over the world (Digital Campus of Bavaria research group, 2017; Kelly McAnear, 2002; KMK, 2016; Krumsvik, 2011; Thomas Knezek, 2008). The ICILS 2013 study (Fraillon et al., 2014) as well as SITES 2006 (Law, Pelgrum, Plomp, 2008) and the School Net 2013 study (European Commission, 2013) found that teachers who are confident in their personal use of technology are more likely to integrate technology in their teaching, as well. These results can be interpreted such that basic digital skills might be related to teaching with digital technology, at least regarding the frequency of usage. However, are teachers’ basic digital skills that they apply in their daily lives also sufficient for fostering all of the different learning activities of students when using digital technologies in classrooms?
1.2.2. Technology-related teaching skills
We consider technology-related teaching skills as being distinct of the teachers’ basic digital skills and necessary for effective use of digital technologies in classrooms. Based on the TPACK model certain types of knowledge are considered necessary for using technology effectively while teaching (Mishra Koehler, 2006). Building on the widespread suggestion by Shulman (1986), the model emphasizes the interplay between three types of knowledge: content knowledge, pedagogical knowledge and technological knowledge. These interactions include pedagogical content knowledge, such as knowledge of instructional approaches in mathematics education; technological content knowledge, such as knowledge about specific technology used in mathematics education; technological pedagogical knowledge, such as knowledge about the effective use of technology in pedagogical situations; and technological pedagogical content knowledge, such as knowledge about an effective integration of technology in a mathematics teaching situation (Koehler Mishra, 2009; Valtonen, Sointu, Mäkitalo-Siegl, Kukkonen, 2015). However, most of the research on TPACK is on its measurement, professional development or its relation with teacher beliefs (e.g., Voogt, Fisser, Pareja Roblin, Tondeur, Van Braak, 2013; Harris, Phillips, Koehler, Rosenberg, 2017). Minimal research has been conducted on its relation with the type of use of digital technology. Whereas, for example, Endberg and Lorenz (2017) showed that TPACK can significantly predict the frequency of digital technology use during teaching, its relation to different student learning activities involving digital technologies is less clear.
Pedagogical, technological, and content knowledge can be the professional knowledge base for teachers using technology efficiently, but recent approaches propose a more action-oriented perspective associating teaching skills with more general phases in teaching and initiating learning activities with digital technologies. An attempt to conceptualizing such skills was made with the National Educational Technology Standards for Teachers (NETS), which is widely used in the US (Kelly McAnear, 2002; Thomas Knezek, 2008). NETS suggests a definition for what all teachers are expected to be able to do with technology to be considered digital literate educators. NETS includes skills that refer to planning and designing learning environments and experiences, implementing methods and strategies for applying technology to maximize student learning, and assessing and evaluating student learning and technology-based instructional approaches (Kelly McAnear, 2002).
Another approach to conceptualizing technology-related teaching skills, which will be used in this study, was developed by Bavaria research group (2017). Their so-called K19 model defines core skills for teachers to teach in a digital world and integrates basic digital skills and technology-related teaching skills. The model’s general approach is to postulate that basic digital skills are prerequisites for teaching with technology, but they are not sufficient for fostering and employing all types of student learning activities. Teachers need to have a sufficient knowledge base, as outlined by the TPACK model, and technology-related skills that build upon that knowledge base and that are oriented towards general action stages in different phases of teaching with technology (Zimmerman Campillo, 2003): planning, implementing, and evaluating teaching with technology. These phases are complemented by a phase called sharing. The 19 postulated technology-related teaching skills can be assigned to the four different phases of technology usage in classrooms: planning, implementing, evaluating, and sharing technology-related teaching scenarios. Planning includes the skills to plan evidence-based use of technology in classroom. During implementing technology, teachers need to be able to diagnose and foster their students’ learning processes with the help of adaptive scaffolding. Evaluation skills include the collection of data and reflection on digital technology usage based on self-collected data about learning processes and student outcomes in class. Lastly, the sharing of technology-related teaching scenarios means documenting, communicating and handing over the developed and described scenarios and searching, adapting and employing scenarios that have been created and described by others (Sailer et al., 2021).
From the perspective of the K19 model, technology-related teaching skills include a knowledge base for technology use in classrooms as well as skills to engage in planning, implementing, evaluating, and sharing of technology-related teaching scenarios. These technology-related teaching skills of teachers are supposed to be the core drivers of orchestrating lessons employing several types of learning activities in effective and efficient sequences (Digital Campus of Bavaria research group, 2017).
1.3. Digital technology in schools
In addition to technology-related teaching skills, the availability of digital technologies in schools is potentially related to the use of technology and learning activities involving technologies. Digital technologies are computer-based technologies that present domain-general and domain-specific content and/or allow for interaction with or about the content and support teachers and/or students during that interaction (Stegmann, 2020). This broad definition includes the use of computers for presentation purposes as well as computer-supported collaborative learning systems. Even though the availability of digital technologies can be seen as a prerequisite for its use during teaching (Fraillon et al., 2014), it is no guarantee of its effective use for student learning (Considine, Horton, Moorman, 2009). PISA 2012 results demonstrate that resources invested in educational technologies do not relate to improved student achievement in reading, mathematics or science (OECD, 2015). PISA 2018 data showed a positive relation of the availability of digital devices as well as of internet connectivity with students’ performance (OECD, 2020). Also, teachers in the ICILS 2013 study reported higher frequency of digital technology use when there were fewer limitations of resources (Fraillon et al., 2014).
2. The present study
In this study, we investigate the extent to which teachers apply digital technology in their teaching and which student learning activities involving digital technology teachers initiate. This study’s data was collected in German public secondary schools with teachers of all subjects in the state of Bavaria between March 6th and April 10th, 2017. The state of Bavaria, one of the 16 German states, consists of both rural as well as urban areas. Teachers from all areas were included in the study. There are three different types of secondary schools, namely, Mittelschule (lower track secondary school), Realschule (middle track secondary school), and Gymnasium (higher track secondary school preparing students to attend a university). Teacher education in Bavaria is structured with an initial education at university level and a second phase called preparatory service at school. Regarding the use of digital technology, schools received systematic funding through large implementation projects such as a Moodle-based leaning management system (mebis) and various pilot projects (e.g. Lernreich 2.0). However, the systematic use of digital technology in many Bavarian schools is still depending on some enthusiastic teachers and quite some concerns exist among many teachers in Germany as to whether digital technology can be used effectively for teaching and learning (Fraillon et al., 2019). In this context, we investigate the following research questions:
How do teachers perceive their basic digital skills and their technology-related teaching skills?
As technology has become an integral part of our daily lives (Fraillon et al., 2014), we expect teachers’ technology usage outside of classrooms to be at an advanced level. However, compared to the use of digital technology in our daily lives, teaching and learning with digital technology has not been so pervasive in teacher education and schools. Technology-related teaching skills may thus be less advanced in teachers. Because basic digital skills are supposed to be the basis for technology-related teaching skills, we hypothesize that teachers assess their basic digital skills as being substantially more advanced than their technology-related teaching skills (H 1).
How often do teachers use digital technologies and what types of students learning activities do teachers foster with digital technology in the classroom?
On the basis of the previous studies that investigated the frequency of digital technology use during teaching (Fraillon et al., 2014, 2019; OECD, 2015), we hypothesize that digital technology is used in classrooms and a considerable part of teaching is supported by digital technology. Previous studies that included the type of use and the type of digital technologies used in classrooms indicate that teachers are not yet making the most out of digital technologies in classrooms and are not substantially using them for purposes in which learners are active participants (Fraillon et al., 2014, 2019; OECD, 2015). We suppose that teachers are not yet succeeding in fostering students’ constructive and interactive learning activities involving digital technologies that are located at the upper end of the ICAP continuum. We thus hypothesize that teachers more often foster students’ passive learning activities involving digital technology than constructive and interactive learning activities involving digital technology (H2.1). Further, we also hypothesize that active learning activities involving digital technology occur more often than constructive and interactive learning activities involving digital technology (H2.2).
A representative survey with N = 410 in-service teachers was conducted in German public secondary schools in the region of Bavaria. The sample was collected based on reference data for teachers in administrative districts of Bavaria and information about teachers in the three different types of secondary schools, namely, Mittelschule (lower track secondary school), Realschule (middle track secondary school), and Gymnasium (higher track secondary school preparing students to attend a university). The proportion of teachers in each district and school type in the sample was similar to the Bavarian teacher population to ensure representativeness. Teachers were randomly drawn based on this information from districts and school types. In all, 243 (59.3%) of the teachers were female, and 167 (40.7%) were male. The mean age of the teachers was 48 years (M = 48.29; SD = 9.40). On average, the interviewed teachers were in-service for 20 years (M = 19.84; SD = 9.49) and used technology in their teaching for 14 years (M = 13.98; SD = 6.49).
A survey was performed via structured telephone interviews that took 24 min on average. The survey was performed between March 6th, 2017 and April 10th, 2017. The interview started with demographic questions followed by questions about the equipment at the teachers’ school. Then, teachers were asked about the frequency of their digital technology use while teaching as well as student learning activities involving digital technology that the teachers are fostering. The interview concluded with questions about their basic digital skills and their technology-related teaching skills. The market research institute, GMS Dr. Jung GmbH, which has expertise in conducting large-scale data collections for research institutes via telephone interviews. In addition, the institute ensured access to representative panels of participants of which the sample was drawn.
3.3. Measurement of latent variables
An overview of the items used for the latent variables of teachers’ basic digital skills, technology-related teaching skills, and availability of digital technology in school is shown in Table 1. For these latent variables, we performed confirmatory factor analyses to assess whether these constructs were measured consistently. Model fit was evaluated using the following model fit indices: Confirmatory fit index (CFI), for which values greater than 0.90 indicated acceptable fit; standardized root mean square residual (SRMR); and root mean square error of approximation (RMSEA), with values less than 0.08 indicating acceptable fit. We performed analyses of these measurement models with Mplus Version 7.11 (Muthén Muthén, 2012). All items used in this study are included in the Appendix.
3.5. Statistical analysis
To investigate RQ1, we computed paired t tests between the latent variables of teachers’ basic digital skills and technology-related teaching skills. To investigate RQ2 regarding the types of student learning activities involving digital technology, we used paired t tests between students’ passive and constructive, passive and interactive, active and constructive, and active and interactive learning activities involving digital technology. We used Cohen’s d as a measure of effect size for RQ1 and RQ2. The Cohen’s d correction was applied as suggested by Morris (2008). We conducted these analyses with SPSS Version 24. To investigate RQ3, we applied a structural equation modeling (SEM) approach with robust maximum likelihood estimation (MLR) with standard errors and a chi-square test statistic. MLR corrects for possible non-normality-induced bias in the standard errors (Finney DiStefano, 2008). We conducted two SEMs for the frequency of digital technology use during teaching and student learning activities involving technologies. The first one included the outcome variable frequency of digital technology use during teaching and the predictors teachers’ basic digital skills, technology-related teaching skills, and digital technology at school. The second SEM included the four outcome variables of students’ passive, active, constructive, and interactive learning activities involving digital technology and the same predictors as the first SEM. We standardized all coefficients in both SEMs before reporting.
4.1. Teachers’ skills
According to Hypothesis 1, teachers’ basic digital skills are substantially more developed than their technology-related teaching skills. Descriptive results show that teachers evaluated their basic digital skills with M = 4.28 (SD = 0.44) and their technology-related teaching skills with M = 3.50 (SD = 0.49). A paired t-test indicated that teachers perceived their basic digital skills to be significantly more developed than their technology-related teaching skills (t(409) = 25.70; p .001; d = 1.66). These results are in support of Hypothesis 1.
4.2. Frequency of digital technology use during teaching and student learning activities involving digital technologies
Table 3 shows an overview of the frequency of digital technology use during teaching and the different types of students’ passive, active, constructive, and interactive learning activities involving digital technology. In our sample, teachers reported that they used digital technology in some way during teaching 43.03% (SD = 24.54) of the time in a typical lesson. The high variance in the frequency of digital technology use during teaching indicates that some teachers use digital technologies to a great extent in their lessons, whereas some use digital technologies only selectively. For types of student learning activities involving digital technology, we hypothesized that teachers more often foster students’ passive learning activities compared with constructive and interactive learning activities, both of which are located at the upper end of the ICAP continuum. The results from N = 368 teachers who answered all relevant questions for these analyses showed that students’ passive learning activities occur most often (13.35%; SD = 8.42), followed by interactive (10.45%; SD = 7.62), constructive (10.05%; SD = 7.76), and active (8.92%; SD = 7.80) learning activities. Paired t tests showed that the difference between passive and constructive (t(367) = 8.13; p .001; d = 0.41) as well as passive and interactive (t(367) = 8.46; p .001; d = 0.42) was significant. These results supported Hypothesis 2.1 by showing that passive learning activities involving digital technologies are fostered more frequently than constructive and interactive learning activities involving digital technology.
The results of this study show that teachers in Bavarian secondary schools are employing digital technologies frequently in their teaching – however with substantial heterogeneity between the teachers. This result is in line with the results of other studies (e.g., ICILS 2013, 2018; and PISA 2012) that investigated the frequency of digital technology use in school (Fraillon et al., 2014, 2019; OECD, 2015). The result supports the claim that digital technology is indeed spreading into schools (e.g., Castillo-Manzano, Castro-Nuño, López-Valpuesta, Sanz-Díaz, Yñiguez, 2016; Janssen Bodemer, 2013). The results of student learning activities involving digital technology show how digital technologies are used in Bavarian secondary school classrooms. On a descriptive level, digital technology is most frequently used in a way that supports students’ passive learning activities compared with other learning activities. In line with previous research (Fraillon et al., 2014, 2019; OECD, 2015) and in support of our hypothesis, the larger proportion of technology use in class is on the passive level compared with the constructive and interactive levels of student learning activities. However, to a certain extent, all types of student learning activities involving digital technology occur in typical lessons. Contrary to our hypothesis, constructive as well as interactive learning activities involving digital technologies occurred even more frequently than active learning activities. Although this difference was significant, it was a rather small effect. These findings indicate that many teachers are able to stimulate constructive and interactive learning activities. Thus, our results are ambiguous, meaning that passive learning activities were dominant, but constructive and interactive activities, both of which are located at the upper end of the ICAP continuum, were present as well – even more frequently than active learning activities. On the one hand, as active learning activities involve taking (digital) notes or practicing via a digital drill and practice learning program, passive learning activities could easily be complemented by phases of active learning activities involving digital technologies (e.g., through digital quizzes). By doing so, teachers could apply a wider range of different learning activities. Possibly, phases of active learning activities (e.g., with digital drill and practice learning programs) occur during homework, which is not covered by our analyses. This could also explain why active learning activities occur least often; that is, they probably occur outside the lessons. On the other hand, results indicate that teachers from our sample more often focus on fostering constructive and interactive learning activities compared with active learning activities, which would be a step in the right direction for unfolding the full potential of digital technologies in classrooms. Compared with results from ICILS 2013, which show that instructional approaches where learners are active participants have been rarely implemented by teachers in their lessons (Fraillon et al., 2014), our results indicate that teachers in Bavarian schools might be in a transition phase towards employing constructive and interactive learning activities as well. This result is in line with ICILS 2018 that shows an increase for the majority of activities implemented via digital technologies. However, the pattern of approaches applied persists: teachers foster passive learning approaches more often compared to approaches in which learners are active, constructive, and interactive (Fraillon et al., 2019).
One central question of our study was whether teachers’ skills are predictive of the frequency of digital technology use during teaching and types of student learning activities. First, for the frequency of digital technology use during teaching, the results showed that having basic digital skills was associated with more time spent teaching with digital technology. Technology-related teaching skills and digital technologies at schools were not related to the frequency of technology use in class in our SEM. This finding stands in some contrast to previous research (see Sailer et al., 2021; Endberg Lorenz, 2017) that showed that technology-related teaching skills relate to the frequency of technology use. However, this prior research did not include teachers’ basic digital skills, technology-related teaching skills, and digital technologies in school in one statistical analysis. Thus, our SEM approach with multiple latent factors included goes beyond these findings.
Furthermore, our focus on different student learning activities involving digital technology allowed for more differentiated considerations that have not been addressed in previous research. Teachers’ basic digital skills related to students’ passive, active, and interactive learning activities involving digital technologies. Thus, teachers’ basic digital skills seem to be a necessary condition, but especially for constructive learning activities, teachers’ ability to effectively and responsibly use technology independent of the teaching context was not a significant predictor. This result is in line with the theoretical considerations of the K19 model (Digital Campus of Bavaria research group, 2017) and emphasizes the need for technology-related teaching skills beyond basic digital skills that have also been emphasized by others before (Kelly McAnear, 2002; Krumsvik, 2011). Our results can be taken as support for the claim that technology-related teaching skills are of relevance for fostering constructive learning activities involving digital technology, as there is a medium sized effect of technology-related teaching skills on students’ constructive learning activities involving digital technology. Although correlational, our results support the hypothesis that there is a higher likelihood of employing the full range of learning activities involving digital technology if teachers have basic digital skills and additionally technology-related teaching skills. While basic digital skills not only relate with interactive learning activities, that are located at the upper end of the ICAP continuum, but also relate to the learning activities located at the lower end, technology-related teaching skills only relate to constructive learning activities that are considered important to foster students’ skill and competency development (Chi, 2009; Chi Wylie, 2014). Specifically fostering students learning activities on the upper end of the ICAP continuum seems to require technology-related teaching skills in addition to basic digital skills.
Let us turn to the digital technologies available in school. More often than not, they are the focus of discussions about digitalization of schools. In our study, the equipment at Bavarian schools was not related to frequency of digital technology use during teaching in general or to student learning activities involving digital technologies in particular. Even though it seems plausible that a basic amount of digital technology in school is a prerequisite for using digital technology during teaching (Fraillon et al., 2014), more equipment does not necessarily imply a higher amount of certain student learning activities involving digital technology. This result is in line with the findings of ICILS 2018, indicating that providing students or teachers with digital technologies is not enough. They also need sufficient skills and additional support (Fraillon et al., 2019). Taking descriptive results of digital technologies in school into consideration, a majority of teachers in our sample indicated satisfaction with the digital technology resources. In their view, the breadth and coverage of digital technology resources, i.e., accessibility of digital technologies in all (breadth) or certain (coverage) classrooms in school, were quite high. Teachers hardly reported that there was no digital technology available in their classrooms. Thus, availability of basic equipment for digital technology can be presumed for the teachers in our sample. We are aware that the results with respect to current school equipment cannot easily be generalized to different regions and educational systems in the world. We would argue, however, that the results can be generalized to school or specific region that is in a similar phase of digital technology implementation like Bavarian schools. The current phase in Bavaria can be described as an intermediate phase of technology implementation phase towards more systematic, and constructive and interactive technology use that are supported by large implementation projects. These projects and funding of equipment in schools in general might be the reason that some basic equipment for digital technology for learning and teaching is available for almost every teacher in our sample. With this assumption, our study results can be interpreted as supporting the hypothesis that more and better equipment is not predictive of the frequency of digital technology use during teaching or the type of student learning activities involving digital technologies in classrooms. Future research may address the question of whether the very low predictive value of digital technology resources in schools holds true for different types of technology and for schools in different phases of digital technology implementation.
Equipping schools with digital technologies did not relate to the frequency or different types of digital technology use in classrooms in our sample of teachers from Bavarian schools. We are aware that the use of digital technologies requires a threshold level of digital technology resources (Fraillon et al., 2014); however, more digital technologies beyond this threshold level do neither imply a higher frequency of digital technology use during teaching nor a broader bandwidth of initiated learning activities. Instead, teachers’ basic digital skills seem much more important for both the frequency of digital technology use during teaching and for fostering a variety of student learning activities involving digital technology. These skills seem to be the foundation for teachers’ technology use in class. However, for employing the full bandwidth of learning activities, including constructive learning activities, which are considered specifically beneficial for students’ problem-solving skills (see Chi Wylie, 2014), teachers’ technology-related teaching skills seem necessary. In light of the Covid-19 pandemic and the need for teaching at a distance, teachers being equipped with those skills seem even more important.
Including technology-related teaching skills during initial teacher education and continuing education seems to be a way to increase the likelihood of students’ constructive learning activities with digital technology. This is particularly important because teachers’ technology-related teaching skills seem substantially less developed than their basic digital skills.
We can help unfold the unique potential of digital technologies for learning if we find ways of supporting teachers in orchestrating different types of learning activities, including a substantial portion of constructive and interactive learning activities (Tamim, Bernard, Borokhovski, Abrami, Schmid, 2011; Chi, 2009; Chi Wylie, 2014). How can this be achieved? By shifting the focus from digital technologies to the development of teachers’ skills and how teachers apply these skills to enable student learning activities. These skills are among the main drivers of a wide range of student learning activities involving digital technology in schools.