Teachers Use Technology to Evolve Beyond the Traditional Lecture Model

GUEST COLUMN | by Julie Smith

Each day, we send more than 294 billion emails and we make more than 6 billion cell phone calls. We own more than 63 million tablet computers. Clearly, technology is a huge part of our everyday lives – but according to a recent report, students and teachers say they aren’t yet using it quite enough for learning purposes during the school day.  They want to use technology to help shift the way they learn and teach.

The report, CDW-G’s Learn Now, Lecture Later, is based on a survey of more than 1,000 high school and college students, faculty, and IT professionals about technology and how it can help students prepare for the future and support the move to new learning models – and what educators need to incorporate more technology into the classroom.

Students want teachers to go beyond the traditional lecture format. According to the report, 53 percent of students say their teachers use the lecture model, but only 38 percent of students want to exclusively learn this way. What students really want is a greater mix of learning models. “A better mix of learning styles enables me to learn the material in multiple, distinct ways,” said one student respondent. “[It] helps teach me how to reach the answers through different methods, such as communicating with classmates and/or researching the answers in topic-specific databases.”

Teachers also support the use of new learning models. “Based on John Dewey’s teaching/learning philosophy of ‘learning by doing,’ students who build on their own learning according to their individual learning style will permanently learn the subject matter,” said one teacher respondent.

In the past two years, teachers report using these instructional delivery methods more often:

-Lead hands-on projects with students (60 percent)

-Guide students on group projects (64 percent)

-Guide independent research/study or self-paced study (41 percent)

In order to expand beyond the traditional lecture model, teachers say they need more technology in the classroom – specifically, laptops/netbooks, tablets, digital content and recorded class lectures.

Like their teachers, high school students would like to see more technology incorporated into class time. One student participant noted, “My teacher asks questions in class using clickers so that we can get immediate feedback. It’s a good way to pace class.  If there is something we don’t understand, the teacher can go over it before moving on to a different concept.” Interactive use of technology can support the shift to learn now and lecture later.

We know that making this shift isn’t seamless. In fact, 88 percent of faculty see challenges when moving away from the traditional lecture model. Specifically, they cite lack of budget, class size, access to technology and lack of technical support as their greatest roadblocks to reconfiguring classroom time. To overcome the obstacles, one teacher noted that districts should, “Give teachers more software and virtual storage space. Eliminate roadblocks. Improve IT.”

Another key to making this shift is to ensure that educators, administrators and IT are talking with each other and sharing best practices to get to the heart of what students and faculty want.

We all want the same outcome: to give students the opportunity to shape their future and join the workforce as prepared, educated citizens. To make this a reality, let’s listen, and provide students and teachers with the tools they need.


Julie Smith is vice president for K-12 at CDW-G.   


  1. I think it could be beneficial for students to have cutting edge technology in the classrooms. It seems that children and adults retain more information when it comes through a visual medium.

  2. With open courses and online tutorials, technology is also bringing back the traditional lecture model. To thrive in college and play active roles as citizens, students need to be able to listen and respond to talks that go well beyond the ten-minute mini-lesson.

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