2 Criteria for the Selection of Digital Technology for use in Education

Isaac Mulolani

Learning Objectives

By the end of this chapter, the reader will be able to:

  1. Describe the UN Sustainable Development Goals related to Education
  2. List some frameworks for digital technology use.
  3. Describe potential educational benefits of digital technologies

What is Sustainable Development?

We learned that sustainability is the process of living within the limits of available physical, natural, and social resources in ways that allow all living things, not only humans to thrive well into the future.

Sustainable development is a process that creates growth and progress through the addition of physical, economic, environmental, and social components to improve quality of life without damaging the resources of the environment. Simply put, sustainable development is a way for people to use resources without the resources running out3.

The concept of sustainable development arrived in 1987 by the Brundtland Commission “Our Common Future”, the document that defined sustainable development as an approach designed to meet the needs of the present [generation] without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. This definition incorporated the understanding that economic growth is required to provide societies with the necessities of life such as clean water and food, while acknowledging the dilemma of environmental degradation that often coincides with economic development.

Recognizing some of the key challenges with the implementation of sustainable development and the quest for achieving a balance between the environment and economies, the role of people and societies were formally added into the equation for sustainable development in 2005 at the UN World Summit on Social Development. The three pillars of sustainability became widely known and currently used today:

(Click on the “?” icons below for more information):

This updated model for sustainable development recognizes that in order to meet the needs of current and future generations you have to consider the three pillars or the 3P’s (people, planet, prosperity), and they all need to be working together at the same time. The key being all at the same time, or simultaneously.

Integrating the short-term and long-term needs with a focus on future generations, will require social development, environmental protection, and economic prosperity working in unison. Being able to incorporate sustainability into your day to day activities, this is what will create change.

The United Nations and the Path to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Pathway to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

In 2015, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was adopted by 193 United Nations (UN) Member States. The 2030 Agenda is centered on the 17 SDGs which are underpinned by the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).  The MDGs were developed in 2000 to end poverty and hunger, fight inequality and injustice, advance climate change action, create sustainable consumption and production, and promote peace and prosperity for all.  One major change between the MDGs versus the SDGs is that for the SDGs, all countries are now involved. The MDGs only applied to developing countries. Another difference is that each country has set their own goals and priorities for achieving the SDGs.  International collaboration to advance the SDG Agenda remains a critical component. The 17 SD goals, with their 169 targets, and over 230 indicators work together at the local and international level to help promote a shared global framework to achieve a fair, equitable, and sustainable future for all. Currently, all countries and international organizations are working on the achievement of the UN 2030 Agenda serving as the basis for better economic development that is environmentally low impact, socially just, and economically efficient and fair.

In the previous paragraphs we learned about sustainability, sustainable development, and the sustainable development goals and how currently, all countries are working on the achievement of the UN 2030 Agenda, serving as the basis for better economic development that is environmentally low impact, socially just, and economically efficient and fair.

In this 11-minute video made available from the SDG Academy, Jeffrey Sachs (Director of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network), provides an overview of sustainable development.

Video length: 12:24 minutes

As you will recall in 2015, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was adopted by 193 United Nations (UN) Member States. The 2030 Agenda is centred on the 17 SDGs which are underpinned by the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).  You will recall the 17 SD goals, with their 169 targets, and over 230 indicators work together at the local and international level to help promote a shared global framework to achieve a fair, equitable, and sustainable future for all. We also learned that each country has set their own goals and priorities for achieving the SDGs, with international collaboration to advance the SDGs as a critical component.

In this 11-minute video made available from the SDG Academy, Jeffrey Sachs provides an overview and history of the SDGs.

Video length: 11:00 minutes

Adoption of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Currently, 193 countries (known as Member States) are signatories to the United Nations. This means almost every country on the planet has adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as the organizing framework for global cooperation on sustainable development. It also means that 193 countries have agreed to work together for the period 2015 (when the SDGs were adopted) until at least to 2030. This level of global cooperation is unprecedented. Think about your own experiences and how hard it can be to get people to agree on something. Now imagine a whole country, and multiple that by 193 countries.

So why have some many countries committed to the SDGs and the 2030 Agenda?

Collectively, it is understood that we have significant environmental threats, such as global warming and the loss of biodiversity. We have widening inequalities between the rich and the poor. Therefore, the UN Member States adopted the Sustainable Development Goals precisely to help reset the direction of the world economy, from one of widening inequalities and social exclusion and great environmental threats to a trajectory of sustainable development. Meaning a path for the world in which prosperity is shared, in which societies are inclusive, and in which the environment is kept safe because we have changed the ways that our industries and technologies are impinging on the physical earth processes.[1]

The Sustainable Development Goals that were adopted on September 25th, 2015, span a remarkable range of aspirations. View the slide show below for more information.

As you recall, the Sustainable Development Goals are part of an overall agenda, a universal agenda called Transforming the World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. As mentioned, it has a 15 year forward framework with the following statement of purpose.

“This agenda is a plan of action for people, planet and prosperity. People, planet, and prosperity, social inclusion planet meaning environmental sustainability and prosperity meaning a shared, economic benefit across the world. Agenda 2030 also seeks to strengthen universal peace in larger freedom. Eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions, including extreme poverty, is the greatest global challenge and an indispensable requirement for sustainable development. All countries and all stakeholders acting in collaborative partnership will implement this plan.”[2]


Bold and transformative steps are urgently needed to shift the world onto a sustainable and resilient path. The pledge is that no one will be left behind. Bold statements, bold ambitions. And as the title of Agenda 2030 says, requiring transforming the world. The agenda does not just call for change, it calls for deep and radical change all over the world.

The remainder of this course will focus on the components of the 17 specific goals, including the 169 specific targets each goal has. And because you cannot effectively manage what you do not measure, there are also 230 indicators for the 17 goals.

The SDGS are complex. That is why it involves all parts of government, business, and civil society around the world. And it involves all of us, because successfully implementing the SDGs will have a profound positive effect for all human and non-human well-being.

At the core of the 2030 agenda is improving the quality of life and well-being for today’s generation and for all the generations to come.

In this 11-minute video made available from the SDG Academy, Jeffrey Sachs helps us get to know the SDGs.

Video length: 11:53 minutes

These 17 SDGs  provide a background for all our efforts in education as well as other areas. In open education, the SDG #4 and SDG #12 are critical for inclusive and equitable education for all.

Digital Technology Frameworks

Exploiting the affordances of a medium

It was noted in the previous section that video technology can be used as a straight replacement for a face-to-face lecture by merely substituting the face-to-face delivery with online delivery. The mode of delivery has changed but not the pedagogy. The full affordances of the medium of video have not been exploited.

On the other hand, using video to show a documentary can bring powerful examples of situations to which can be applied the ideas and concepts covered in an academic course. A documentary thus has the potential to make better use of the affordances of video than recording a lecture because the learning experience from watching a documentary is different from watching a lecture; at the same time, using a documentary video will require a different approach to teaching than using a lecture and will probably have different outcomes. With the video lecture students will focus on comprehension and understanding; with the documentary the students’ focus will be on analysing and critiquing the material.

The SAMR model

A good way to assess whether a particular application of media or technology is making full use of the affordances of a medium is to apply the SAMR model developed by Dr. Ruben Puentedura, a technology consultant based in the USA.

Puentedura suggests four ‘levels’ of technology application in education:

  • substitution: a direct tool substitute, with no functional change, for example, a video recording of a classroom lecture on water quality, made available for downloading by students; students are assessed on the content of the lecture by written exams at the end of the course.
  • augmentation: a direct tool substitute, with functional improvement, for example, the video lecture is embedded in an LMS, and edited into four sections, with online multiple-choice questions at the end of each section for students to answer.
  • modification: significant task redesign, for example, the instructor provides video recordings of water being tested, and asks students to analyse each of the recordings in terms of the principles taught in the course in the form of essay-type questions that are assessed.
  • redefinition: creation of new tasks, inconceivable without the use of technology, for example, the instructor provides readings and online guidance through the LMS, and students are asked to record with their mobile phones how they selected samples of water for testing quality, and integrate their findings and analysis in the form of an e-portfolio of their work.

In the first two levels, substitution and augmentation, video is used to enhance the method of teaching but it is only where video is used in the final two stages, modification and redefinition, that teaching is actually transformed. Significantly, Puentedura links the modification and transformation levels to the development of Bloom’s higher order ’21st century’ skills such as analysis, evaluation and creativity (Puentedura, 2014). For a more detailed description of the model and how it works, see the video: Introduction to the SAMR model.

Figure 2.1 The SAMR model Image: Ruben Puentedura

Strengths and limitations of the model

First,  there is an absence of research that validates this model. It has a powerful feel of common sense behind it, but it would be good to see it more empirically validated, although there are many examples of its actual use, particularly in teacher education in the k-12 sector (one can find some examples collected by Kelly Walsh here. For a more critical response to the SAMR model, see Linderoth, 2013).

Second, while the model is a useful means of evaluating whether a use of technology merely enhances or radically changes teaching, it doesn’t help much with the hard part, and that is imagining the transformative ways in which a technology could be used in the first place. Nevertheless it is a good heuristic device to get one to think about the best way to use technology in teaching.

Third, there will be situations where substitution and augmentation will still be a perfectly justifiable use of technology, for instance for students with disabilities, or to increase accessibility to learning materials.

On balance, it is a very useful model by which an instructor can evaluate a potential or actual use of technology. In particular it focuses on the way students will need to interact with the technology and the ways technology can be used to assist the development of 21st century skills. At the same time, we still need to understand how and why media and technology could be used to transform teaching in the first place. The first step then is to understand better the unique properties of different technologies, which is the subject of the next section.



Figure 8 The SECTIONS model
Figure 2.2 The SECTIONS model

What the literature tells us

Given the importance of the topic, there is relatively little literature on how to choose appropriate media or technologies for teaching. There was a flurry of not very helpful publications on this topic in the 1970s and 1980s, but relatively little since (Baytak, undated). Indeed, Koumi (1994) stated that:

there does not exist a sufficiently practicable theory for selecting media appropriate to given topics, learning tasks and target populations . . . the most common practice is not to use a model at all. In which case, it is no wonder that allocation of media has been controlled more by practical economic and human/political factors than by pedagogic considerations (p. 56).


Mackenzie (2002) comments in a similar vein:

When I am discussing the current state of technology with teachers around the country, it becomes clear that they feel bound by their access to technology, regardless of their situation. If a teacher has a television-computer setup, then that is what he or she will use in the classroom. On the other hand, if there is an LCD projector hooked up to a teacher demonstration station in a fully equipped lab, he or she will be more apt to use that set up. Teachers have always made the best of whatever they’ve got at hand, but it’s what we have to work with. Teachers make due.


Mackenzie (2002) has suggested building technology selection around Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligences theory (Gardner, 1983, 2006), following the following sequence of decisions:

learner → teaching objective → intelligences → media choice.

Mackenzie then allocates different media to support the development of each of Gardner’s intelligences. Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences has been widely tested and adopted, and Mackenzie’s allocations of media to intelligences make sense intuitively, but of course it is dependent on teachers and instructors applying Gardner’s theory to their teaching.

A review of more recent publications on media selection suggests that despite the rapid developments in media and technology over the last 20 years, my ACTIONS model (Bates, 1995) is one of the major models still being applied, although with further amendments and additions (see for instance, Baytak, undated; Lambert and Williams, 1999; Koumi, 2006). Indeed, I myself modified the ACTIONS model, which was developed for distance education, to the SECTIONS model to cover the use of media in campus-based as well as distance education (Bates and Poole, 2003).

Patsula (2002) developed a model called CASCOIME which includes some of the criteria in the Bates models, but also adds additional and valuable criteria such as socio-political suitability, cultural friendliness, and openness/flexibility, to take into account international perspectives. Zaied (2007) conducted an empirical study to test what criteria for media selection were considered important by faculty, IT specialists and students, and identified seven criteria. Four of these matched or were similar to Bates’ criteria. The other three were student satisfaction, student self-motivation and professional development, which are more like conditions for success and are not really easy to identify before making a decision.

Koumi (2006) and Mayer (2009) have come closest to to developing models of media selection. Mayer has developed twelve principles of multimedia design based on extensive research, resulting in what Mayer calls a cognitive theory of multimedia learning. (For an excellent application of Mayer’s theory, see UBC Wikis.) Koumi (2015) more recently has developed a model for deciding on the best mix and use of video and print to guide the design of xMOOCs.

It is not surprising that there are not many models for media selection. The models developed in the 1970s and 1980s took a very reductionist, behaviourist approach to media selection, often resulting in several pages of decision-trees, which are completely impractical to apply, given the realities of teaching, and yet these models still included no recognition of the unique affordances of different media. More importantly, technology is subject to rapid change, there are competing views on appropriate pedagogical approaches to teaching, and the context of learning varies so much. Finding a practical, manageable model founded on research and experience that can be widely applied has proved to be challenging.

Why we need a model

At the same time, every teacher, instructor, and increasingly learner, needs to make decisions in this area, often on a daily basis. A model for technology selection and application is needed therefore that has the following characteristics:

  • it will work in a wide variety of learning contexts;
  • it allows decisions to be taken at both a strategic, institution-wide level, and at a tactical, instructional, level;
  • it gives equal attention to educational and operational issues;
  • it will identify critical differences between different media and technologies, thus enabling an appropriate mix to be chosen for any given context;
  • it is easily understood, pragmatic and cost-effective;
  • it will accommodate new developments in technology.

For these reasons, we will use the Bates’ SECTIONS model, with some modifications to take account of recent developments in technology, research and theory. The SECTIONS model is based on research, has stood the test of time, and has been found to be practical. SECTIONS stands for:

  • S  Students:  what is known about the students-or potential students and the appropriateness of the technology for this particular group or range of students?
  • E Ease of use and reliability: how easy is it for both teachers and students to use? How reliable and well tested is the technology?
  • C Costs: what is the cost structure of each technology? What is the unit cost per learner?
  • T Teaching and learning: what kinds of learning are needed? What instructional approaches will best meet these needs? What are the best technologies for supporting this teaching and learning?
  • I Interactivity: what kind of interaction does this technology enable?
  • O  Organizational issues: What are the organizational requirements and the barriers to be removed before this technology can be used successfully? What changes in organization need to be made?
  • N Novelty: how new is this technology?
  • S Speed: how quickly can courses be mounted with this technology? How quickly can materials be changed?

The following video provides a description of the model. One issue to note is the different modalities are useful for incorporating learner preferences that are increasingly found in post-secondary education.

Video length: 7:59 minutes

The interested reader can access the Educause article, A Rubric for Evaluating E-Learning Tools in Higher Education by Lauren Anstey and Gavan Watson. The corresponding Rubric for E-Learning Tool Evaluation can be used to help with technology selection. Educause also has another article, A Rubric for Selecting Active Learning Technologies by Katie Bush, Monica Cormier and Graham Anthony. They have developed a Rubric for Active Learning Technology Evaluation that anyone may make a copy of and use.

Mayer’s 12 Principles of Multimedia Learning

Identifying appropriate uses of media is both an increasingly important requirement of teachers and instructors in a digital age, and a very complex challenge. This is one reason for working closely with instructional designers and media professionals whenever possible. Teachers working with instructional designers will need to decide which media they intend to use on pedagogical as well as operational grounds.

However, once the choice of media has been made, by focusing on design issues we can provide further guidelines for making appropriate use of media. In particular, having gone through the process of identifying possible teaching roles or functions for different media, we can then draw on the work of Mayer (2020) and Koumi (2006, 2015) to ensure that whatever choice or mix of media we have decided on, the design leads to effective teaching.

Mayer’s research focused heavily on cognitive overload in rich, multimedia teaching. From all his research over many years, Mayer identified 12 principles of multimedia design, based on how learners cognitively process multimedia:

  1. CoherencePeople learn better when extraneous words, pictures and sounds are excluded rather than included. Basically, keep it simple in media terms.
  2. Signalling – People learn better when cues that highlight the organization of the essential material are added. This replicates earlier findings by Bates and Gallagher (1977). Students need to know what to look for in multimedia materials.
  3. [Avoid] RedundancyPeople learn better from graphics + narration, than from graphics, narration and on-screen text.
  4. Spatial contiguityPeople learn better when corresponding words and pictures are presented near rather than far from each other on the page or screen
  5. Temporal contiguityPeople learn better when corresponding words and pictures are presented simultaneously rather than successively.
  6. SegmentingPeople learn better when a multimedia lesson is presented in user-paced segments rather than as a continuous lesson. Thus several ‘YouTube’ length videos are more likely to work better than a 50 minute video.
  7. Pre-trainingPeople learn better from a multimedia lesson when they know the names and the characteristics of the main concepts. This suggests a design feature for flipped classrooms, for instance. It may be better to use a lecture or readings that provide a summary of key concepts and principles before showing more detailed examples or applications of such principles in a video.
  8. ModalityPeople learn better from graphics and narration than from animation and on-screen text. This reflects the importance of learners being able to combine both hearing and viewing at the same time to reinforce each other in specific ways.
  9. MultimediaPeople learn better from words and pictures than from words alone. This also reinforces what I wrote in 1995: Make all four media available to teachers and learners (Bates, 1995, p.13).
  10. PersonalizationPeople learn better from multimedia lessons when words are in conversational style rather than formal style. I would go even further than Mayer here. Multimedia can enable learners (particularly distance learners) to relate to the instructor, as suggested by Durbridge’s research (1983, 1984) on audio combined with text. Providing a ‘human voice and face’ to the teaching helps motivate learners, and makes multimedia teaching feel that it is directed solely at the individual learner, if a conversational style is adopted.
  11. VoicePeople learn better when the narration in multimedia lessons is spoken in a friendly human voice rather than a machine voice.
  12. [No] imagePeople do not necessarily learn better from a multimedia lesson when the speaker’s image is added to the screen.
Mind map showing the twelve multimedia learning principles
Figure 2.3 Mayer’s 12 Principles of Multimedia Learning Source: Principles of Multimedia Learning by Tuba Öney 2017

In re-reading Mayer’s work, one is struck by the similarities in findings, using different research methods, different multimedia technologies, and different contexts, to the research from the Audio-Visual Media Research Group at the British Open University in the 1970s and 1980s (Bates, 1984).

Video length: 12:53 minutes

Usually the technology frameworks are used when discussing the most appropriate use of technology in education. They help answer questions on how best to integrate digital technology into teaching and learning. This specific application involves the selection of technologies for creating OER. An increasingly common practice is for creators of OER to develop more engaging digital content using appropriate technology tools.  Newer OER content increasingly includes images, animations, videos, and interactive H5P elements.

Mayer’s 12 principles of multimedia learning provide a more deliberate way in which to design learning that leverages the use of multimedia elements. Many of the OER are increasingly digital first and also designed to be content delivery mechanisms. Creators of OER should consider these principles when designing open content. Consequently, many OER development teams include instructional designers and graphic artists to help with these design requirements.

The 8A Framework Model for Digital Technologies

A final point to discuss is the potential affordances digital technologies offer when used appropriately. The following information is a summary of content from chapter 4 of the resource Rethinking Pedagogy: Exploring the Potential of Digital Technology in Achieving Quality Education  by Lorenzo et al. and licensed under a Creative Commons ShareAlike IGO 3.0 license.


Figure 2.4 Eight Affordances Model graphical depiction

Each of these eight attributes will be briefly described to provide insight on how they relate to our current context.

Ubiquitous Learning

The idea of ubiquitous learning is an extension of an everyday reality that is today called ubiquitous computing or the ready availability of interconnected computing devices, many of which are portable or, when fixed, offer cloud access to shared spaces. This is critical today because it means learners can access learning spaces and content anytime, anywhere. This affordance allows formal learning to break out of the spatial confinement of classrooms and the temporal confinement of timetables. Significantly, ubiquitous computing offers new opportunities for ubiquitous learning. It extends the action space for learning, blurring the traditional boundaries of space and time.

Ubiquitous digital tools also defy geographical constraints and offer opportunities to collaborate and create partnerships with learners and educators all over the world. All these possibilities can be achieved with much lower costs than the regular channels of physical communications. Specifically, this affordance also offers opportunities for individualized learning where curious learners can pursue their various learning pathways at their convenience.

Active Knowledge Making

One of the key challenges for an education that fosters skills to contribute to a more sustainable world is for students not only to acquire subject-oriented knowledge, but also to recognize problems and challenges that surround us and explore ways to solve them. Active knowledge making can support exactly these approaches: students are encouraged to discover things, understand challenges and find solutions by actively making things and constructing knowledge.

Interactive digital technologies provide tools that are objects-to-think-with (Papert 1980, p.11). New possibilities emerged in experiential learning where learners engage in meaning making and knowledge construction with the real or virtual space of “microworlds” (Papert 1980, p.117). “Microworlds” and tools are all-inclusive environments that enable learners to be totally immersed in experimenting within the same closed setting. They can be characterised by an action space with a set of controls and  constraints to enable learners to get actively engaged with the agents and environments. This possibility is remarkably different to the transmissive pedagogies of rote learning and memorization or even merely theoretical information gathering as learners are engaged in a discovery-oriented and adventurous learning process.

Multimodal Meaning

Much of our everyday representational experience is fundamentally multimodal. However, traditional methods and teaching-learning toolbox consisting of books, pens and vocal chords, are limited by what and how much they can represent. By comparison, digital technologies possess multiple and powerful ways of representation with a combination of text, image, audio, video, simulation, interactive, immersive environment, virtual and augmented reality and so forth. Specifically, concepts and information content can be represented or perhaps enacted multifariously in different modes and forms and thereby allowing learners to understand things in many different modes – textual, oral, visual, spatial and embodied (Kalantzis 2016).

Research suggests that multimodal resources can cater more effectively to diverse learners (Cope and Kalantzis 2017). With multimodal representation learners get empowered to not only choose preferred media, have concepts reinforced but also make multiple meanings including meanings unthinkable in traditional forms of representation. Importantly, the multimodal meaning making affordance of digital learning resources contributes to SDG 4. Together with the Accessibility affordance, the usage of different environments and media types can support a wide range of learners.

Recursive Feedback

While there may be varied positions on the most desirable type of and time for feedback, there is fair level of consensus among educators that feedback is essential for learning. Widely prevalent regimes of summative assessment offer retrospective and judgemental perspective of learning, which mostly do not contribute to learning in prospective and constructive ways. However, technology-enabled learning environments and digital educational resources offer various opportunities for both feedback and feed-forward, supporting learners during their learning journeys.

Recursive feedback also contributes to the notion that every individual’s learning can be supported by an individual learning path. With recursive feedback, instructors can help students to find their own way. When it comes to peer reviewing and peer-to-peer learning students can experience collaborative learning while they help each other. In this way, they learn to communicate in a cooperative way and so acquire knowledge through a process of participation in a knowledge community.

Collaborative Intelligence

As reflected in the metaphor of learning as knowledge acquisition, education has tended to focus on learning as individual memory. Not to discount memory, knowledge and learning are social, as captured in participation and knowledge creation metaphors. Knowledge has social provenance which requires acknowledgement, and social learning can be a powerful, indeed for today’s society, an essential supplement to individual memory work – working with peers, offering and receiving feedback, and undertaking collaborative learning activities.

Opportunities to collaboratively construct unique pathways to accomplish learning goals are important for both learners and instructors. The rise of web-based social networking has enabled learners and instructors to organize learning collaborations at all levels, purposes, and group sizes. Learners are no longer restricted to forming collaborations with just their peers in a course. They can organize inter-institutional collaborations, discover content, and participate in other learning communities to augment their learning.

Differentiated Learning

Differentiated learning refers to tailoring a teaching resource to a learner’s needs and interests, with recognition that not everyone learns in the same way. Differentiated learning pays  attention to diversity in the approaches and levels of students’ needs. It offers every student the opportunity to find his or her own way into better understanding the world around. Sometimes, differentiated learning comes in the form of ‘personalized learning,’ however at times this can mean learning where individuals are isolated from each other. Another more collaborative version of differentiated learning we would call ‘productive diversity,’ leveraging the different interests and perspectives of learners as they work with each other – in ‘jigsaw’ learning, peer review, and discussion boards, for instance, where differentiation opens expression of learner diversity and deploys this as a resource for learning.

Digital learning platforms make differentiated instruction more feasible. Adaptive and personalized learning enables students to work at their own pace. While self-organisation helps students to organise themselves also in terms of getting into action and organise not only their own learning but also learn to organise projects.


Metacognition or thinking about one’s processes of thinking is a means to think more deeply, and at a higher level of abstraction (Livinston 2003). It produces efficiencies in thinking and learning, as conceptualization broadens the scope of ideas in application, transfer and understanding. Thinking about thinking is a valuable activity for online learners which leads to active learning (Huffaker and Calvert 2003). Thinking is also more efficient and effective when accompanied by the process of metacognition or monitoring and reflecting upon one’s own thinking. An integral part of this process is weaving between the new knowledge and self-reflection about one’s own knowledge background and thinking processes (Brown 1987). This requires interpretation of the social and cultural context of an expression of meaning or a piece of knowledge.

Metacognition in all its  different shapes is core to understanding the complex issues of sustainable development and developing ideas and actions to meet those challenges. So, metacognition means to learn critical thinking and understanding complex systems. This is necessary in order to find solutions to complex problems. Understanding complex systems has to be the first step in order to make change in the material and social conditions of life.


Accessibility refers to the availability of digital educational resources to all, irrespective of geographic location, language(s), disability and other demographic and socio-economic variables. Educational technology as a cognitively dis-embodied thing posits both limitations and opportunities. On the one hand it may extend action space for learning, while on the other hand it may impose new barriers. These traits are fundamentally shaped by the design of technology. Therefore, it is imperative to ensure that digital educational resources are designed to extend the action space for learning – the key to doing so is make them accessible. In terms of SDG 4 to esnsure “inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong opportunities for all”, the affordance of accessibility is a matter of promoting openness and inclusion.

In this context, accessibility  of digital educational resources has three primary dimension. The first dimension is to promote the availability of digital educational resources. This is achieved in two ways. The first is for education systems to ensure that there are no barriers to access based on the cost of published materials and digital resources. The second is free and open source digital resources. However, the challenge here is to offer proper remuneration for creators, traditionally taking the forms of author royalties and employment in the educational publishing industry.

The second dimension is interoperability, which requires that the system is open to different kinds of expression, and integration with other (external) tools and systems. Complying to interoperability standards allows aggregation of efforts, integration of systems, and opening of learning opportunities.

Third, it is important to follow the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles to ensure that learning resources are accessible to all, including people with disabilities. It is also important to ensure accessibility of resources across a range of devices, in online as well as offline mode. Provision for translations and internationalization of interfaces is another key consideration.

For an extensive discussion of this issue, the interested reader should reference the resource, Rethinking Pedagogy: Exploring the Potential of Digital Technology in Achieving Quality Education, developed by the Mahatma Ghandhi Institute of Education for Peace and Sustainable Development[3].   Appendix I provides indicators for each of these Eight Affordances.


Anstey, L. and Watson, G. (2018). A Rubric for Evaluating E-Learning Tools in Higher Education. Educause Review.

Baytak, A.(undated) Media selection and design: a case in distance education Academia.edu

Bates, A. (1984) Broadcasting in Education: An Evaluation London: Constables

Bates, A. (1995) Teaching, Open Learning and Distance Education London/New York: Routledge

Bates, A. and Gallagher, M. (1977) Improving the Effectiveness of Open University Television Case-Studies and Documentaries Milton Keynes: The Open University, I.E.T. Papers on Broadcasting, No. 77 (out of print – copies available from tony.bates@ubc.ca)

Bates, A. and Poole, G. (2003) Effective Teaching with Technology in Higher Education San Francisco: Jossey-Bass/John Wiley and Son

Bush, K. Cormier, M. and Anthony. G. (2022). A Rubric for Selecting Active Learning Technologies. Educause Review.

Cope, B. and Kalantzis, M. (2016). Big data comes to school: implications for learning, assessment and research. AERA Open, 2(2), pp. 1-9.

Durbridge, N. (1983) Design implications of audio and video cassettes Milton Keynes: Open University Institute of Educational Technology (out of print)

Durbridge, N. (1984) Audio-cassettes, in Bates, A. (ed.) The Role of Technology in Distance Education London/New York: Croom Hill/St Martin’s Press

Gardner, H. (1983) Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences New York: Basic Books

Gardner, H. (2006) Multiple Intelligences: New Horizons and Theory in Practice New York: Basic Books

Huffaker, D. A. and Calvert, S. L. (2003). The new science of learning: active learning, metacognition, and transfer of knowledge in e-learning applications. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 29(3), pp. 325-334.

Kalantzis, M. Cope, B., Chan, E. and Dalley-Trim, L. (2016). Literacies, 2nd Edition, Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press.

Koumi, J. (1994). Media comparisons and deployment: A practitioner’s view British Journal of Educational Technology, Vol. 25, No. 1

Koumi, J. (2006). Designing video and multimedia for open and flexible learning London: Routledge

Koumi, J. (2015) Learning outcomes afforded by self-assessed, segmented video-print combinations Cogent Education, Vol. 2, No.1

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  1. SDG Academy. (2021). How to achieve the SDGs course. Adapted from module one, chapter one.
  2. United Nations. (2021). Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
  3. Rethinking Pedagogy: Exploring the Potential of Digital Technology in Achieving Quality Education. Aleman de la Garza, L., Antal, P. t., Beaune, A. I., Bruillard, E. R., Burke, D., ... Tsinakos, A. This work is under an Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 IGO license.


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Tools for Creating OER by Isaac Mulolani is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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