Making the Case: Research Efforts on Educational Technology: A Closer Look at Scientifically Based Research

Article excerpt

HISTORICALLY, VERY LITTLE, IF ANY, research that meets the scientifically based standards as defined by the No Child Left Behind Act has been conducted on the effectiveness of educational technology. Clearly, the educational technology community most invest in research and evaluation studies to better guide the effective use of the investment, as well as to demonstrate to policy-makers the impact on teaching and learning.

In an effort to address the need, the U.S. Department of Education is investing more than $56 million to study the conditions and practices under which technology is used to document its impact on student performance. The results of these efforts should enable the educational technology community to be in the forefront of evidence-based research on educational practices involving technology.

Some of the federal funds are supporting studies at the national and state levels. In addition, the Education Department's Institute for Education Sciences (IES) is funding technology research at independent research and development organizations and at institutions of higher learning nationwide. Below are brief descriptions of the various federally funded research efforts that are examining the impact of technology on student achievement, professional development and other educational outcomes.

National-Level Studies

National Study Regarding the Effectiveness of Educational Technology.

The NCLB Act o f 2001 calls for a five-year, $15 million study of the effects of educational technology, using rigorous scientifically-based methodologies. In October 2002, the Education Department began working with Mathematica Policy Research Inc. and its partners, the American Institutes for Research and the Education Development Center Inc., to identify issues confronting a national study of technology effectiveness and to develop designs for the study.

A key part of the design effort engaged a panel of outside experts on educational technology, educational policy and research methodology to help identify important questions to be addressed in the study and to suggest possible approaches for answering them. Designing such a study is a significant undertaking. Since no study of educational technology has used experimental methods on such a large scale, important considerations must be addressed, including how the study's questions should be focused, how to structure the design for measurement and resource efficiency, and how to collaborate with schools and districts. Other considerations include the rapid innovations in computer technology, the changes in the educational policy context created by NCLB, and the goal of ensuring that knowledge from the study is immediately useful for contributing schools and teachers.

In May 2002, the design team provided the following recommendations:

* Question: What is educational technology?

Recommendation 1: Examine technology applications designed to support teaching and learning.

Recommendation 2: Use a public submission process to identify technology applications to study.

* Question: What is "effective"? Recommendation 3: Use experimental designs to measure effects.

Recommendation 4: Study the effects of technology applications for schools or teachers who don't currently use the applications but are interested in using them.

Recommendation 5: Design the study to detect "moderate" to "large" effects of technology applications.

* Question: What kinds of students? Recommendation 6: Study the effects of technology applications for K-12 students.

Recommendation 7: Study the effects of technology applications for schools that are eligible to receive Title I funds.

* Question: What is academic achievement

Recommendation 8: Study the effects of technology applications on student academic achievement as measured by commonly used standardized tests, and collect data on other academic indicators to provide a fuller picture. …