Magazine article Teacher Librarian

Does Technology Really Make a Difference?

Magazine article Teacher Librarian

Does Technology Really Make a Difference?

Article excerpt

Cheryl Lemke, Ed Coughlin, and Daren Reifsneider of the Metiri Group, which serves the education community through services that empower educators and education institutions, conducted an important study to examine research on the effect of educational technology on student learning.

Commissioned by CISCO Systems, Technology in Schools: What the Research Says, updates a similar review of research done in 2006 and looks at descriptive, co-relational, quasi-experimental, and experimental studies that met the authors' criteria for quality. Does technology actually have an effect on teaching and learning? The authors take a look at a wide variety of technologies that are currently in use by educators:

* Interactive whiteboards

* Classroom response systems ("clickers")

* Video games

* Simulations

* Modeling

* Augmented reality (AR)

* Virtual worlds

* Mobile devices

* Calculators

* 1:1 ratio of computers to students

* Virtual learning

* Data visualization/analysis tools

* Computer assisted instruction (CAI)

* Educational television

For each of these technologies, the authors look at studies that relate to basic skills, higher level thinking, ICT, collaboration/participatory learning, and engagement in learning. In the authors' words:

      Overall, across all uses in all content areas, technology does
   provide a small, but significant, increase in learning when
   implemented with fidelity and accompanied by appropriate
   pedagogical shifts. While this is generally encouraging, the real
   value lies in the identification of those technology interventions
   that get significant positive results that warrant investment.

      The reasons cited for the slow rate of integration of technology
   in schools vary considerably over time and locale. For many
   educators, the lack of access to reliable, up-to-date technology is
   a major barrier to effective use. In schools with sufficient access
   (e.g., 1:1 environments, schools with laptops on carts, schools
   with low student-to-computer ratios), the barriers to effective use
   are lack of: vision; access to research; leadership; teacher
   proficiency in integrating technology in learning; professional
   development; innovative school culture; and/or resources. Gains in
   learning can be accomplished in a variety of classroom
   configurations. (p. 42)

Over and over throughout the report, the research points to the central idea that how the technology is used predicts its effect. For example, if an interactive whiteboard is used by the teacher the same way the chalkboard was used to illustrate a lecture, then there is no difference. If technology is used for its entertainment value or to use up available time, no value can be expected.

The best technologies are those that promote higher level thinking, imagination, creativity, and engagement. Augmented reality and data visualization/analysis tools get higher marks.


* Build your knowledge of a wide variety of technologies and how their unique features can be used to enhance both teaching and learning.

* However, rather than present a constant stream of tools to the faculty that tends to overwhelm with too much and too many, concentrate on the type of learning students need to exhibit and be able to demonstrate one or several tools that will do that exotically better than traditional teaching techniques. Play the role of a doctor. One does not begin with various drugs or machines. Rather, one begins with a diagnosis of a learning challenge or problem and then prescribes a treatment that will cure, improve, or at least, do no harm to the patient.

Many of the technology gurus of the field dazzle us at conferences with the latest tools and their characteristics and possibilities. …

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