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Technology: Ed Tech Research

Overview of Educational Technology Research


Q. We've come a long way since books and chalkboards were the key tools of the classroom. What's the lay of the land in educational technology?


There's a lot to see in that lay of the land - many, many products and services. But what is NOT known is whether there is a definitive return on investment for all the new and expensive educational technology purchases that school districts and, indeed, states, are making.


From computers to handhelds, smartboards to online courses, state-run virtual schools and statewide testing all done via computer, educational technology has definitely changed K-12 schooling. Observers say a lot of it is for the better, especially since "digital natives," the term for students who have grown up with technology of all kinds all around them, are past the time when books and chalkboards will engage their interest and meet their learning needs.


Once teachers and administrators venture past the math games and foreign language drills into setting up their students with email penpals from other continents and observing space alongside astronauts via Webcams, ed tech is a blessing and a great tool.


However, they also point out that there is little, or no, hard evidence that the dollars devoted to ed tech are really paying off with advanced academic achievement and better learning outcomes for students than the "good old days."


For example, one study showed that there was very little evidence to show that significant Internet subsidies in California from 1996 to 2000 had any kind of measurable positive effect (Goolsbee & Guryan, 2002).


Ed tech researchers say that technology's net effects on student achievement are difficult to measure because what is considered most important in education -- higher-order thinking skills, creativity, motivation for learning, and research skills are very hard to assess and put into statistical format.


Meanwhile, the amount of money being spent on ed tech is staggering in most public school districts at a time of high unemployment, rising prices, and a real estate situation in which a significant percentage of people are losing their homes to foreclosure because they can't pay their high real estate taxes, most of which goes to fund public schools.


So while it may make sense that spending more on ed tech will make kids smarter and more fit for higher education and the workworld, researchers can't exactly prove that. But as with everything in technology, you have to say . . . that may be "upgraded" very soon!



Homework: Get an idea of the wide range of issues in the area of ed tech and learning results from this article (sponsored by ed tech companies, so be advised) from eSchool News:


By Susan Darst Williams Technology 2011


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