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Ed. Tech. and Student Achievement

As the result of a quick Twitter back-and-forth, I told @JeffNugent and @mcglaysia that I would write a blog post about the research linking technology integration and student achievement.  A couple of points before I get into it:

  • I have been the lead investigator on many (maybe a dozen or so?) studies aimed at examining the relationship between technology integration and student achievement.  These studies ranged from small studies (one or two schools) to federally-funded, statewide investigations.  So, I have a pretty decent practical understanding of this body of research and how the work gets done.  Some day I’ll write about the politics and the nitty gritty of this sort of work.  For now, though, I’ll just say that the old joke is more true than it is funny: “educational research is like sausage.  If you like to consume either one, you don’t want to watch it being made.”
  • This pool of literature is deep and getting deeper all the time.  I can’t possibly get to everything.  In fact, I’m only going to cover those with which I am most familiar.  That means, I’m not necessarily presenting the “best” research; just those that I know of and that I think are reasonably respectable.
  • The Ed. Tech. Action Network (ETAN) has done a decent job of summarizing some of the research.  You can find their page with lots of links here.
  • Finally, I’m not terribly proud of my work in this area.  I know that advocates of ed. tech. say that we MUST show positive student achievement effects to move the policy agenda forward.  But, for me, student achievement, especially as typically measured in these studies, is not even close to the most important outcome we need to be considering when evaluating the impact of technology in education.  I’m much more interested in outcomes such as student engagement and student learning (as distinct from student achievement).

Anyway, onward…

*The study that’s getting the most attention and that is politically loaded is one that is still being undertaken.  Mathematica, Inc., along with SRI, two of the major independent research firms in the country, have been contracted to conduct The National Study of the Effectiveness of Educational Technology Interventions.  The project’s website contains all the information you need to know about the study, including the first report which was issued last year.  So far, after one year, according to the press release issued at the time of the release of the report, “On average, after one year, products did not increase or decrease test scores by amounts that were statistically different from zero.”  So, no link between tech. and achievement.  But, that was after one year. The next report should be out soon.

*I’ve been pleased with the amount of attention the West Virginia study I co-lead in 1998-99 has received over the last decade.  The report from that study documents fairly significant positive relationships between the use of computers and student achievement.

*Harold Wenglinsky has done some significant work in this field.  His first major study, conducted in 1998 while he was at ETS, demonstrated that under the right conditions, the use of computers in schools was positively related to math achievement.  More specifically, “higher mathematics scores were related to adequate access to computer technology (hardware, software, and overall infrastructure) in conjunction with teachers trained in technology use and the use of computers to learn new, higher-order concepts.”

*The USEiT (Use, Support, and Effect of Instuctional Technology) study, stands out to me for its high quality and for the quality of the many reports that have been disseminated from that one study.  Take a look, particularly, at Reports 10 and 13.  Of the many findings coming from that study, the researchers discovered that “students who reported greater frequency of technology use at school to edit papers were likely to have higher total English/language arts test scores and higher writing scores on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) than students who did not.”  I still use some of the scales that the USEiT researchers developed for my own work.

*Finally, and more recently, Missouri’s eMints program has been well-documented and thoroughly studied.  There’s an entire page of research reports, including the most recent analysis of student achievement.  eMints has been consistently positively associated with student achievement.

There’s more; gobs more.  If you cross-reference the works I’ve pointed to, you’ll be well on your way to collecting a critical mass of the work that’s been done in this area.

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