Does all this increased technology have an impact on student learning? If it does, how do we know? How do we measure it?

Recently someone posted a question in the Future of Education Ning. This person was getting ready to attend the ASB: Unplugged which was a recent conference dedicated to 1:1 learning in Mumbai India. 

His question was something like this:

Does all this increased technology have an impact on student learning? If it does, how do we know? How do we measure it? 

Having been one of the educators working at the American School of Bombay back when we started the laptop program, I would say that yes – technology has an impact on student learning IF it is used to transform teaching and learning. In other words, if we just use the computers to do the same old types of tasks we used to do or if we replace lectures with powerpoints then, no, there is probably no measurable impact. In fact, since technology amplifies, it might even make the worst of traditional methodology even worse. However,  technology (aka digital tools in this context, I mean after all, a pencil is technology right?) offers a world of possibilities for teachers to TRANSFORM their learning environments by creating more innovative, relevant and engaging tasks for their students in a way that wasn’t possible before. 

The trick is to ensure that critical thinking, problem solving and creativity are explicit goals of EACH task that students are asked to complete. What is the project? What will the students create? How will they do so? What do they need to know and be able to do to complete the task? How/when will we check to see what they already know and what we need to give them guidance on? 

I think access to endless amounts of valid and reliable information and digital tools that allow students to learn how to filter, synthesize, evaluate, analyze and most of all CREATE definitely can improve learning if the learning coaches (formerly known as teachers) know how to coach well….(hint: coaches don’t always have to play the sport they coach at the same level of their players – they just need to know how to get their players to play at the highest level – taking that to the classroom – they just need to know go get their learners to learn at the highest level).

There is plenty of research emerging on the impact of blogging, writing using computers etc…and how it can improve writing. However, to me the real measures are the following:

1. Are students engaged?
2. Are they producing high quality, creative projects?
3. Is there evidence of high quality student reflection attached to the projects?
4. Are student projects getting more complex as they progress through the grades?
5. Can students intelligently talk about what they are learning about/working on?
6. Are students effective at working with others?
7. Are students integrating the digital tools at their disposal in ethical and creative ways?

Just a few thoughts – I know I’m a little bit on the edge but I like hanging out there….

One response to “Does all this increased technology have an impact on student learning? If it does, how do we know? How do we measure it?

  1. As an education researcher, I really appreciate the query of this post! Like you say, it's important to assess how well we're reaching the goals that we set (I read your set of 7 items as a set of goals to be achieved). But it's also important to figure out when you've achieved that goal — what do you mean by "engaged" or "high quality" or "more complex"? Without defining those terms, you don't know when you've reached the goal.You said that there is emerging research on the impact of blogging — I'm just getting into this area. Do you have any researchers or studies you can cite? I'd be very interested to see them.We're blogging on educational tech over at Happy to take suggestions for future posts (or guest blogs from someone so thoughtful about proper uses of tech).Stephanie

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