The Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), a global research think tank that advocates for policy driven by research, released an analysis of 126 studies about technology in education.
According to the J-PAL report, more than $13 billion was spent in the United States alone on technology in the classroom, although more than 5 million school-age students do not have broadband internet connection. Schools have implemented technology in the form of software, hardware, internet access, Google Classroom, internet access and even iPads, but how do these devices this impact students’ learning?
J-PAL took 126 random evaluations – that they evaluated to see if they were high-quality and the country of origin in which it was produced – and compared the impact with deviations in some of the results.
Key findings of the report suggest that expanding access to computers and the internet alone do not improve kindergarten- through 12th-grade test scores or grades, but increases students’ computer proficiency and computer usage.
“When it comes to academic achievement, computer distribution and internet subsidy programs generally did not improve grades and test scores at the K-12 level. In the United States, the Netherlands, and Romania, distributing free computers to primary and secondary students did not improve—and sometimes harmed—test scores,” the report suggests. “In studies that found negative results, researchers find suggestive evidence that family rules regarding computer use and homework appear to mitigate some of the negative effects.”
The analysis also suggests that software that goes at a student’s own rate of progress “have shown enormous promise in improving learning outcomes, particularly in math.”
“Of all 30 studies of computer-assisted learning programs, 20 reported statistically significant positive effects,” the study suggests. “Fifteen of the 20 programs found to be effective were focused on improving math outcomes.”
The report also suggests that combining online and traditional in-person instruction can work as well as just traditional instruction. Blended classrooms – classrooms that use both online and face-to-face instruction – are becoming more common nationwide. This report suggests that having a blended classroom can be cost-effective. However, the study found that students perform worse in online-only instruction than in face-to-fe instruction – are becoming more common nationwide. This report suggests that having a blended classroom can be cost-effective. However, the study found that students perform worse in online-only instruction than in face-to-face instruction.
“Conventional online courses—taught as part of entirely online degree programs or degree programs that include online or partially online courses—have grown in popularity in the last decade,” the report suggests. “However, in four of six studies that directly compared the impact of taking a course online versus in-person only, found that student performance was lower in online courses.”
Another finding of J-PAL’s report suggested that there is not enough evaluation of interactive whiteboards, virtual reality and other technology to understand if it is efficient in the classroom. J-PAL suggests more research is needed in these areas to understand these types of technologies’ impact in the classroom.
Based on the studies findings, the report suggests that going forward additional research is needed to further the role and potential of education technology in schools.
“Technology is developing at an astonishing pace—rapid advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning have already reshaped many aspects of daily life,” the report suggests. “Against this backdrop, promising uses of education technology have the potential to support massive inroads in learning. Yet, far more research is necessary to help determine which of these myriad education technologies are worth pursuing.”