Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The value of technology

Last week I turned to Visible Learning to see what Professor John Hattie had to say about the impact homework has on achievement, this week I'm looking to see what he says about technology.
  • Hattie found that when used as a supplement to teacher's instruction, computer-assisted instruction led to a gain of up to 17 percentile points - he writes that the average student in a classroom where technology is being used will perform 12 percentile points higher than the average student in a setting that does not use technology.  Students who collaborate in small groups using technology generally produce better products than those students working individually - and they also gained more individually knowledge.
  • Looking at a 1:1 laptop programme, Hattie found that students developed greater technical proficiency and reduced their disciplinary problems in class, however effective teaching is still required to produce meaningful gains in student achievement.
  • Hattie also noted the effect of the internet on learning.  In the case of distance learning there was a gain of 4 percentile points, however when looked at from the perspective of web-based instruction this led to a 7 percentile point gain.  Studies have shown that web-based learning is most effective for understanding of facts, details, principles and generalizations, and less effective when considering procedural knowledge (strategies and processes).  Blended learning comes out slightly better than face-to-face instruction.  Hattie broke these down into the use of digital media and found a positive impact on learning when using interactive video, audio-visual and simulations.  Once again, using technology in tandem with effective instruction provided the most benefits.
  • There have also been studies of the effectiveness of mobile devices - 86% of the studies showed positive outcomes when looking at achievement, motivation and behaviour.  There have been studies that have looked specifically at how small scrolling screens affect a reader's ability to reason or remember facts - interestingly factual recall is not affected, but the ability to use factual information to make decisions shows a decrease when reading on scrolling screens.
  • Student response systems have been shown to be valuable for giving immediate feedback to students, and for providing immediate data for teachers to inform instructional adaptations. These devices have also been found to increase student engagement.  
I used to work in a school where parents were told there is no evidence that technology improves learning, however with a 15 year study of millions of students, it seems that in fact there is a connection.  What I have come to see is that this statement is one that is value-negative - basically the argument here is that the same achievements can be accomplished with or without technology and that technology has not revolutionized education as was earlier claimed.  There are of course arguments that do support this.  Data shows that most teachers simply use new technologies to accomplish the same tasks that they were already doing without it - they have not restructured their practice to facilitate higher order thinking skills.  I would support the view that technology alone is not enough - this is one reason why we don't simply collect student artifacts in our Tech Audit - we also rank them according to Bloom's Digital Taxonomy to see whether technology is promoting higher order thinking.  

Another perspective is a value-positive one, that claims that technology has the capacity to constructively transform education.  This point of view maintains that schools can improve student achievement by increasing their use of technology.  The final perspective is a value-neutral one. This viewpoint is that technology is only as beneficial as the teaching practices that it enhances - and that the power and potential of educational technology resides within educators and not within the technology itself - however when used with effective practices technology will positively impact student achievement, engagement and motivation.

All the data above comes from the chapter entitled Research and Theory from the book Enhancing the Art and Science of Teaching with Technology by Sonny Mangana and Robert Marzano.

Photo Credit: Jim Bauer via Compfight cc

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