Good read: Digital tools in K-12 classrooms and student achievement: Weighing the evidence

An interesting article written by Patricia Burch, University of Southern California; Annalee Good, University of Wisconsin-Madison; and Carolyn J. Heinrich and Chandi Wanger, University of Texas at Austin examines the evidence on using digital tools in K-12 classrooms. They see a divers landscape:

Digital educational tools used well can be an important asset for American schools, but the modest research accomplished to date suggests that the deployment of digital tools can exacerbate achievement gaps and create a new kind of digital divide in which inadequately resourced schools serving students from lower-income families cannot take full advantage of the new technological potential. Some studies of digital instruction have found no significant effects on student learning, while others suggest positive effects when these tools are deployed in favorable circumstances.

And more important conclude that humans remain the most important factor:

From our own and others’ research, we know that the role of the instructor is vital for quality education. Tellingly, when the supplemental educational service providers we studied combined face-to-face tutoring with the use of online software, tutors were able to reword problems for particular students. Students who got such face-to-face digitally supported instruction realized significantly larger gains in math compared to those tutored entirely using only software.

In our study, English-language learners and students with disabilities were significantly less likely than other students to benefit from the optimal combination of personal interaction and online programs. These students face major educational challenges, yet they were subjected to less effective forms of online tutoring.

More generally, our field research illuminates the challenges involved in making new digital educational tools work well for all students. As digital programming continues to expand in classrooms and associated school services, we urgently need rigorous, independent evaluations to better inform federal, state and local decisions — especially when it comes to using digital formats to help disabled and underprivileged students who have the most to gain, and lose, in the new learning environment.

Read the full article here.

Actually, this article is very much in line with a report published last month by NEPC on the same topic. Noel Enyedy, University of California at Los Angeles, concludes in this policy brief that all stakeholders should refrain from assuming that Personalized Instruction is the only model for computers in the classroom and be open to investigating new models integrating technology into the learning process. Enyedy also sees a need for blended learning, which make use of traditional classroom teaching in close alignment with elements that might be delivered online. But he warns that blended learning done well is more expensive than traditional education. Read the report here.

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