New educational technology programs are being released faster than researchers can evaluate them. The National Bureau of Economic Research has written a working paper, Education Technology: An Evidence-Based Review, which discusses the evidence to date on the use of technology in the classroom, with the goal of finding decision-relevant patterns.Maya Escueta and colleagues compiled publicly available quantitative research that used either randomized controlled trials or regression discontinuity designs (where students qualify for inclusion in a program based on a cut-off score at pretest). All studies had to examine the effects of an ed-tech intervention on any education-related outcome. Therefore, the paper included not only the areas of technology access, computer-assisted learning, and online courses, but also the less-often-studied technology-based behavioral interventions.Authors found that:
- Access to technology may or may not improve academic achievement at the K-12 level, but does have a positive impact on the academic achievement of college students (ES=+0.14).
- Computer-assisted learning, when equipped with personalization features, was an effective strategy, especially in math.
- Behavioral intervention software, such as text-message reminders or e-messages instructing parents how to practice reading with their children, showed positive effects at all levels of education, plus were a cost-effective approach. Four main uses for behavioral intervention software emerged: encouraging parental involvement in early learning activities, communication between the school and parents, successfully transitioning into and through college, and creating mindset interventions. Research is recommended to determine the areas where behavioral intervention software is most impactful.
- Online learning courses had the least amount of research to examine and showed the least promise of the four areas. However, when online courses were accompanied by in-person teaching, the effect sizes increased to scores comparable to fully in-person courses.