Research Evidence for Using Educational Technology

The Center for Applied Research in Educational Technology (CARET), a funded project of the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), has the most comprehensive review of research evidence available on the impact of technology in education (see http://caret.iste.org) . The What Works Clearinghouse, established by the U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences to provide "high-quality reviews of scientific evidence of the effectiveness of replicable educational interventions," is also a source for this research evidence.

CARET's approach to the rationale for technology use is based on what educators have been saying for years: Simply having students use technology does not raise achievement. The impact depends on the ways the technology is used and the conditions under which applications are implemented. For example, CARET poses the question, "How can technology influence student academic performance?" It answers this question by citing studies that indicate that the application influences performance, not as a delivery system, but as instruction that works under certain circumstances.

As the CARET project illustrates, the case for using technology in teaching is one that must be made not just by isolating variables that make a difference, but by combining them. Practitioners have cited over the years a number of reasons why we should integrate technology into teaching.

To Motivate Students

Gaining their attention — Teachers say technology's visual and interactive qualities can direct students' attention toward learning tasks.

Supporting manual operations during high-level learning — Students are more motivated to learn complex skills (e.g., writing compositions and solving algebraic equations) when technology tools help them do the low-level skills involved (e.g., making corrections to written drafts or doing arithmetic).

Illustrating real-world relevance through highly visual presentations — When students can see that high-level math and science skills have real-life applications, it is no longer just "school work"; they are more willing to learn skills that have clear value to their future life and work.

Engaging them through production work — Students who learn by creating their own products with technologies such as word processing, multimedia, hypermedia, and other technology products report higher engagement in learning and a greater sense of pride in their achievements (Doering, Beach, & O'Brien, 2007; Doering & Veletsianos, 2007; Franklin, 1991; Taylor, 1989; Tibbs, 1989; Volker, 1992).

Connecting them with audiences for their writing — Educators say that students are much more motivated to write and do their best production work when they publish it on the web, since others outside the classroom will see their work (Cohen & Riel, 1989; Doering & Beach, 2002; Doering, Beach, & O'Brien, 2007).

Engaging learners through real-world situations and collaborations — Students who see the application of what they are studying as authentic and real world are motivated by the application to their daily lives (Doering & Veletsianos, 2008, p. 8).

To Enhance Instruction

Supplying interaction and immediate feedback to support skill practice — Software such as the drill-and-practice type offers many students the privacy, self-pacing, and immediate feedback they need to comprehend and retain lower level skills.

Helping students visualize underlying concepts in unfamiliar or abstract topics — Simulations and other interactive software tools have unique abilities to illustrate science and mathematics concepts. Highly trained principles become easier to understand.

Illustrating connections between skills and real-life applications — Technology tools support problem-based learning that helps students see where high-level math and science skills apply.

Letting students study systems in unique ways — Students use tools such as spreadsheets and simulations to answer "what if" questions that they would not be able to do easily by hand or that would not be feasible at all without the benefits of technology.

Giving access to unique information sources and populations — The Internet connects students with information, research, data, and expertise not available locally.

Supplying self-paced learning for capable students — Self-directed students can learn on their own with software tutorials and/or distance educational materials. They can surge ahead of the class or tackle topics not offered by the school.

Allowing access to learning opportunities — Students with disabilities depend on technology to compensate for vision, hearing, and/or manual dexterity they need to read, interact in class, and do products to show what they have learned.

Providing opportunities and support for cooperative learning — Although students can do small-group work without technology, teachers report that students are often more motivated to work cooperatively on hypermedia, database, and website production projects.

To Make Student and Teacher Work More Productively

Saving time on production tasks — Software tools such as word processing, desktop publishing, and spreadsheets allow quick and easy corrections to reports, presentations, budgets, and publications.

Grading and tracking student work — Integrated learning systems and handheld computers help teachers quickly assess and track student progress.

Providing faster access to information sources — Students use the Internet and email to do research and collect data that would take much longer to gather by traditional delivery methods.

Saving money on consumable materials — Software tools such as drill-and-practice simulations save schools by taking the place of many materials (e.g., worksheets, handouts, dissection animals) that are used and replaced each year.

To Help Students Learn and Sharpen Their Information Age Skills

Technological literacy — Technology such as word processing, spreadsheets, simulations, multimedia, and the Internet have become increasingly essential in many job areas. Students who use these in school have a head start on what to do in the workplace.

Informational literacy — Students learn skills that Johnson and Eisenberg (1996) call the "Big Six" (task definition, information seeking strategies, location and access, use of information, synthesis, and evaluation).

Visual literacy — Images are increasingly replacing text as communication media. Students must learn to interpret, understand, and appreciate the meaning of visual messages; communicate more effectively through applying the basic principles and concepts of visual design; produce visual messages using the computer and other technology; and use visual thinking to conceptualize solutions to problems (Christopherson, 1997, p. 173).

When viewed together with research findings, these reasons pose a powerful rationale for why technology must become as commonplace in education as it is in other areas of society. They also help point out specific ways to integrate technology into teaching and learning.


- M.D. Roblyer|A. H. Doering
Excerpted From: "Integrating Educational Technology into Teaching"

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