Measuring the Effectiveness of Educational Technology

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Studies examining theeffectiveness of technology are producing encouraging results,causing educators to provide greater access and availability of moreresources. President Clinton's challenge to the education communityfor every classroom to be connected to the information superhighwayis being implemented. Vice President Gore, in initiating theComputers for Learning Program, calls for the donation of surplusfederal computer equipment to schools and educational non-profitgroups. (Information can be obtained by visiting www.computers.fed.govor calling a toll-free hotline number, 888-362-7870.) This program isa partnership among federal agencies, schools and non-profit agenciesto place more than 70,000 computers into classrooms thisyear.

Support at the state levelfor technology has increased in magnitude and scope, as stated inAppendix C of the Report to the Nation in Technology and Education-- Getting Students Ready for the 21st century, recentlypublished by the U.S. Department of Education. Appendix C lists, bystate, information on planning, funding, services and infrastructure,where appropriate. Most states have placed technology at the centerof their efforts to meet the President's technology goals. The 1997National Survey on Higher Education by Dr. Kenneth Green (The CampusComputing Project -- Claremont Graduate University, Claremont,Calif.) states, "Information technology has become an increasinglyimportant component of the instructional and learning experienceacross all fields and all types of instruction." Most campusesrequire some sort of computer competency or computer instruction forall their students.

ExaminingSuccesses

It is obvious the use oftechnology in education has exploded at all levels. The successes oftechnology-rich schools, especially in K-12 institutions, are beingexamined. As stated in the above report by the U.S. Dept. ofEducation, these successes include the following features:

  • Role of concentrated, conscious and explicit planning among school leaders, families and students to create "learner-centered environments."
  • Goals and challenging standards for student achievement are clearly articulated.
  • Restructuring of the school to support the learner-centered environment and achievement of standards.
  • Near universal access to computer technology.

With all the studies anddocumentation available, research on why and how use of technology iseffective in education remains minimal. A report issued by theEducational Testing Service in Spring 1996 entitled "Computers andClassrooms -- The Status of Technology in the U.S. Schools" states,as do many other reports, that computers in and of themselves do verylittle to aid learning. They may make work more efficient and fun,but they do not automatically cause teachers to rethink theirteaching or students to be exposed to new ways of learning. "Anotherproblem in evaluating technology is that it's forever changing.You're constantly chasing a moving target."

A number of otherconclusions can also be found in the literature. Theseinclude:

  • Availability of technology d'es not by itself improve learning.
  • Changes in teaching style need to occur to ensure better teaching and learning.
  • Decision makers must assume leadership and be willing to commit resources.
  • Educators at all levels require simple, flexible, cost-effective, easy to monitor and well functioning tools and applications.
  • Successful technology-rich educational environments do result in improved achievement, better attendance and better attitudes toward learning.

SomeQuestions

The statements above andothers similar are usually very general. We also need specificanswers to questions such as:

  • What uses of technology are most effective and why?
  • What experiences and educational activities should be kept personal and individual and what interpersonal group-related?
  • How d'es learning become richer for students who are provided new and different types of information otherwise inaccessible (Specific examples)?
  • How to plan for accessibility and affordability of ever-changing hardware and software?
  • How can the education community benefit from government and private industry developments in technology and how can their research be utilized by the education community?
  • What successful models for implementation meet what needs?

The above questions arejust a few that still need to be addressed and conclusionsdisseminated. Significant challenges remain for accurate andmeaningful research to ensure the proper use of technology ineducation.

I would like to take thisopportunity to bid farewell and thank Terian Tyre, who has been withT.H.E. for many years and who left to pursue other interests. I amsure you will all join me in welcoming Jeff Carmona as ManagingEditor and wish him success in his new position.

This article originally appeared in the 02/01/1998 issue of THE Journal.

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