Smart Classroom

Report: Evidence of Tech Use for Learning in Classrooms Scanty

Integrating technology into the classroom takes much more effort than handing out devices. According to a new report from an education researcher, there's little evidence that students are using digital tools for learning in classrooms.

AdvancED is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that conducts on-site school using an observation tool it has developed, called the Effective Learning Environments Observation Tool, or eleot, which is available in smartphone app form. Classroom observers rate each of 30 eleot items on a four-point scale, four being "very evident" and one being "not observed."

Three of those items focus specifically on students' use of digital tools and technology for:

  • Gathering, evaluating and/or using information for learning;
  • Conducting research, solving problems and creating original works for learning; and
  • Communicating and working collaboratively for learning.

After conducting nearly 147,000 direct classroom observations of 20 minutes or more in K-12 schools in the United States and other countries, the organization concluded that "there are still relatively few classrooms in which students' use of digital tools and technology is a regular part of the school experience. The data is shared in AdvancED's report, "The Paradox of Classroom Technology: Despite Proliferation and Access, Students Not Using Technology for Learning."

In more than half of classrooms (53 percent), the direct observations showed no evidence that students are using technology to gather, evaluate or use information for learning. Two-thirds of classrooms (63 percent) showed no evidence of students using tech to solve problems, create original work or communicate. And a similar share (65 percent) showed no evidence of working collaboratively for learning.

"Student use of digitals tools and other technology to support learning in our K-12 systems continues to be sporadic and often not observed despite the proliferation of their use outside of school," said Mark Elgart, president and chief executive officer of the organization, in a prepared statement. "We can facilitate a transformational shift toward a learner-centric classroom by observing and making improvements in instruction to more effectively leverage technology for learning."

Increasing student engagement may be a "far more powerful learning tool than technology itself," added Ludwig van Broekhuizen, who wrote the study. "When students are genuinely engaged in their learning around topics that connect to their lives and interest them, they are much less inclined to engage in off-task behaviors with or without access to technology," he said. "It is when students lose themselves in their learning that we have accomplished what we set out to do for them in the first place."

The role of the teacher is "key," van Broekhuizen stated in the report. "We need to ensure that teachers are provided support and training so that they know how to integrate students' use of technology into their classrooms and create a student-centric learning environment. Until teachers and administrators are convinced that technology can be a help not a hindrance to learning, the shift will not happen."

The report is freely available on the AdvancED website.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.