Recently, an interesting study on technology use in the classroom was released by the National Association for Educational Progress (NAEP) and Center for American Progress to provide an overview of how technology is being used to help learning. The NAEP is a part of the federal Department of Education and their National Center for Education Statistics; their goal is to conduct research which informs high-level educational policy.
The first interesting point from the study is that, at present, no state is collecting data on the impact of technology use in the classroom. There is a great deal of acquisition of technologies to help learning, but no systematic controls in place to determine what the actual effect is. Technology adoption is a major part of school budgets, it not only matters that there is ample technology for students to use, but the quality of the technology product is also key.
For example, in math classes, students can use computer programs that give them the chance to drill on math skills. They will learn through the practice but whether or not that rote learning translates into understanding requires the additional interface of practical application or instruction that advances a student’s understanding of why the skills matter. What the study essentially suggests, is that students who use spreadsheets, geometry programs, mapping programs have a greater chance of truly learning the math because the depth of experience is more real.
There were also some interesting statistics regarding race, class and technology that emerged in the study. NAEP Assessments are able to get at a great deal of information, anonymously and with no stakes, due to the No Child Left Behind Act. Students in elementary, middle and high school which receive federal funds (which is basically any school) can be assessed through basic standardized tests that are really more surveys of what students can do and what their learning and home experiences are. The tests are used for the means of data collection and conducted under very strict controls of confidentiality because real socio-economic data is gathered.
In high school science, 73% of students reported watching a video in class on a topic as their experience of technology in high school science, which is about the same as students reported back in the 1980’s. This is surprising, and likely to change quickly given the focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) courses, but also important to plan and prepare for the future which will absolutely include increased use of technology, and hopefully used to for maximal gains in student learning.
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