Being Responsible means Evaluating the Effect of Technology in the Classroom

Checking for a positive effect when integrating technology in classroom practice is critical for school improvement and effectiveness. The evaluation of using these new tools in our classrooms should not be an optional “add-on” that may or may not be done rigorously and may or may not be taken seriously by educators and policymakers.

The number of tech-tools/solutions for students is growing. The financial cost for these tools varies from free to substantially high. The time cost is always high because you need to first train educators and then take from precious class time. A risk that is not always appreciated by teachers struggling to deliver a packed curriculum to diverse students.

Finally – the most important cost is the risk of not being effective: This is the cost of a lost opportunity to learn for the students on which these tools are being imposed! This is the cost that is too high to risk without due diligence!

We are now at a point where the evaluation of technology-based instruction should be mandatory when introducing it into a classroom. To date, this kind of practical work has been limited – especially when it comes to the younger grades. I am at a loss when trying to think of any other field where we introduce new tools without rigorous empirical consideration on their effect. So why would it be acceptable in the only field that directly and indirectly affects each and every member of society – education?

This is a bleak picture – and some might argue that there are a lot of studies on the effect of online learning etc. But I am talking about applied research for real-time feedback in context. I am talking about being responsible to all students as educational technology companies release more and more solutions with the promise of increased student success – and little proof!

Despite the bleak reality, there are pockets of responsible professionalism that are emerging. For example,

It is noteworthy to highlight that there are critique these evaluations. The evaluations and the critiques are important for the community of educators, technology developers, evaluators and policymakers to all engage in examining the effect on student learning. It is only through a collaboration from all these stakeholder that we will ensure the best technological solutions for increasing student success. This was the reminder from SRI as the evaluators reflected on  promising findings:

“keep in mind a basic principle of scientific research … Positive results merit continued and even expanded use, but ongoing evaluation is needed to build a body of evidence, especially as interventions are implemented in varied ways.”

 

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5 thoughts on “Being Responsible means Evaluating the Effect of Technology in the Classroom

  1. Great post. Spot on. Many schools in the UAE are hiking up their fees due to the addition of technology to the school day (e.g. the use of laptops in class) without any way to prove that these changes are effective or even beneficial.

  2. This is such a disputed topic of discussion among everyone involved in learning. Our main goal as teachers is to facilitate students’ learning so that they can aquire the knowledge and skills necessary for their future studies and professions. So, does technology in the classroom enhance learning? I myself see the benefits of using technology mainly as an independent learning tool. I can also see the advantages of using smartboards in class due to its practicality.
    I teach in the UAE and I see that sometimes our effectiveness as teachers is judged according to how many hours of classroom time our students spend in front of their laptops. I do see lots of advantages of using technology in the classroom, but having students spend a lot of class time focussing individually on the computer screen at the detriment of real classroom interaction might do more harm than good. Here is a link to one of the TED conferences that might be of interest in this issue. http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/sugata_mitra_shows_how_kids_teach_themselves.html

  3. Dear Mahela: It is not only in the UAE that teacher effectiveness is sometimes confused with time spent using technology in the classroom. The issue that I find … is that there is a jump in the logic model that assumes that time using technology is directly proportional to student learning and achievement. But you are right… that is a false assumption.

    If we want to find out about the effectiveness of technology use, then we need to examine the effect of a particular approach on student engagement, learning, and achievement as with any other pedagogical approach.

    The conversations seem to be moving in this direction… perhaps we will soon see regional research/evaluations that consider the real effect and can offer some evidence for all of us in the UAE and elsewhere.

  4. ‘Effectivenss’ is so slippery. How can you isolate the ‘effect’ of a technological tool outside of its contextual use? What might be the contribution to the learning of the teachers’ planned pedagogical strategies? Or the level of critical thinking expected? Or where the use of the tool comes in the span of the topic? For example, what has gone before to prepare the learning ground? Or even who the students are as a class?
    A literature review in New Zealand might add to the discussion:
    http://www.educationcounts.govt.nz/publications/ict/e-learning-and-implications-for-new-zealand-schools-a-literature-review/executive-summary

  5. Pingback: Effect Of Technology In The Classroom | Information Technology

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