It’s a Brave New World

Technology has transformed life as we once knew it. The classroom and the online therapy session look much different than they did even ten years ago. Traditional chalkboards have been replaced with digital whiteboards, and classrooms have a surplus of iPads.

Is this advancement helping, or hurting, students to learn, participate in speech therapy, and partake in other school-related activities?

The Pros

Making Educational Technology Work in the Classroom

In a recent Pew Research Center survey, 92% of teachers said that the internet has a significant impact on their ability to access content, resources, and materials.

How the classroom experience and K-12 therapy are being enhanced by technology:

1. Technology Creates a More Engaged Environment

Some accuse technology of being a distraction. But it is more than just a distraction. Technology enhances participation in the classroom and the online therapy session. Computers, tablets, or other types of technology in the classroom in an online therapy session can transform boring subjects into fun activities.

2. Different Learning Styles Can Coexist

Since each child is different, it can be challenging to modify the lesson plan to accommodate every student. Technology provides the opportunity to individualize lessons. Kids who want to draw during class can use their talent to create an infographic to express themselves while gaining mastery over the content.

3. Collaboration is Improved

Teachers have reported that students help each other more frequently when using technology in the classroom. Many technology-based activities serve as a more natural entree to collaboration or seeking help from a friend or teacher.

4. Preparing for the Digital Future

According to a CompTIA (The Computing Technology Industry Association) study, 90% of students reported that technology in the classroom helped prepare for their digital future. Integrating instructional technology into the classroom will prepare students for their digital demands as adults.

5. Enhancing Connection to Students

Surprisingly, it was found that technology was a factor in teachers forming better relationships with their students. 84% of teachers said that they used the internet weekly to find the content they felt would engage their students, which enhanced their relationships.

The Cons

Notwithstanding the benefits of technology in the classroom, it has been found that digital innovations can be problematic for schools as well.

1. A New Expense

Since technology is evolving rapidly, it becomes quite challenging to remain up to date. Once schools integrate technology into the classroom, upgrading equipment is often expensive. Aside from equipment, new personnel are usually required to work out potential glitches in the system. And the new requirement of hiring teachers with comprehension of various software eliminates other excellent teachers who don’t have their digital knowledge or experience.

2. Social Dynamics are Compromised

E-learning, notwithstanding its educational value, removes the social benefits of a regular school. When students don’t have a classroom to attend, they travel through these developmental years, less likely to develop relationships with peers and friendships. And even from an educational standpoint, the children may not be as serious about the work when they are devoid of face-to-face time with a teacher.

3. Undetected Distraction

Many teachers believe that tablets and smartphones, far from being learning tools, turn into means of distraction. Unless students are closely monitored by their teacher, access to the internet allows children to easily migrate back and forth from educational apps to Facebook messaging their friends undetected.

4. A New Crutch?

Technology will likely become a crutch for students. Forty years ago, schools debated allowing certain types of calculators in class since they solved math problems for struggling students. This concern will be tenfold with access to apps that supply easy access to quick answers that will easily replace student thinking.

5. May Not be Helping with the Fundamentals

The New York Times article, “In Classroom of Future, Stagnant Scores,” discusses a school in the Kyrene School District that has fully implemented technology in the classroom to the tune of $33 million since 2005, while simultaneously suffering low standardized test scores. While technology is more engaging on a creative level, teachers worry that students will miss out on basic concepts like math and language.

What the Research Suggests

Recently researchers built a center at MIT called J-PAL North America to analyze and summarize the robust evidence surrounding our question. Their new publication, “Will Technology Transform Education for the Better?” looks at evidence from 126 rigorous experimental studies, most of which involved randomized control trials.

Below are some of the key takeaways for K-12 administrators and policymakers.

1. Expanding Access is Insufficient (and Could be Detrimental)

The J-PAL North America team asserted its primary finding pretty clearly:

“Initiatives that expand access to computers and internet alone generally do not improve kindergarten to 12th-grade students’ grades and test scores” and “may have adverse impacts on academic achievement,” they wrote in the new report.

2. Math Software Looks Promising

The J-PAL North America researchers reviewed 30 rigorous third-party studies of “computer-assisted learning” programs that target instruction to each student’s particular skill level. 20 of the 30 reported statistically significant positive effects. Of those, 15 were focused on math. But it was still unclear which specific math software programs are responsible for its being useful.

3. Messages Are a No-Brainer

The J-PAL North America team concluded that technology-based messages, such as texting to students and parents, are a cost-effective way to make a significant difference. They found that “technology-based nudges that encourage specific, one-time actions … can have meaningful if modest, impacts…often at low costs.”

What Does It All Mean?

For K-12 administrators, the question is not as simple as whether or not education technology works. It is necessary to drill down into the details regarding the particular technology under consideration. Questions to ask are, “What is the purpose of this technology?” “Which students will use it?” and “Under what circumstances will we employ the technology?”