Research about Teaching and Learning with Technology and Student Outcomes

A WIDE Team in TSNT recently asked their coach for information comparing “the costs of using new technology and their benefits in terms of educational outcomes with the cost of more traditional programs and their respective educational outcomes.” I (DES) had to stare at this question a bit. It really involves a three-step:

(a) relationship between (teaching and learning with technology) and student outcomes;

(b) comparing student outcomes for teaching and learning with technology AND teaching and learning without technology

(c) comparing benefit (in terms of student outcomes) with costs of t&l with tech and t&l without.

When you get to (b) above, comparing t&l with and without tech., things become a bit more confusing. Clear-headed researchers would say, just like the Vermont farmer, “can’t get theah from heah,” because just introducing an innovation changes the equation. So you have to spend a lot of time justifying why the comparisons are equivalent and that already puts you on shaky ground. I’m not ducking (c), comparative cost-benefit, by claiming that (b), comparison, is a bridge too far; it’s just that I wouldn’t trust any studies that got to (c) without some firm footing in (b). So that’s why I’m sticking with (a)!

The most robust research has to do with (a) anyway. NCREL has done some good work in this arena. See, in particular, the study “A Meta-Analysis of the Effectiveness of Teaching and Learning with Technology on Student Outcomes” by Don Waxman (2003) .

WestEd published the following study: Ringstaff, C. & Kelley, L. (2002). The learning return on our educational technology investment. San Francisco, CA: WestEd.

A bit more dated and less rigorous but still helpful meta-analysis was done under the aegis of the Milken Foundation. This was also published in a peer-reviewed journal. Schacter, J., & Fagnano, C. (1999). Does computer technology improve student learning and achievement? How, when, and under what conditions? Journal of Educational Computing Research, 20(4) These articles all point to distinct, situation-specific, context-dependent advantages, all of which make addressing the comparison quesiton, b, trickier & trickier.


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