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How Are Ed-Tech Practices Affecting Learning?

When technology’s impacts are studied, the results offer some insight on how it should (and shouldn’t) be implemented within the learning process.

By Lani Aquino

There’s no argument that technology has made many aspects of life easier and more manageable. Whenever any resources has a wow factor in daily life, it’s only a matter of time before it starts making its way into the realm of education. Technology has been infusing itself more and more into mainstream education, and this only seems befitting as technology has also become heavily infused in daily life.

As with any other drive, initiative, or practice, technology cannot rule the roost and take over the foundation of a successful educational system, and that foundation is good pedagogy. When technology becomes a separate entity, it loses its effectiveness as a teaching tool. When lesson focus turns to the technology as opposed to the learning that should be occurring, students and teachers are losing valuable opportunities for growth and success.

In the Education Week article The Best Ed-Tech Research: 5 Key Lessons for Educators, Benjamin Herold takes a look at an MIT J-PAL North America publication that reviewed information gathered from over 125 studies on the usage of ed-tech. Herold’s five big takeaways from the MIT publication offer some insight for teachers and school systems to reflect upon as they continue to incorporate technology into the curriculum. While technology is definitely here to stay, the role it plays must be carefully and continually reviewed. Striking a positive and impactful balance will be more achievable when viewed through these five lenses based on Herold’s findings.

  1. Expanded Use Isn’t Necessarily Positive Use- Today’s drive seems to be procuring more funds and adding more tech. Offering more hardware and giving students access to more software may be improving their computer proficiency, but there hasn’t been any found correlation to increased tech and increased grades or test scores. With little data on 1:1 device initiatives, this is an area that could see some positive changes in the future.
  2. Online-Only Courses Aren’t Making the Grade- Studies surrounding online charter schools and online credit-recovery programs show negative results. In-person teaching is the best way to positively impact student learning. When face-to-face interactions aren’t a viable option, online courses do serve a purpose, but they cannot replace the positive outcomes achieved when human interaction is available.
  3. Adaptive Math Shows Great Potential- One area where adaptive software is making a huge impact is mathematics. The key to this impact is found within the program(s) chosen though. While choices like SimCalc and Cognitive Tutor showed great results, studies showed that Cognitive Tutor-Geometry, ST Math, and “Teach to One” negatively impacted student results. Take the time to review and select the most positively impactful resources.
  4. All Hail the Tech Nudge- The convenience of electronics and their ability to aid in the communication process have proven to be beneficial. Parents of elementary students are served well with text messages reminding them about reading with students and sharing tips for doing so. Parents of middle schoolers benefit when updates about grades and attendance are sent. While the high school level lends itself to automated reminders and personal support for completing tasks, like college applications and aid forms.
  5. Be Wary of the “Social Psychology” Nudge- Growth mindset is a huge focus and buzzword in this day and age. Trying to build said mindset via automated tech nudges isn’t the way to go though. The use of such communications even raised privacy and consent issues from educators and parents. Any computer-generated social-psychology nudges should be avoided.

What this all boils down to in the end is the fact that technology isn’t a replacement for human interaction and good pedagogy. It’s dedicated teachers that make the impact, and when these teachers find ways to let technology enhance that impact, students can reach new heights. When tech becomes the leader, stakeholders pay the price. Using Herold’s five, big ed-tech findings can help teachers and school systems strike the right balance.

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