learning educational technology

Three lessons from rigorous research on education technology

Hope seen in “personalized” software for math


an August 2017 working paper, “Education Technology: An Evidence-Based Review,” published by the National Bureau of Economic Research with clear tables on which technology improves learning and which doesn’t.

1. Computers and internet access alone don’t boost learning

Handing out laptops, providing high-speed internet access or buying most other kinds of hardware doesn’t on its own boost academic outcomes. The research shows that student achievement doesn’t rise when kids are using computers more, and it sometimes decreases.

2. Some math software shows promise

math programs such as SimCalc and ASSISTments. One popular program, DreamBox, showed small gains for students, as well. Only one piece of software that taught reading, Intelligent Tutoring for the Structure Strategy (ITSS), showed promise, suggesting that it is possible to create good educational software outside of math, but it’s a lot harder.

One commonality of the software that seems to work is that it somehow “personalizes” instruction. Sometimes students start with a pre-test so the computer can determine what they don’t know and then sends each student the right lessons, or a series of worksheet problems, to help fill in the gaps. Other times, the computer ascertains a student’s gaps as he works through problems and makes mistakes, giving personalized feedback. Teachers also get data reports to help pinpoint where students are struggling.

3. Cheap can be effective 

a study in San Francisco where texts reminded mothers to read to their preschoolers. That boosted children’s literacy scores.

more on educational technology in this IMS blog

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