Research on Technology in the Classroom

Instructor: David Raudenbush
These days, it's nearly impossible to find a classroom that doesn't have at least one computer in it. Fortunately, research suggests adding technology to a classroom can have a positive effect on teaching and learning.

Prospective teachers often hear this question during job interviews: 'How will you incorporate technology into your classroom?' The question reflects a common assumption in education, using technology in the classroom will improve learning. Most current research shows the assumption has some truth to it. However, studies show that schools need to do more than make classrooms look like the bridge of the starship Enterprise. Educators must combine the technology with effective teaching strategies to produce the greatest results.

New technology is changing the way students learn in classrooms.
Student Tech

Changing Classrooms

Technology appears in modern classrooms through a variety of methods and devices. The list includes online learning, project-based learning, game-based learning, interactive whiteboards, desktop computers, tablet computers, cell phones, and social networking. Surveys show that most teachers and administrators in K-12 schools believe that technology has a positive impact on classrooms. In a 2011 survey by CompTIA, a trade association in the IT field, found that 78 percent of educators they questioned felt technology had a positive effect on classrooms. Additionally, 65 percent of the educators said technology made their students more productive.

Research published in the Journal of Research on Technology in Education examined 174 international case studies and found that teachers reported innovative technologies improved the teaching practices in their classrooms. According to the report, information technology in the classroom allowed students to conduct research and create presentations. The report also found that adding technology changes the structure of the classroom. Instead of a traditional classroom structure in which there is more of a teacher-directed focus, with the implementation of technology, teachers create activities, then act as a guide for students while they monitor progress.

New Ways to Learn

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology explored how gaming, simulations, and social media could improve classroom learning. Their study concluded that playing online games similar to Civilization and World of Warcraft developed problem-solving and communications skills. They also found programs that create simulations of real world events allowed teachers to demonstrate complex concepts like the stages of evolution. The use of social media in the classroom remains a controversial topic. However, the MIT study reported that the majority of students used social media sites to communicate with each other about school work. They also noted that social media could connect remote classrooms to people and places they could not otherwise research. For example, an English classroom in Nebraska could contact a noted author in New York.

Enter the iPad

Tablet computers are among the more recent innovations to appear in classrooms. A study of Kindergarten classrooms in Auburn, Maine, found that using iPads in class improved student performance on literacy tests. Educational publishers, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, found that iPads improved Algebra I test scores in California students by 20 percent.

Teacher and student collaborate with technology.
interactive tech

While the results of those studies are encouraging to persons who promote technology in the classroom, research shows that students may not gain as much in academic performance as educators expect. An analysis of 74 studies on the effect of computer use in mathematics classrooms only found a small positive effect on academic achievement tests. A similar analysis of 84 studies that explored the effect of computer learning systems on students' reading performance also found small but positive gains on reading achievement tests. Educational Research Review published both studies.

Say Goodbye to Chalkboards

Chalk dust and erasers have been classroom staples for generations. However, in modern classrooms, traditional chalkboards and erasable whiteboards have given way to internet-connected devices called interactive whiteboards. A teacher can use interactive whiteboards, such as the popular Promethean Boards and Smartboards, to present lessons, show videos, and display web content. These devices aren't just presentation tools. Teachers can also engage students with games and learning activities using the boards.

Students engage with interactive technology.
student whiteboard

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