Study reveals factors in ed-tech success

By Laura Devaney, Managing Editor
June 28th, 2010


When properly implemented, technology can have a positive impact on student achievement.

If schools can afford to make only one key investment in education technology, it should be infusing their intervention classes with technology, the study suggests.


Schools with one-to-one computing programs have fewer discipline problems, lower dropout rates, and higher rates of college attendance than schools with a higher ratio of students to computers, according to the results of a major new study. But for one-to-one programs to boost student achievement as well, they must be properly implemented, the study found.

Sixty-nine percent of the schools in the study reported that their students’ achievement scores on high-stakes tests were on the rise. Among schools with 1-to-1 computing programs, that figure was 70 percent. But it was 85 percent for schools with 1-to-1 computing programs that employed certain strategies for success, including electronic formative assessments on a regular basis and frequent collaboration of teachers in professional learning communities.

The findings come from Project RED (Revolutionizing Education), a national initiative that aims to prove that when properly implemented, investing in technology can boost student achievement and will result in monetary savings for schools and local governments. The survey results will be revealed June 28 at the annual International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) conference [Editor’s Note: For more live coverage of this year’s ISTE conference, go to:].

The study is believed to be the largest full-scale look at how technology is being used in schools, and what factors lead to the greatest success in education technology.

Researchers surveyed nearly a thousand schools with diverse student populations and varying levels of technology integration. Using a regressive model of statistical analysis, they correlated 11 measures of success (such as dropout rates, discipline rates, and student achievement scores) with more than 100 independent variables across 22 categories to determine which factors had the biggest impact on success.

Results indicate that schools properly implementing 1-to-1 programs achieve more educational success than schools with higher student-to-computer ratios.

“In our practice, we see how personalization and individualization of instruction work best when students have 100-percent access to a computing device,” said Leslie Wilson, president of the One-to-One Institute, a nonprofit organization focused on professional development for technology integration and a co-author of the study.

Leadership and vision are two essential components in technology implementation, the study found, and while all schools can benefit from technology, the study shows that “when principals receive specializing training and technology [is] properly implemented, the benefits increase even more,” according to Project RED.

In fact, a strong principal and strong district leadership are among the most important variables when it comes to implementing education technology and transforming schools, which suggests that change management training is especially important for principals involved in large-scale technology implementations.

“It seems that when the whole rest of the world is using technology to enhance processes, in education we’re not getting that traction, [and it is] particularly frustrating,” said Eileen Lento, education strategist for Intel. “It’s clear now that we have to improve educational outcomes, and in some cases we can’t do that without technology.”

Implementation factors

“The most exciting findings were identification of which implementation factors improve learning outcomes,” said Tom Greaves, CEO of the Greaves Group and founder of the initiative.

Daily technology use in core subject-area classes, frequent technology use in intervention courses, and a low student-to-computer ratio were found to play a critical role in reducing dropout rates, the study reveals. Principal leadership and training also were important factors.

“Students in reading intervention, special education, [and] Title 1 [programs] … benefit from the individualized instruction that technology can provide best,” according to Project RED.

In fact, if schools can afford to make only one key investment in education technology, it should be infusing their intervention classes with technology, the study results suggest. Technology-infused intervention programs were the top predictor for improved high-stakes test scores, lower dropout rates, and improved discipline, Project RED said. The only other top predictor for more than one measure of educational success was a low student-to-computer ratio.