How can research inform ed-tech decisions?

By Laura Devaney, Managing Editor
March 9th, 2012

Experts shared their views on how research can affect ed-tech purchasing.

Education stakeholders often ask for research to justify ed-tech purchases. But instead of using research to rationalize a large-scale, expensive purchase, school leaders first should identify the problem for which they believe technology is the answer, according to an expert panel at the Consortium for School Networking’s 2012 Technology Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C.

During a members-only Chief Technology Officer Forum, attendees explored how they should answer superintendents who want to see hard evidence to back up ed-tech purchases, and what, exactly, research says about technology in education.

The timelines for research and education are not the same, panelists agreed, noting that school leaders might ask ed-tech leaders for data about a particular technology to inform a purchase that must be made within a month, whereas research on technology’s effectiveness in education can take months or even years.

“Decisions are made on the basis of political calculations that the new devices will solve maybe a few of the pressing problems, or if not solve them, work on them—not on the basis of whether they have been shown to work and be effective by researchers,” said panelist Larry Cuban, professor emeritus of education at Stanford University. “To answer the question, tell the truth—no one yet knows. Consider it a beta version if you’re using iPads or new software.”

For more news about ed-tech research, see:

New guidelines for ed-tech research could help educators, vendors

On ed tech, we’re asking the wrong question

Study reveals factors in ed-tech success

Report: Ed tech has proven effective … but hasn’t realized its full potential

What questions should school leaders ask?

Some education leaders forge ahead with technology purchases and implementation, confident that the investment will pay off. But others are more hesitant.

Those who hesitate should consider an important question, Cuban suggested: What is the problem to which an iPad or a laptop is the solution? “Asking that question first uncovers a confused set of purposes surrounding the buying and using of high-tech devices and software for classrooms,” he said.

1 2 3 4 Read More »

2 Responses to “How can research inform ed-tech decisions?”

March 13, 2012

Technology changes so quickly that by the time the research comes out, the equipment has changed so significantly that the research does not prove much of anything any more. I look at how far tablets have come. Three years ago they di dnot exist and any study would not be able to show how effective they are for a few more years. By then, the table may no onger be he device of choice. We will then have to wait for a study on that device and so on and so on never having ever committed to a purchase and keeping education well behind as it has been for years.

March 14, 2012

So, why not use technology to speed up the research? Or design software that realizes that there is a problem and informs teachers and school administrators, and parents right away: “Hello, this letter was automatically generated by the Read to Lead 6000, reading improvement program. My records show that your child is enrolled in my system but has not logged in in over a week. Please, make sure that your child is going to school and that they are using the program as designed.” If the parent only reads Spanish, then the program could send this note is Spanish. If the parent doesn’t read then the program could use text-to-speech to call them on the phone and read this messages to them. If they do not have a phone, then the system can email a teacher or teacher’s assistant to take action.