Technology can have a dramatically positive impact on student engagement and instructional practices when implemented carefully and accompanied by extensive professional learning and management, according to a new report.

The report from SRI International analyzes schools participating in the Apple and ConnectED initiative. That initiative, launched in 2014, brings technology and support to 114 underserved schools in order to promote more personalized and student-centered educational experiences supporting critical thinking and conceptual understanding.

The initiative includes devices (including an iPad for every student and an iPad and MacBook for every teacher); infrastructure upgrades; a dedicated team to provide sustained support for leadership development, teacher professional learning, technology and project management; and access to an ecosystem of apps and other digital learning resources.

The report sheds light on some encouraging results:

1. After about a year, 75 percent of teachers say their students use their devices each day, and 98 percent say the initiative has been positive for their school, especially where student engagement, learning, and future success are concerned.

2. The study also finds that professional learning plays a pivotal role in an ed-tech initiative’s success. Hands-on, sustained learning is particularly important, and most teachers say they received this kind of professional support and find it more helpful than the typical professional development they’ve encountered.

3. Teachers say they have more confidence using technology in teaching and learning, are more comfortable letting students take more initiative, and they experience stronger outcomes when using new lessons.

4. Opportunities for deeper learning have increased over the first year, and many educators link those opportunities directly to each student having an iPad. For instance, personalized learning activities are accessed directly through the iPads, as are apps and tools to promote creative expression.

5. Students say teachers know them better, boosting both engagement and self-confidence. This leads to positive learning environments, and about two-thirds of elementary school students and one-third of high school students say their iPads have helped in this regard. Students say the iPads give them more opportunities to express themselves and their personal interests, along with letting their teachers better understand their academic progress.

6. There are some notable differences between students who increase their technology use and students who do not. Teachers whose students use technology more often tended to have better initial attitudes toward technology, and they also reported high rates of using technology in innovative ways.

7. Students are positive about their overall experience with the initiative and the iPads, with elementary students showing even stronger enthusiasm for the initiative than middle and high-school students. Students are also very positive about how the iPads have changed learning, with most reporting the technology helps them to stay engaged, collaborate, and learn.

Laura Ascione
About the Author:

Laura Ascione

Laura Ascione is the Managing Editor, Content Services at eSchool Media. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland's prestigious Philip Merrill College of Journalism. Find Laura on Twitter: @eSN_Laura