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August 22, 2019

Education Technology: A Component, Not a Cure All – Part 1

MHT Partners  | Education Investment Bank

Schools have increasingly migrated away from traditional classrooms in favor of digital classrooms, given the fact that technology has inserted itself into nearly all aspects of human life. Educators view classroom technology to creatively engage students in course content, as it offers personalized learning opportunities rather than a “one-size-fits-all” solution. The combination of flipped classrooms, access to online content, and data that allows teachers to access student performance in real time creates an ideal, tailored learning environment. The implementation of tailored learning supports the idea of “learner variability,” a concept defined by Digital Promise, a top tier education non-profit that works at the intersection of education leaders, researchers, and technology developers to improve learning opportunities for all through the operative use of education technology. The science behind learner variability studies the range of cognitive, social, emotional, and psychological skills that each individual student brings into the classroom. Some students breeze through traditional curriculum, have prospering social skills, and benefit from a stable support system and home life. Other students may require more guidance in order to retain and regurgitate educational content, lack natural social skills, and have a chaotic home life . Digital Promise concludes that each of these intrinsic aspects must be considered to effectively customize learning and to build effective learning solutions and curriculums for students.

The 2008 published book, “Disrupting Class,” optimistically predicted that 50% of all high school courses in 2019 would be digital. While the numbers aren’t quite there, they are certainly moving in that direction. Nearly 35% of teachers say they utilize technology in education daily, and another 23% say they use it most days1. Technology implementation is moving in the right direction; however, the most important question to consider is whether students are reaping the benefits classroom technology is intended to provide. Research conducted by Digital Promise suggests an unfortunate answer: NO. Nearly 65% of the public believes that students are not reaching high levels of educational achievement, while only 35% think schools are adequately addressing the underlying issues that would spark growth in educational achievement. In addition, only 20% of the general public, 31% of parents, and 39% of the teachers believe schools “regularly and effectively tailor instruction to meet the needs of individual students” despite the advancement and availability of education technology(1). These statistics suggest that the application of technology in education has been ineffective.

To add to the discussion of inefficiency, it is apparent that ineffectiveness touches students in unequal ways. According to a survey conducted by Digital Promise, the general population not only believes education technology has been inefficient in yielding higher achievement but also believes it has mainly been ineffective for students who struggle in the classroom. In retrospect, this means that gifted students are receiving the most benefit from the technology solutions – ironic given one would think students who struggle the most would see the most academic improvement from the implementation of education technology. Academic achievement results disprove this common perception. Struggling students see education technology as an added layer of complexity to the classroom which compel them rather than propel them.

Could too much optimism create unrealistic expectations for education technology? It is safe to say that educators and schools have enthusiastically advocated for the digital classroom as a “fix all,” however, it must not be overlooked that efficacy is limited to the way technology is utilized. 80% of the general public confidently says that, if used appropriately to address the underlying issue of learner variability, these solutions will result in an upsurge in academic achievement1. But, implementing the optimal balance between traditional and digital classroom teaching is impending. The variance in academic achievement can and must be reversed. The burning question is… How?

In the next “Learning Curves” blog, we’ll discuss potential answers to this question of “how” to effectively implement education technology to both spark growth in academic achievement and close the Digital Learning Gap. Stay tuned!

[1] https://www.edsurge.com/news/2019-08-06-hype-hope-and-humblepie-for-predictions-about-digital-learning

 

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