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[[The Effectiveness of Educational Technology in the K-12 classroom|The Effectiveness of Educational Technology in the K-12 classroom

Technology is advancing at a dramatic pace and has significantly changed how we work, play and learn. Computers have revolutionized the way we work in almost every major industry. But when we look at a K-12 classroom, it looks surprisingly untouched. Certainly, there are pockets of technology integration in the teaching and learning process in K-12 schools, but considering the audience of students who are growing up digitally, the classroom has fallen behind in its adoption of digital resources. Today’s students are fundamentally different in the way that they view, engage in and interact with our world. According to Van Eck (2006)[[1]], today’s digital youth have become disengaged in the traditional classroom. These young people “require multiple streams of information, prefer inductive reasoning, want frequent and quick interactions with content and have exceptional visual literacy skills”. How effectively is technology being used to engage and motivate these young learners to reach their maximum potential?

Promise of Technology for Students

Many studies have been done to evaluate the effectiveness of educational technology in the classroom. Papert’s study (1993)[[2]] and Prensky’s (2003)[[3]] work ten years later both note that software games specifically offer children a fast-paced and rewarding environment compared to their relatively boring and slow classes. Papastergiou’s (2009)[[4]] high school computer science class study finds computer games to be effective and motivational among all students in the class, regardless of gender. Games offer a potentially powerful learning environment by offering active, experiential, problem-based learning notes Oblinger (2004)[[5]]. They provide immediate feedback, activate prior knowledge and encompass opportunities for self-assessment. Critical thinking and problem-solving skills are two additional benefits that technology can offer. For all students, computers offer a non-judgemental environment with immediate feedback. Multiple senses and learning styles benefit from technology use. Struggling students in particular are motivated and see gains in achievement (Virvou et al., 2005)[[6]]. Furthermore, teachers find that student attendance increases when technology is incorporated into daily use. Technology is currently being used in multiple ways: for drill and practice, to provide real world simulations and experiences, for access to a wealth of resources and people on the internet and as a productivity tool. (Noeth & Volkov, 2004)[[7]].

Promise of Technology for Teachers

Little research has been done on the benefits of technology for teachers. Based on classroom experiences, a number of advantages are apparent. The internet provides a vast amount of resources for teachers to imbed in their lessons. Teachers have the ability to share content and gain advice from colleagues who may be in the same district or another country. Access to these resources is available twenty-four hours a day. Technology can offer rich and relevant content and enrich instruction, whether it is with the whole group, small groups or individual work. Teachers often teach to their personal learning style, and technology can build teacher capacity through collaboration and lessons that offer support for multiple modalities.


Challenges Faced

By simply providing technology, districts do not ensure that it will automatically enhance the teaching and learning process. Many studies have reported that there is “no significant difference” when technology is incorporated into the classroom. Cummins and Sayers (2007)[[8]] argue that many studies focus on transmission-based orientations which aim to help students internalize the content vs. inquiry-based orientations which aim to support students in constructing knowledge. Technology should be used to change the face of the classroom, not replicate functions currently performed. Only then will it be a ‘game changer’ and offer significant benefits. Another challenge, maintains Spector (2001)[[9]], is that technology is changing at such a rapid pace that only teachers with special knowledge and skill, which he calls technocrats, can manage the effective integration of technology. He continues by noting that the “organizational issues required to translate advances in learning theory and educational technology into meaningful practice have yet to be addressed.” Reliability of the equipment and adequacy of teacher preparation are two common barriers to implementation, according to Cuban (2001)[[10]]. When a reluctant teacher finally decides to try technology with the students, only to have the equipment malfunction, it will be a monumental effort to convince that teacher to make the effort again anytime soon. And parental opinion and concern has caused some students to be removed from activities related to technology. Appropriate objectives and goals for its use, integration into curricular expectations and significant professional development are necessary in order to overcome many of the challenges faced by teachers in integrating technology.


Much of the earlier research on technology effectiveness concerned itself with technology pitted against traditional teaching to see which was most effective (Hartley, 2007)[[11]]. These studies often produced results with ‘no significant difference’ but failed to use technology in new and innovative ways in the classroom. Today, districts are attempting to measure the effectiveness of technology in multiple ways, such has how often it is used and how have test scores improved. These measurements do not capture how technology may be used to change the delivery of education to appeal to today’s students. However, there is certainly consensus among the research as to the complexity and challenge of how to actually determine technology’s effectiveness (Noeth & Volkov, 2004)[[12]].

More recent research has generally agreed on the following points. First, when computer usage is combined with traditional instruction, students achieve higher academic performance. Students learn faster, have more positive attitudes toward learning and show greater retention of information when computers are incorporated. Low achieving and at-risk students show the greatest gains with computer usage. Finally, effective and continual teacher training is a critical component of successful technology implementation. (Noeth & Volkov, 2004)[[13]].

Further research shows that teacher preparation and experience, student prior knowledge, equipment reliability, instructional methods and administrative support all play a significant factor in the success of technology integration. Teacher attitudes regarding the role that technology can play in effective teaching and learning should not be underestimated (Ertmer et al., 1999)[[14]].


Several recommendations come to light, based on the literature review:

  • Districts must have specific educational goals and a vision of how technology can help meet these goals. This vision must be clearly identified, communicated and committed to by all stakeholders.
  • Any technology initiative should be a component of a broader education reform that includes continuous teacher professional development and capacity building, student assessment and a schools’ capacity for change.
  • The school’s administration is a key factor in the success of any technology project.
  • Just as teachers model effective strategies, district professional development should model effective technology integration to teachers, and then follow up with a repository of resources and social networking tools where teachers can turn for assistance. Professional development should be around key curriculum concepts with technology playing a supporting role vs. teaching about technology.

Technology can play an important role in engaging students in the classroom and reaching out to meet the needs of all students. It cannot function in isolation but must be a key component to a district’s overall vision and goals for student achievement.


Cuban, L. (2001). Oversold and underused: Computers in the classroom. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Cummins, J., Brown, K., & Sayers, D. (2007). Literacy, technology, and diversity: Teaching for success in changing times (Allyn & Bacon, Boston). 36(9). Retrieved from

Dynarski, M., Agodini, R., Heaviside, S., Novak, T., Carey, N., Campuzano, L., et al. (2007). Effectiveness of reading and mathematics software products: Findings from the first student cohort (NCEE Rep. No. 2007-4005). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences.

Ertmer, P. A., Addison, P., Lane, M., Ross, E., & Woods, D. (1999). Examining teachers’ beliefs about the role of technology in the elementary classroom. Journal of Research on Computing in Education, 32(1), 54–71.

Gulbahar, Y. (2007). Technology planning: A roadmap to successful technology integration in schools. Computers and Education, 49, 943–956.

Hartley, J. (2007). Teaching, learning, and new technology: a review for teachers. British Journal of Educational Technology. 38(1), 42–62.

Noeth, R., & Volkov, B. (2004) ACT policy report: Evaluating the effectiveness of technology in our schools. Washington, DC: ACT, Inc.

Oblinger, D. (2004). The next generation of educational engagement. Journal of Interactive Media in Education, 2004(8), 1–18.

Papastergiou, M. (2009). Digital game-based learning in high school computer science education: Impact on educational effectiveness and student motivation. Computers and Education. 52(1), 1-12.

Papert, S. (1993). The children's machine: Rethinking school in the age of the computer. New York: Basic Books.

Prensky, M. (2003). Digital game-based learning. ACM Computers in Entertainment, 1(1), 1–4.

Spector J (2001) An overview of progress and problems in educational technology. Interactive Educational Multimedia 3 (October 2001), 27–37.

Van Eck, R. (2006). Digital game based learning: It’s not just the digital natives who are restless. Educause Review, 41(2), 17-30.

Virvou, M., Katsionis, G., Konstantinos, M. (2005). Combining software games with education: Evaluation of its educational effectiveness. Journal of Educational Technology & Society. 8(2).