How Do We Know If Ed Tech Even Works?

Publisher 
Education Week
Author 
Britt Neuhaus, Philip Oreopoulos, & Thomas J. Kane
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Excerpt 

We have an obligation to test educational technology before widespread adoption

In April, the newest National Assessment of Educational Progress scores once again showed minimal progress in U.S. math and reading achievement and a widening achievement gap between our highest and lowest performers. Against this backdrop, educators today are eager for solutions that have long seemed elusive to age-old challenges in education.

Education technology will be part of the solution. Technology today allows teachers to adapt instruction to wide-ranging student needs. Students can use software to receive rapid, specific feedback and work through richer, more realistic problems. Education technology is now ubiquitous in many U.S. classrooms—with annual pre-K-12 spending on software reaching a staggering $8.3 billion, according to a 2015 estimate from the Software and Information Industry Association.

Yet we cannot be blind to the risks. Cash-strapped schools may be tempted to purchase software to keep their most troublesome students occupied, rather than to actually teach them. Today, a majority of products are purchased with no evidence of efficacy. Based on a survey of more than 500 school and district leaders conducted by a 2016 EdTech Efficacy Research Academic Symposium working group, only 11 percent of those responsible for making education-technology adoption decisions demand peer-reviewed research.

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