Under a grant from HP, the New Media Consortium and the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) has released the latest New Horizon Report for K-12 education. Not surprisingly, the two critical trends to take center stage are Cloud Computing and Collaborative Environments.
The critical issues surrounding the trends that this collaboration brings to the forefront is the degree to which we have failed to link student achievement to the technology that we are adopting and, further, the degree to which schools have been forced to miss the boat on one initiative after another due to lack of financial resources or insufficient political resolve. The Horizon Report lists five critical trends that are not disappearing any time soon:
- Technology is increasingly a means for empowering students, a method for communication and socializing, and a ubiquitous, transparent part of their lives.
- Technology continues to profoundly affect the way we work, collaborate, communicate, and succeed.
- The perceived value of innovation and creativity is increasing.
- There is increasing interest in just-in-time, alternate, or non-formal avenues of education, such as online learning, mentoring, and independent study.
- The way we think of learning environments is changing.
With new devices (e.g. iPad), and new technologies descending upon us on a daily basis, we need to consider how to best approach the challenges that we now face since our prior efforts have been so stilted and restrained. While we see pockets of excellence throughout the world, the systemic and sustainable changes to educational systems still evade us.
I understand why. While we all recognize the import of technology on daily life, we continue to be circumspect because the research proving its efficacy lacks so far behind the intervention that new technologies have already replaced those originally reviewed. Our system of reflection and review is insufficient in its capacity to truly address the actual effects of these trends.
A recent presentation by adjunct professors at Pacific Lutheran University is a perfect example. Their research on purported unintended consequences of technology heaped upon young unsuspecting children was, in most cases, 10 years old. Can anyone remember what kind of computers we were using 10 years ago? Can you remember which devices didn’t exist a decade ago?
In Visible Learning: A Synthesis of Over 800 Meta-Analyses Relating to Achievement by John Hattie (2009), computer assisted instruction was considered using 81 meta-analyses that included 4,875 studies involving 3.9 million subjects. The effect size was approximately d=0.37, something just more than developmental effects – in other words an effect that was about equivalent to just normal growth and development. Despite my argument above, there was little change in effect size when broken down by year of study which Hattie believes counters the belief in increasing effect with increased sophistication. Like many, the only correlation was between the use of computers and increased student engagement. Hattie concludes that there is no necessary relation between having computers, using computers, and learning outcomes.
But, hold the phone – Hattie throws us a bone when he does further analysis of the data and proposes that the following conditions must be met.
Computers are used effectively…
- when there is a diversity of teaching strategies
- when there is a pre-training in the use of computers as a teaching and learning tool (min. of 10 hours)
- when there are multiple opportunities for learning (e.g. deliberative practice, increasing time on task, etc.)
- when the student, not teacher, is in “control” of learning
- when peer learning is optimized
- when feedback is optimized
These two pieces of literature coupled with our own sound judgment form a new approach to prudent thinking on deployment of technology resources. A formula based approach of developing infrastructure, providing training, and prudently purchasing equipment may lead to a best practices scenario for technology’s next horizon.