Technology such as computers, mobile devices, internet access, and interactive white boards can be incorporated into instruction to help educators deliver learning materials and support learning in traditional classrooms1. Computer-assisted instruction programs, for example, deliver instruction at each student’s assessed level, supplementing teacher instruction but relying heavily on computer/student interaction. Computer-managed learning programs assess students, assign materials, score tests, and chart progress. Comprehensive models combine computer-assisted instruction with non-computer activities.
Expected Beneficial Outcomes (Rated)
Increased academic achievement
Other Potential Beneficial Outcomes
Enhanced academic instruction
Evidence of Effectiveness
There is strong evidence that educational technology modestly improves student achievement when incorporated into traditional classroom learning1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, especially when the intervention includes teacher training and support10. Effects are stronger for educational technology applications in K-12 classrooms than in postsecondary classrooms8.
Educational technology modestly improves reading and writing outcomes for K-12 students1, 6, 9. Effects appear stronger for comprehensive programs that integrate teacher and computerized instruction than for computer-assisted instruction alone11. For struggling readers, however, small group tutorial programs that tightly integrate with a class’ reading curriculum can produce greater improvements in reading outcomes than comprehensive, whole class programs or computer-assisted instruction1. Comprehensive computer-assisted programs can substantively improve outcomes for beginning readers; however, in some circumstances, programs for beginning readers that do not use computers can be more effective than technology enhanced interventions9. The evidence base is smaller for technology-based writing instruction than for reading instruction. Technology-based writing instruction improves student outcomes by providing personalized feedback, more writing practice time, and support for teachers’ efforts. One study also suggests technology-based writing instruction may have greater effects for students with learning disabilities due to personalized support and individually paced extra practice6.
Educational technology modestly improves K-12 math outcomes, especially for elementary and special education students12, and students with poor academic performance records4. Several computer technology interventions have been shown to have positive effects on math achievement among students with poor academic performance records, including computer-based problem-solving systems, game-based technology, computerized tutoring, and computerized practice applications4. Effects on math outcomes appear stronger for computer-assisted instruction programs than for more integrated approaches7. Programs that incorporate a student guided problem-solving approach have stronger effects than those that simply supplement an existing, traditional lecture approach12, 13. Integrating educational technology into elementary school science classrooms can also enhance teaching and increase science learning for all students14, 15, including students with learning disabilities and English language learners14. Incorporating graphing technology in K-12 math and science classrooms improves students’ understanding of complex math and science topics, increases graph proficiency, and supports students’ investigative skills, for example, generating hypotheses, collecting, analyzing, and interpreting data, and reflecting on results3. Incorporating education technology into early education environments can also improve math competency among preschool students2.
Technology enhanced classroom instruction can benefit at-risk students when engaging students in interactive learning with teachers and technology and when the technology is used to explore and create, instead of to drill students16. Teachers are needed to support equitable outcomes for students using educational technology to access and understand college preparatory coursework, especially students from families with low incomes17.
Technology enhanced instruction can also improve college student achievement, especially in the physical and social sciences18. Enhancements appear most effective when they interactively support cognition rather than simply presenting course content electronically19, 20.
Educational technology such as interactive whiteboard instruction is more effective when used with an active or collaborative teaching approach5. For many schools and classrooms challenges to successful implementation of educational technology include insufficient technology infrastructure encompassing inadequate broadband access, not enough functioning hardware, and a lack of technical support. Among teachers, professional development training is needed to increase skills and improve attitudes and understanding of technology’s potential role. Incorporating educational technology creates new challenges for classroom management and requires additional teacher preparation time. Large variation in student motivation to use educational technology appropriately, student abilities and experience with technology, and student engagement and absentee rates also make successful classroom use of educational technology more difficult21.
Access to broadband is necessary for students and teachers to use the internet and educational technology in classrooms and at home. Surveys identify significant disparities in broadband access across the country by age, gender, income, and geography22, with a strong digital divide between urban and suburban areas with high incomes and rural and urban areas with low incomes23, 24. Experts suggest broadband internet access should be considered a social determinant of health, since broadband provides access to telemedicine, telework, online social services, distance education, online groceries, ecommerce, online social support, civic engagement opportunities, and more23, 24, 25. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted that lack of access to broadband is a public health issue and that disparities in access to broadband exacerbate economic, social, education, and health inequalities23, 24, 25. There are many ways for states to increase broadband access in underserved areas, such as grants and loans to internet service providers, nonprofit utility cooperatives, and local governments26.
Potential for mixed impact on disparities: Suggested by expert opinion
Technology enhanced classroom instruction has the potential to either increase or decrease disparities in academic outcomes between students from low income backgrounds and those from high income backgrounds, largely depending on whether schools and classrooms in under-resourced areas have equitable access to the same technology resources and teacher training as schools and classrooms in highly resourced areas22, 23, 24, 39, 40. One study in a large, urban school suggests there are several barriers to implementing educational technology, especially insufficient technology infrastructure encompassing inadequate broadband access, not enough functioning hardware, and a lack of technical support21. To achieve equitable outcomes for students from families with low incomes using educational technology, teachers are needed to help students access, use, and take full advantage of technology opportunities, especially college preparatory coursework17.
Technology enhanced classroom instruction can benefit at-risk students when teachers receive sufficient support and training to use the technology16. In some circumstances, it can modestly improve K-12 math outcomes for students with poor academic performance records4 and students in special education programs41. Technology enhanced classroom instruction can enhance science learning for students with learning disabilities and students with English language learner status14. One study suggests technology-based writing instruction may have greater effects for students with learning disabilities6.
Access to broadband is necessary for students and teachers to use the internet and educational technology in classrooms and at home. Surveys identify significant disparities in broadband access across the country22, with a strong digital divide between urban and suburban areas with high incomes and rural and urban areas with low incomes23, 24. Disparities in access to broadband exacerbate economic, social, education, and health inequalities and are another barrier to successful technology enhanced classroom instruction23, 24, 25.
Technology used in classrooms has evolved throughout history to support teaching and learning, from overhead projectors and photocopiers to handheld calculators and computers42. In the US, access to modern technology in classrooms has never been equal and in many cases was not available at all during segregation. The US Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education in 1954 declared ‘separate but equal’ as inherently unequal and unconstitutional43. However, the public school system in the US continues to be highly segregated and schools in different neighborhoods have vastly different resources available, since school financing largely depends on local property taxes. Discriminatory housing, lending, and exclusionary zoning policies have entrenched racial residential segregation and concentrated poverty. Formerly redlined neighborhoods are still oppressed by systemic and structural racism on many levels and local public schools in these areas are under-resourced44. Since adopting technology in classrooms requires financial investment and teacher training to use it effectively, many public schools are limited in their ability to use technology to enhance classroom instruction40.
The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 recommended that all students be technologically literate by eighth grade and affirmed that technology is an important component of teaching and learning in all areas of education40. As of 2020, however, only 45% of schools report having enough computers for each student and most computers are not available for students to take and use at home. There is significant variability in the overall quality of hardware and software available, in teacher training and technical support for technology use, as well as in access to and quality of internet service available in schools. Almost two-thirds of schools also report that teachers don’t have sufficient time to develop familiarity with new technologies and then to use them for teaching. Over a third of schools report that both old technology and a lack of technical support were moderate to large challenges for technology enhanced classroom instruction39. Although improvements have been made over time, more work is needed to increase access to and the accessibility of high quality technology in all schools and classrooms39, 40.
- Are education technology resources equitably distributed between schools and classrooms throughout your community?Are there classrooms that need new or updated technology resources?
- What funding opportunities are there to provide or update technology resources? What technology resources are teachers in your area asking for? What technical assistance is needed to maintain high quality technology resources?
- How could you partner or work with community organizations to support additional educational technology resources in your schools? To support teacher training to optimize technology use in the classroom?
- Are there schools in your area with inadequate broadband access, making it even more challenging or impossible to fully incorporate technology enhanced classroom instruction? How can you support increasing broadband access for these schools and the local community?
The federal Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology shares stories about educational technology innovation around the country and provides resources and grants for states to improve the use of technology in their school systems27. The National Education Technology Plan outlines a vision for greater equity in access to technology and to enriched learning experiences provided by technology across the country28. According to a 2018-2019 survey, nearly all teachers report consulting online tools or resources to plan instruction and about 88% of teachers report using digital materials to enhance classroom instruction, for example, YouTube, Kahoot!, Quizlet, ReadWorks, NewsELA, or Khan Academy. Many of the most commonly used digital resources are free to use29.
As of 2020, all 50 states have established some form of task force, commission, or other authority to oversee efforts to expand access to broadband, which usually includes identifying underserved or unserved areas and developing a framework to support statewide broadband efforts with public and private sector participation. At least 26 states have enacted legislation around broadband initiatives30. As of 2021, 17 states have legislation that bans, blocks, or restricts publicly owned, municipal broadband networks. The number of states with barriers to municipal broadband is decreasing; Arkansas and Washington are the most recent states to remove legislative barriers to municipal broadband31, 32.
Initiatives are underway across the country to increase access to broadband and affordable internet services. For example, in the Greater Cleveland area, the non-profit company, DigitalC, is working to increase broadband infrastructure in underserved residential areas, provide affordable services and devices, and improve digital literacy among residents addressing basic to intermediate skills for both hardware and software33. Connect2Compete (C2C) is EveryoneOn’s program to provide affordable internet service to qualifying families that need broadband access at home to support education for K-12 students. C2C is offered in partnership with leading cable companies including Cox Communications and Mediacom34. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) E-Rate program provides support and discounts to make internet access, hardware connection installation and maintenance, and telecommunications services more affordable for eligible elementary and secondary schools and libraries35. The FCC also established the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program with a $3.2 billion fund to support broadband services and devices for eligible families with low incomes to stay connected to the internet during the COVID pandemic36.
The annual Indigenous Connectivity Summit brings together community network managers and operators, Indigenous-owned internet service providers, community members, researchers, policy makers, and leaders to address the need for affordable, high quality, and sustainable internet access for Alaska Native, American Indian, Inuit, Native Hawaiian, First Nations, and Métis communities37. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration operates the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program, a $1 billion program to increase broadband access on tribal lands that supports telehealth, distance learning, broadband affordability, and digital inclusion38.
NCSL-Deye 2015 - Deye S. Harnessing the power of technology in the classroom. National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) Connected learning: A primer for state policymakers, first of four reports. 2015.
US ED OET-Technology - US Department of Education (US ED), Office of Educational Technology (OET). National education technology plan, federal funding for technology, & leveraging technology to promote powerful STEM learning.
US ED OET-Resources for teachers - US Department of Education (US ED), Office of Educational Technology (OET). Featured resources for teachers.
RWT - Talking Fingers. Read, write & type! (RWT). Learning system.
Voyager-VP - Voyager Sopris Learning. Voyager Passport (VP): A reading intervention program for grades K-5 with interactive online practice and remote ready resources.
AIR-Technology - American Institutes for Research (AIR). Technology for teaching and learning.
EveryoneOn-Toolkit - EveryoneOn. Low-cost internet service programs toolkit.
BroadbandUSA-SBLN - BroadbandUSA, National Telecommunications and Information Administration. State Broadband Leaders Network (SBLN) and state broadband programs.
BroadbandUSA-TBCP - BroadbandUSA, National Telecommunications and Information Administration. Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program (TBCP).
Pew-Broadband policy map 2021 - The Pew Charitable trusts (Pew). State broadband policy explorer: Laws governing high-speed internet access. 2021.
AIR-COVID resources - American Institutes for Research (AIR). AIR’s COVID-19 response and resources.
Schooltalking-Tools - Schooltalking.org. Schooltalking: Talk tools for antiracism and equity in school communities.
* Journal subscription may be required for access.
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