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.
Impact on Disparities
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.
1 Cheung 2012* - Cheung ACK, Slavin RE. How features of educational technology applications affect student reading outcomes: A meta-analysis. Educational Research Review. 2012;7(3):198-215.
2 Verbruggen 2021 - Verbruggen S, Depaepe F, Torbeyns J. Effectiveness of educational technology in early mathematics education: A systematic literature review. International Journal of Child-Computer Interaction. 2021;27.
3 Donnelly-Hermosillo 2020* - Donnelly-Hermosillo DF, Gerard LF, Linn MC. Impact of graph technologies in K-12 science and mathematics education. Computers and Education. 2020;146.
4 Ran 2020* - Ran H, Kasli M, Secada WG. A meta-analysis on computer technology intervention effects on mathematics achievement for low-performing students in K-12 classrooms. Journal of Educational Computing Research. 2021;59(1):119-153.
5 Shi 2019* - Shi Y, Zhang J, Yang H, Yang HH. Effects of interactive whiteboard-based instruction on students’ cognitive learning outcomes: A meta-analysis. Interactive Learning Environments. 2021;29(2):283-300.
6 Little 2018* - Little CW, Clark JC, Tani NE, Connor CM. Improving writing skills through technology-based instruction: A meta-analysis. Review of Education. 2018;6(2):183-201.
7 Cheung 2013* - Cheung ACK, Slavin RE. The effectiveness of educational technology applications for enhancing mathematics achievement in K-12 classrooms: A meta-analysis. Educational Research Review. 2013;9:88-113.
8 Tamim 2011* - Tamim RM, Bernard RM, Borokhovski E, Abrami PC, Schmid RF. What forty years of research says about the impact of technology on learning: A second-order meta-analysis and validation study. Review of Educational Research. 2011;81(1):4-28.
9 Mathematica-Streke 2011 - Streke A, Chan T. Reviewing systematic reviews: Meta-analysis of What Works Clearinghouse computer-assisted interventions. Princeton: Mathematica Policy Research (MPR); 2011.
10 Archer 2014* - Archer K, Savage R, Sanghera-Sidhu S, et al. Examining the effectiveness of technology use in classrooms: A tertiary meta-analysis. Computers & Education. 2014;78:140-149.
11 Cheung 2012b* - Cheung ACK, Slavin RE. Effects of educational technology applications on reading outcomes for struggling readers: A best evidence synthesis. Reading Research Quarterly. 2012;48(3):277-299.
12 Li 2010* - Li Q, Ma X. A meta-analysis of the effects of computer technology on school students’ mathematics learning. Educational Psychology Review. 2010;22(3):215-43.
13 Rosen 2007 - Rosen Y, Salomon G. The differential learning achievements of constructivist technology-intensive learning environments as compared with traditional ones: A meta-analysis. Journal of Educational Computing Research. 2007;36(1):1-14.
14 Terrazas-Arellanes 2018* - Terrazas-Arellanes FE, Gallard M AJ, Strycker LA, Walden ED. Impact of interactive online units on learning science among students with learning disabilities and English learners. International Journal of Science Education. 2018;40(5):498-518.
15 Slavin 2014 - Slavin RE, Lake C, Hanley P, Thurston A. Experimental evaluations of elementary science programs: A best-evidence synthesis. Journal of Research in Science Teaching. 2014;51(7):870-901.
16 Darling-Hammond 2014 - Darling-Hammond L, Zielezinski MB, Goldman S. Using technology to support at-risk students’ learning. Stanford, CA: Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education (SCOPE); 2014.
17 Pollock 2019 - Pollock M, Yonezawa S, Gay H, Rodriguez L. Pursuing deep equity in “blended” classrooms: Exploring the in-person teacher role in supporting low-income youth through computer-based learning. Teachers College Record. 2019;121(5).
18 Timmerman 2006* - Timmerman CE, Kruepke KA. Computer-assisted instruction, media richness, and college student performance. Communication Education. 2006;55(1):73-104.
19 Schmid 2009* - Schmid RF, Bernard RM, Borokhovski E, et al. Technology’s effect on achievement in higher education: A stage I meta-analysis of classroom applications. Journal of Computing in Higher Education. 2009;21(2):95-109.
20 Schmid 2014* - Schmid RF, Bernard RM, Borokhovski E, et al. The effects of technology use in postsecondary education: A meta-analysis of classroom applications. Computers & Education. 2014;72:271-291.
21 Anglum 2020* - Anglum JC, Desimone LM, Hill KL. Integrating computer-based curricula in the classroom: Lessons from a blended learning intervention. Teachers College Record. 2020;122(1):1-50.
22 Greenberg-Worisek 2019 - Greenberg-Worisek AJ, Kurani S, Finney Rutten LJ, et al. Tracking Healthy People 2020 internet, broadband, and mobile device access goals: An update using data from the Health Information National Trends Survey. Journal of Medical Internet Research. 2019;21(6):1-10.
23 CRS-Rachfal 2020 - Rachfal CL. State broadband initiatives: Selected state and local approaches as potential models for federal initiatives to address the digital divide. Congressional Research Service (CRS) R46307; 2020.
24 CRS-Kruger 2019 - Kruger LG, Gilroy AA. Broadband internet access and the digital divide: Federal assistance programs. Congressional Research Service (CRS) RL30719; 2019.
25 Benda 2020* - Benda NC, Veinot TC, Sieck CJ, Ancker JS. Broadband internet access is a social determinant of health! American Journal of Public Health. 2020;110(8):1123-1125.
26 Pew-Broadband 2019 - Pew Research Center (Pew). How states support broadband projects: Lawmakers use a variety of funding sources and mechanisms to meet expansion goals. 2019:1-6.
27 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.
28 US ED-NETP 2017 - US Department of Education (US ED), Office of Educational Technology (OET). National education technology plan (NETP). 2017.
29 RAND-Tosh 2020 - Tosh K, Doan S, Woo A, Henry D. Digital instruction materials: What are teachers using and what barriers exist? RAND Corporation. Data Note: Insights from the American Educator Panels. 2020.
30 NCSL-Broadband 2020 - National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). State broadband task forces, commissions or authorities and other broadband resources. 2020.
31 LawAtlas-State preemption - LawAtlas. State preemption laws in 12 domains.
32 CN-Kienbaum 2021 - Kienbaum K. Preemption detente: Municipal broadband networks face barriers in 19 states. Community Networks (CN). 2019; Updated May 2021.
33 DigitalC - DigitalC. DigitalC, a non-profit empowering Greater Cleveland to achieve success through technology, innovation, and connected community.
34 Cox-C2C - Cox Communications. Connect2Compete (C2C): Affordable home internet is an essential tool for today’s education.
35 FCC-E-Rate program - Federal Communications Commission (FCC). E-Rate: Universal service program for schools and libraries.
36 FCC-EBBP - Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Telecommunications access policy division: Emergency broadband benefit program (EBBP).
37 IS-Connectivity summit - Internet Society (IS). Indigenous Connectivity Summit 2020.
38 BroadbandUSA-TBCP - BroadbandUSA, National Telecommunications and Information Administration. Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program (TBCP).
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