Friday, November 8, 2013

Technology, Added Value?

Rick and Evans (2014) write an article, “Supporting learning with interactive surfaces and spaces”, that has challenged me to rethink technology and its use in the K-12 classroom in terms of its impact when seen through the lens of the value it brings as opposed to its immediate and long-term cost.

The writers trace the development of several technologies including tangibles such as interactive whiteboards (Evans and Rick, 2014, p. 692); interactive tabletops –touch-based tabletops that accommodate multi-user perspectives and multiple concurrent users, tangible-based tabletops that allow the use of tangible objects and facilitate either collaboration or independent work (p. 693); and interactive spaces that are ecologies of devices and displays (p. 695).  This implies radical changes in classroom environment from physical configurations to the way teachers teach.  All of this comes at great cost; not only the initial and long-term cost of equipment but also costs in terms of time spent re-training teachers, and classroom contact time among other factors.  What if we fail?  What if after the massive expenditure we see no significant impact in terms of student learning?  A New York Times article (Richtel, 2011) titled “In Classroom of Future, Stagnant Scores”, explores this issue through an examination of a school district that has gone totally high tech, and asks critical questions.  Becta, a British charitable company now defunct, conducted several surveys aimed at assessing the impact of technology and value-added classroom practice.  The questions under-pinning their aims are still valid today (Crook, Harrison, Farrington-Flint, Tomas, & Underwood, 2010).

1.    What are the ways in which innovative and effective schools are using digital technologies to support learning?
2.    Which technologies are being used and how?  
3.    Is there evidence (qualitative and/or quantitative) that these are supporting learning? If so, what?
4.    What is the rationale for use in each context? How does this fit in with current understanding about ICT and teaching and learning?
5.    Are there any identifiable similarities across contexts from which it is possible to generate interpretive hypotheses about how and why digital technologies are beneficial?” (p. 6)

They saw question three as the core of the matter as it relates to the causal relationships between schools, ICT (As used in report), resources and learning (p. 6). 

The Joan Ganz Cooney Center (Pressey, 2013) published a report reviewing national surveys that polled teachers on their attitudes and practices related to technology. These surveys were conducted by The Gates Foundation, The Joan Ganz Cooney Center, Common Sense Media, PBS Learning Media, and Pew Research Center (p. 4).  A cross- survey synthesis showed that while teachers’ desire technology in the classroom, saw personal benefits in terms of professional development, lesson planning and collaboration with other teachers, and saw benefits to students in terms of learning processes and higher level skills, there were no linkages made between technology and students’ academic achievement (p. 16).  Does this imply that education policy makers, education technology providers, course designers, teachers and other education stakeholders should pause and rethink, considering the fact that it is not simply a question of whether or not we use technology, but how and at what cost, and for what value? 


Crook, C., Harrison, C. Farrington-Flint, L., Tom├ís, C., and Underwood, J. (2010). The impact of technology: value-added classroom practice final report. Retrieved from  
Evans, M. A. and Rick, J.  (2014).  Supporting  learning  with  interactive surfaces  and  spaces.  In Spector, M., Merrill, D., Elen, J. & Bishop, M. (Eds.). Handbook of Research on Educational Communications and Technology, 4th Ed. New York, NY: Springer.
Pressey, B. (2013). Comparative analysis of national teacher surveys. New York: The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop Retrieved from  
Richtel, M. (2011, September 3). In classroom of future, stagnant scores. The New York Times.  Retrieved from