Saturday, July 10, 2010

Matiri Report on Technology in Classrooms

I was reading one of Wendy James' blog post from the ITSE conference recently. It was on a session by Cheryl Lemke of the Metiri Group. It appears that one of, if not their main function is to perform assessments for organizations as to how well they are using technology. It is entitled, "Technology in Schools, what the research says". I was fascinated to see the results as our school has just made decisions as to what technology to purchase for the upcoming year. You can look at the full text of the report in the link above, here a summary of what I read.

Interactive whiteboards

To date, the impact of interactive whiteboards on academic achievement has been mixed. Some studies have shown increased achievements using IWB's while others have shown no effect. Others have shown increased achievement to be short-lived. One study resulted in Native American students improving geometry scores with whiteboard instruction. While some studies have shown improved student engagement, it is not known if IWB's improved higher order thinking. Teaching with a IWB may result in more creative teaching but may still remain teacher-centered unless student-centered use is implemented.


The use of "clickers" in the classroom may or may not improve learning, depending on how they are used. Clickers can be used for:

-checking for student understanding of the content being taught in real time
-diagnosing student misconceptions and misunderstanding
-displaying the responses of the group to trigger discussion and reflection
-gathering formative data to guide instruction
-saving time in the administration and scoring of quizzes

Studies have shown that they can have a positive influence on increased participation, student engagement and achievement on tests (factual and open-ended) if used regularly in class. The research seems to say that if used creatively and regularly they can influence student achievement.

Video Games

"Educators who use gaming with their students typically target the development of complex thinking skills and problem solving, planning, and self-regulated learning. The descriptive research in this area shows promising results, with most researchers commenting on the complexity of gaming, and the difficulty of distinguishing which attributes of the games were responsible for the outcomes in their studies. They also discuss the difficulty of using this type of educational game in schools due to the time restrictions of class periods, the need for continuous scaffolding to guide students’ learning, and the need for more constructivist, inquiry instructional strategies that are often not familiar to teachers".

Studies have shown increased achievement in geography, math and can improve student engagement. Video games have the potential to set the pace and timing of learning, teach map skills, experience various perspectives, practice systems thinking and strategic planning, engage in risk taking, collaborate, negotiate and make decisions.

"Many researchers suggest that the value of gaming to education will depend on a transformation of schools into systems that are more student-centered, adaptive to each students’ needs and measured as to metrics related to 21st Century skills, beyond just academics. This new body of work calls for more nuanced studies that identify which gaming attribute contributes to which student outcomes".


"Researchers found that the use of interactive simulations and games resulted in higher cognitive gains when compared to traditional instruction. Further analysis indicated that a key factor in such gains was student control; when the teacher or the computer dictated the sequence of the programs, no advantage was found." Without scaffolding, students may play the simulations over and over without recognizing the educational concepts involved in the game. Two games were mentioned in the report, "civilization" and "supercharged". Both resulted in improved student learning.


The literature indicates that modeling provides opportunities for students to:

  • improve their understanding of the natural world

  • design their own representation of natural phenomenon

  • discuss elements of natural phenomenon unbiased by the complexity of the real-world

  • reflect on their own thinking

Modelling has been found to be effective in creating a link between student understanding and scientific principles.

Augmented Reality

"Augmented reality (AR) experiences involve individuals or teams interacting in the real world while simultaneously using images, text, visuals, and/or global satellite positioning that have been mapped to their real world situation". Studies of AR learning have been done in Madison, Wisconsin (community) , Lithuania (digestive system) and the Netherlands (history) and have shown that AR can improve learning.

Virtual Worlds

"Virtual Worlds are immersive 3-D environments in which users are visually represented by avatars. The users, through their avatars, visually interact and communicate via chat, and are able to “act” upon their world as they move, learn, communicate, build objects, and interact socially within that environment." Researchers report that it is unclear as to whether or not improved learning is due to the 3-D environment or the instructionla strategy.

Mobile devices

"Over the past decade, mobile devices (phones) have transformed radically. These devices, which include tools such as cell phones, media players, and gaming platforms, have witnessed a rapid increase in power and functionality accompanied by an equally significant decrease in size and price. As a result, mobile learning has grown from a minor research interest to a focus of numerous projects worldwide. Overall, the research suggests that using handheld devices can considerably enhance student learning".

1:1 Computers

"1:1 computing refers to situations where each student and teacher has access to the use of a
personal laptop computer, typically with wireless access. In some cases, laptops are checked out to students for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week (24/7). In other cases, students may be restricted to in school only use, where laptops are checked out to individual students, but recharged at night in a cart; or students may have periodic access to a laptop from sets of computers on rolling carts
". 1:1 computing can result in increased engagement, improved technology skills of students and teachers, increased amount of writing and improved writing skills.

The study goes on to say that "there is little evidence of the effectiveness of large-scale laptop programs in most learning domains. Successful laptop programs must be part of balanced, comprehensive initiatives that focus on education goals, curricula, teacher professional development, and student assessment practices. A laptop program can contribute to achieving larger education reform goals. At the same time, providing teachers and students with laptops, in isolation, is not likely to be a sufficiently strong intervention to change patterns of teaching and learning significantly for the better".

Virtual Learning

"Virtual learning refers to a learning process where the teacher, trainer, facilitator and learners are geographically distant from each other. Learners are not together in a real or actual learning venue such as a class, but in a virtual learning environment made possible by the use of various
technological tools. The types of virtual learning range from supplementary to comprehensive, from synchronous to asynchronous, from audio to web-based or video-conferenced, as well as innovative hybrids thereof
". Virtual learning studies have shown that gains are more due to who is doing the learning, who is guiding the learning and the depth of learning as opposed to the style (virtual).

In all that, it occurs to me that whatever technology you use in your classroom, the message is more important than the medium. For me, if used effectively, technology provides it's greatest advantages in their ability to:

  1. improve student engagement,

  2. provide opportunities for differentiated instruction, and

  3. act as a platform to teach critical thinking skills
How are you using technology effectively in your school division and your school?

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