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Learning & Leading with Technology Volume 29 Number 8 4 6

Subject: Research on academic


performance and technology
Audience: Teachers, technology
coordinators, library/media special-
ists, teacher educators
Grade Level: K12 (Ages 518)
Technology: All
Standards: NETST II; NETSA I
(www.iste.org/standards)
Supplement: www.iste.org/L&L
H ow D oes Technology
Influence Student Learning?
This m onths Research W indow s highlights
research findings for frequently asked
questions regarding technologys
effects on student learning
as determ ined by the
C enter for Applied
Research in
Educational
Technology
(C ARET).
By John Cradler, Mary
McNabb, Molly Freeman,
and Richard Burchett
Re se arch Win d o w s
Learning & Leading with Technology Volume 29 Number 8 4 6
Copyright ISTE (International Societyfor Technologyin Education),1.800.336.5191 (U.S.& Canada) or 1.541.302.3777 (Intl),iste@iste.org.All rights reserved.
May 2002 Learning & Leading with Technology 4 7
Research Windows
E
vidence ismounting to support
technology advocates claims
that 21st-century information
and communication toolsaswell as
more traditional computer-assisted
instructional applicationscan positive-
ly influence student learning processes
and outcomes. The Center for Appl-
ied Research in Educational Technol-
ogy (CARET) hasgathered compelling
research and evaluation findingsto an-
swer frequently asked questionsabout
how technology influencesstudent
achievement and academic perfor-
mance in relation to three primary cur-
ricular goals:
1. Achievement in content area
learning
2. Higher-order thinking and problem-
solving skill development
3. Workforce preparation
The research findingsalso emphasize
the importance of using technology
in conjunction with collaborative learn-
ing methodsand leadership aimed at
technology planning for school im-
provement purposes. For accessto
additional research findingsapplicable
to collaboration, planning, procure-
ment, and implementation of technol-
ogy in schools, read the supplement
online at www.iste.org/L&L and visit
the CARET Web site at http://
caret.iste.org.
Content Area Achievement
First and foremost, research reminds
usthat technology generally improves
performance when the application di-
rectly supportsthe curriculum stan-
dardsbeing assessed. In other words,
making standardsand learning objec-
tivesexplicit to the studentsispart of
effective technology implementation.
Technology integration activitiesoften
require teachersand curriculum plan-
nersto revisit curricular standardsas
they select technology applications.
A review of studiesconducted by the
CEO Forum (2001) emphasizes:
technology can have the greatest
impact when integrated into the cur-
riculum to achieve clear, measurable
educational objectives.
A recent study illustrateshow align-
ment between content-area learning
standardsand carefully selected tech-
nology usescan significantly increase
test scores. In an eight-year longitudinal
study of SAT-I performance at New
HampshiresBrewster Academy (Bain
& Ross, 1999), studentsparticipating
in the technology-integrated school-
reform efforts(School Design Model)
demonstrated average increasesof 94
pointsin combined SAT I performance
over studentswho participated in the
traditional school experience. The re-
form effortsincluded a pioneer laptop
program, where all studentsand faculty
carry portable computersand have
ready accessto a campusnetwork.
Along with technology implementa-
tion, Brewstersextensive school reform
effortsinvolved rethinking the way we
teach, how we build curriculum, and
the way we support and evaluate fac-
ulty (Bain & Smith, 2000, p. 152).
A West Virginia study showsan
increase in test scoresresulting from
integrating curriculum objectivesfor
basic skillsdevelopment in reading and
mathematicswith instructional soft-
ware (Mann, Shakeshaft, Becker, &
Kottkamp, 1999). Thiscurriculum was
reinforced with teacher instruction and
student achievement tests. Gainsin stu-
dent test scoreson the SAT-9 (for 950
fifth gradersin 18 schools) appeared
attributable to the alignment of the tar-
geted curriculum standardswith the
software, teacher instruction, and tests.
Numerousstudiesdocument stu-
dent understanding of mathematics
conceptsfrom using computer-based
and -assisted software. Logo program-
ming, computer-assisted instruction
(CAI) microworlds, and algebra and
geometry software are among those
effective in facilitating mathematics
achievement for elementary, middle,
and high school studentswhen teach-
ersare skilled in guiding student activi-
ties(Hillel, Kieran, & Gurtner, 1989;
McCoy, 1996; Simmons& Cope,
1990, 1993).
In English language artsand social
studies, teachersreport observing sig-
nificant change in student skillsand
knowledge acquired after their students
first multimedia project. After student
completion of the first multimedia
project, teachersreported increased
student knowledge in:
research skills,
ability to apply learning
to real-world situations,
organizational skills, and
interest in the content (Cradler
& Cradler, 1999).
Higher-Order Skills Development
Higher-order thinking and problem-
solving skills(e.g., information re-
search, comparing and contrasting,
synthesizing, analyzing, and evaluating)
enable learnersto apply their content
knowledge in a variety of waysleading
to innovation and deeper understand-
ing of content domains. Though some
technology applicationsare designed
for use in specific content areas, educa-
May 2002 Learning & Leading with Technology 4 7
Copyright ISTE (International Societyfor Technologyin Education),1.800.336.5191 (U.S.& Canada) or 1.541.302.3777 (Intl),iste@iste.org.All rights reserved.
Learning & Leading with Technology Volume 29 Number 8 4 8
torshave also found valuable thinking
toolsamong the technology applications
available for educational purposes. Re-
search and evaluation showsthat tech-
nology toolsfor constructing artifacts
and electronic information and com-
munication resourcessupport the de-
velopment of higher-order thinking
skills. The findingshold true when stu-
dentsare taught to apply the processes
of problem solving and then are al-
lowed opportunitiesto apply technol-
ogy toolsto develop solutions.
Powerful technologiesare now avail-
able to significantly augment the skills
necessary to convert data into informa-
tion and transform information into
knowledge. For example, interactive
video programshave been demon-
strated to increase problem-solving
skills. Studentsacrossnine stateswho
used Jasper video software asa center-
piece for mathematicsinstruction for
three to four weekswere compared
with studentswho did not. The com-
parative research demonstrated that the
studentsin classroomswho used the
Jasper video programswere better able
to complete complex problem-solving
tasks(Cognition and Technology
Group, 1992).
In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, an
intelligent-tutor software program,
aspart of the regular curriculum for
ninth-grade algebra, supportsa curricu-
lum focusing on mathematical analysis
of real-world situationsand the use of
computational tools. On average, the
470 studentsin the experimental classes
using the software outperformed stu-
dentsin comparison classesby 15% on
standardized testsand 100% on tests
targeting the curriculum-focused objec-
tives (Koedinger, Anderson, Hadley, &
Mark, 1999, p. 1). It isimportant to
note, however, that studentsmay ma-
nipulate simulation and presentation
software to create a visual artifact with-
out really understanding or applying
sound conceptual thinking. The role of
teachersisparamount in guiding the
development of students higher-order
thinking skillsduring learning activities
involving technology tools.
In a landmark study analyzing a na-
tional database of student test scores,
Wenglinsky (1998) determined that
technology can have a positive effect on
students mathematicsscores. Hisstudy
used data of fourth- and eighth-grade
studentswho took the math section of
the 1996 National Assessment of Edu-
cational Progress(NAEP). That NAEP
included questionsabout how comput-
ersare used in mathematicsinstruction.
After adjusting for classsize, teacher
qualifications, and socioeconomics,
Wenglinsky found that technology had
more of an impact in middle schools
than it did in elementary schools
(Valdez et al., 1999). In eighth grade,
where computerswere used for simula-
tionsand applicationsto enhance
higher-order thinking skills, the stu-
dentsperformed better on the NAEP
than did studentswhose teachersused
the technology for drill and practice.
He found that fourth-grade students
who used computersprimarily for
math/learning games scored higher
than studentswho did not. fourth
gradersdid not show differencesin test
score gainsfor either simulationsand
applicationsor drill and practice
(Valdez et al. 1999, p. 24).
Another study of 22 fourth- and
sixth-grade classesin seven urban
school districtsinvolved 66 of the par-
ticipating studentsin a civil rightscur-
riculum using online communication
and the Internet. The control group of
38 studentsdid use the computer but
did not use the online resourceswith
the curriculum. Center for Applied
Special Technology (CAST) researchers
assessed the effect of Internet use on
student performance by looking at the
benefitsit had on student projects. Ac-
cording to the CAST (1996) research-
ers, studentswith accessto Scholastic
Network and the Internet produced
better projectsthan studentswithout
online access. Of the nine measuresof
performance, the online usersreceived
significantly higher scoresrelative to:
presenting their work,
stating a civil rightsissue,
presenting a full picture (who, what,
when, where, why, how),
bringing together different pointsof
view, and
producing a complete project
(CAST, Table 2).
Research and evaluation showsthat
technology can enable the development
of critical thinking skillswhen students
use technology presentation and com-
munication toolsto present, publish,
and share resultsof projects. The
CAST study also found that when
studentsused the Internet to research
topics, share information, and complete
a final project within the context of a
semi-structured lesson, they became
independent, critical thinkers(Coley,
Cradler, & Engel, 1997).
Using technology toolsto build
thinking skillsisnot just for the best
and brightest students. The Higher Or-
der Thinking Skills(HOTS) pull-out
program, developed in the early 1980s
to build the thinking skillsof students,
combined technology with drama and
Socratic dialogue. Through thiscombi-
Research Windows
Research and evaluation show s that technology tools
for constructing artifacts and electronic inform ation and
com m unication resources support the developm ent of
higher-order thinking skills.
Copyright ISTE (International Societyfor Technologyin Education),1.800.336.5191 (U.S.& Canada) or 1.541.302.3777 (Intl),iste@iste.org.All rights reserved.
May 2002 Learning & Leading with Technology 4 9
nation, disadvantaged studentsin
Grades47 achieved twice the national
average gainson reading and math test
scores. Ten to 15% of the studentsalso
achieved honor roll statusin 1994, sug-
gesting a transfer of the students cogni-
tive development to learning specific
content. The studentswho used HOTS
also increased performance on measures
of reading comprehension, metacog-
nition, writing, componentsof IQ,
transfer to novel tasks, and grade
point average (Coley et al., 1997;
Pogrow, 1996).
WorkforcePreparation
Preparing studentsfor the workforce is
a third area where technology playsa
pivotal role in helping school commu-
nitiesreach their educational goals. Re-
search showsthat when studentslearn
to use and apply applicationsused in
the world of work, such asword proces-
sors, spreadsheets, computer-aided
drawing, Web site development pro-
grams, and the Internet, they acquire
some of the prerequisite skillsfor
workforce preparedness. When content
and problem-solving strategiesmeet ac-
cepted education standards, technology
increasesmastery of vocational and
workforce skillsand helpsprepare stu-
dentsfor work (Cradler, 1994).
Integration of technology with the-
matic and interdisciplinary projectscan
enhance career preparation. A study of
four health career programsin Califor-
nia (Stern & Rahn, 1995) demon-
strated the effectivenessof work-based
learning modelssuch asTech Prep and
career academiesthat integrate students
work experience with academic subjects
such asmath, English, science, and so-
cial studies. These programsallow high
school studentsto gain valuable knowl-
edge about how to conduct themselves
in actual workplace environments. Re-
flection isan essential part of these
work-based learning programswhere
teachersintegrate a health care theme
into academic assignmentsor interdis-
ciplinary projects. For example, the
math teacher in one program encour-
agesstudentsto analyze forcesand
anglesin physical therapy, design a
building to house a health clinic,
and determine the amount of money
a medical assistant must save in five
yearsto pay for college tuition.
Technology can be useful in linking
work experienceswith academic sub-
jects. In a nationwide review of school-
to-work programs, Olson (1998) found
programswhere studentswere learning
the new basicsor basicsplusskills. These
skillsinclude the ability to use technol-
ogy to communicate ideasand infor-
mation orally, aswell asin writing. The
new basicsalso include working in
groups, solving problemswhen answers
arent alwaysself-evident, understand-
ing how systemswork, and collecting,
analyzing, and organizing data. In a re-
port on the state of technology integra-
tion in Minnesota, schoolsdocument
the benefitsof using information tech-
nologiesto bring the world of work
into the classroom (Johnson, 1996).
Conclusion
The research and evaluation studies
cited in thisarticle represent highlights
from a larger body of evidence reviewed
by CARET and available online. In
sum, research isproviding more and
more clarity about how to use technol-
ogy effectively within our school com-
munitiesto support and enhance the
academic performance of todaysyouth.
Collaborative activitiesand formative
feedback are key componentsof in-
structional strategiesthat accompany
effective technology implementation.
Leadership also ispivotal in aligning
available technology resourceswith sys-
temic school improvement goals. The
research indicatesthe need for under-
standing the combined effortsnecessary
for technology to positively influence
students academic performance. (For
more on the rolescollaboration, leader-
ship, and technology planning play, see
the article supplement online at
www.iste.org/L&L.)
References
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Research Windows
Research and evaluation show s that technology can
enable the developm ent of critical thinking skills w hen
students use technology presentation and com m unication
tools to present, publish, and share results of projects.
Technologycontinued on page56.
Copyright ISTE (International Societyfor Technologyin Education),1.800.336.5191 (U.S.& Canada) or 1.541.302.3777 (Intl),iste@iste.org.All rights reserved.
Learning & Leading with Technology Volume 29 Number 8 5 0
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Research Windows
John Cradler (cradler@
earthlink.net) istheco-director
of theCARET project and presi-
dent of Educational Support
Systems. Duringthepast 15
years, hehasmadesignificant
contributionstothedevelopment
of stateand federal legislation and policiesrelated
toeducational technology. In hispreviousrolesas
director of technologyfor WestED, CCSSO, and
Educational Support Systems, hehasserved asan
advisor and evaluator for a widevarietyof state,
federal, and privatesector educational technology
programs, products, and initiatives.
MaryMcNabb, EdD (mlmcnabb@msn.com),
worksasa consultant focusingon investigatingthe
natureof teaching, learning, and assessment in
onlinecultures. Previously, shewasa research scien-
tist at theUniversityof Denver Research Institute
(DRI). Shehasalsoserved asdirector of Research
and Technologyfor theNorth Central Regional
Education Laboratory(Oak Brooks, Illinois) and
wason a national committeecoordinatingevalua-
tion effortsfor thePreparingTomorrowsTeachers
toUseTechnology(PT
3
) Program. Sheserved on
theleadership committeethat developed ISTEs
NETS for Teachers.
MollyFreeman (mollyfreeman@telis.org) currently
conductsresearch with Educational Support Sys-
temsand since1996 hasconsulted with the
Internet Instituteof Santa Clara CountyOfficeof
Education todesign staff development for K12
teacherslearningtousetechnologyin theclassroom.
Her PhD isin Complex Systemsand Distance
LearningfromTheUnion Institute, and her
mastersdegreeisin sociologyfromtheUniversity
of California at Davis.
Richard Burchett (rburchett@iste.org) isa CARET
reviewer and a research associatein ISTEsRe-
search and Evaluation Department. In 1994, he
obtained hisPhD in CognitivePsychologyfromthe
Universityof California, Riverside. Hehastaught
psychology, statistics, and research methodology
coursesat numerousWest Coast universities. Rich-
ard hasserved asan associateprofessor of psychol-
ogyat theAmerican Universityin Cairo(Egypt)
and theAmerican Universityof Sharjah (United
Arab Emirates).
5 6
Technologycontinued frompage49.
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