Department Study to Examine Effectiveness of Technology

By Andrew Trotter — February 06, 2002 3 min read
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The Department of Education plans a three-year, $15 million study to gauge the effectiveness of using technology to improve learning. The congressionally mandated study will address a gap in knowledge that for years has frustrated both educators and policymakers.

“It’s now time for the next step, [to see how technology is] applied to the curriculum,” Secretary of Education Rod Paige said to a group of educators and business leaders at a recent meeting here.

He told the people gathered for the Jan. 25 policy summit of the National Coalition for Technology in Education and Training, a Fairfax Station, Va.-based group, that the study would come at a time when nearly all classrooms are wired to the Internet and most schools have an adequate supply of computers.

Mr. Paige cited a federal survey conducted in 2000, in which 71 percent of teachers reported a lack of good instructional software. “It’s pointless to integrate things into our curriculum if they don’t add value to student performance,” he said.

The purpose of the proposed study, as outlined in just a few paragraphs of the voluminous revision of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act that President Bush signed into law last month, is to examine “the conditions and practices under which educational technology is effective in increasing student academic achievement, as well as the ability of teachers to integrate technology effectively into curricula and instruction.”

The final report on the study must be presented to Congress by April 1, 2006.

So far, the federal government has not designed the study or determined who will conduct it. Those questions will be answered sometime this year, said John P. Bailey, the newly appointed director of the education department’s office of technology. (“Former Hickok Aide to Direct Ed. Technology for Paige,” Jan. 16, 2002.)

But Mr. Bailey said that the study would focus on technology-delivered academic content and educational software, and that it would be longitudinal—that is, it would track the progress of students over time.

And to gauge student performance, it would measure results using “authentic assessment"—that is, evaluations that might include examinations of student projects or tests with open-ended questions.

“We have a remarkable opportunity,” Mr. Bailey told the more than 325 education and business leaders at the gathering late last month.

The Next Step

That view was echoed by Linda G. Roberts, a summit participant and the former technology adviser to Richard W. Riley, who was secretary of education during the Clinton administration.

“I was thrilled to see the language in the bill that takes us to the next step,” said Ms. Roberts, who now serves on the boards of several education technology companies. “With $15 million, you can get to coordinated research with compelling answers.”

A former education researcher at the Office of Technology Assessment, the research arm of Congress that closed in 1995, Ms. Roberts described the upcoming study as a “very difficult” undertaking, but one that would be valuable when coupled “with the knowledge base that already exists.”

In his comments, Secretary Paige also said that technology is woven through 10 separate programs in the revised ESEA, known as the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, which will give $850 million of formula-based funding for education technology annually to the states.

Mr. Paige said the Education Department supports development of student data-management systems and online testing, which would help give educators immediate access to data about their students’ academic strengths and weaknesses.

The department, however, also cautioned state officials in Idaho last month that one of the features of an innovative online-assessment program planned there would not satisfy a key federal testing provision.

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A version of this article appeared in the February 06, 2002 edition of Education Week as Department Study to Examine Effectiveness of Technology


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