To the Editor:
I was pleased to see our research cited in the article about key lessons about education-technology research for educators (“The Best Ed-Tech Research: 5 Key Lessons for Educators,” March 13, 2019). I am writing to clarify our findings, which I worry were obscured in the article.
The article emphasized software features that are commonplace in ed tech today—for example, software that is adaptive and personalized, provides data to teachers, gives students computer-generated feedback, and more. However, our 2010 research on SimCalc did not incorporate the kinds of features that are typical in ed-tech marketing today.
SimCalc researchers developed software called “MathWorlds” for visualizing rates of change. Our research investigated how to advance students’ understanding of mathematical concepts by integrating three things: teacher professional development, rewritten curriculum workbooks (on paper), and interactive visualizations (on a computer).
We found that integrating these factors increased 7th and 8th graders’ understanding of math in a wide variety of Texas schools. We did not investigate whether the software by itself had positive impacts. The software did not incorporate adaptive features or teacher dashboards.
Although the SimCalc technology is no longer updated, similar computer-based visualizations are available online for free in mathematics products like PhET, Geogebra, Desmos, NCTM Illuminations, and graphing calculators.
My suggestion for educators: Choose simple, established math tools grounded in learning-science principles like visualization, then spend your money and energy on powerful teacher professional-development and tight integration with high-quality curriculum materials.
Executive Director of Learning Sciences Research
San Mateo, Calif.
A version of this article appeared in the April 17, 2019 edition of Education Week as Clarifying Ed-Tech Research