The most popular digital learning tools fit into existing classrooms without “disrupting” traditional ways of teaching, reports Benjamin Herold in Ed Week.
These tools may have little or no effect on student learning, warns an analysis by SRI’s Center for Technology in Learning. In fact, the most popular tools were the least effective and the most effective tools had the fewest users, researchers found.
SRI studied “complete online courses, peer-support platforms, and predictive analytics tools” funded by the Gates Foundation’s Next Generation Learning Challenge, reports Herold. “Most had no statistically significant impact on student outcomes,” the Gates-funded follow-up concluded.
Products that scaled most rapidly shared three factors:
. . . a promise of cost savings for schools, no requirements for face-to-face training, and an ability to be easily integrated into existing teaching and learning practices.
“To create an education technology tool that can have an impact, but also be adopted in many classrooms, requires thinking about supports for teachers, resources for instruction, and rethinking the way time is used within schools,” said Barbara Means, the director of the Center for Technology in Learning.
Comprehensive technology interventions are more effective, SRI found. They’re also less common.
Only a few large, more established companies have the resources and capacity to develop such products, then wait out K-12 schools’ glacial purchasing cycles. And some of the higher-profile initiatives, such as the complete K-12 digital curriculum that Pearson sold to the Los Angeles Unified district, turned into major flops.
K-12 educators often try to use technology products and services from multiple sources, said Sara Allan, the deputy director of K-12 programs at the Gates Foundation.
That’s difficult to do well, writes Herold. Schools may “end up with a hodgepodge in which the effectiveness of any one tool is limited by the confusion in the broader ecosystem.”