In a previous article, I suggested that “technology’s greatest success, which is making itself invisible, is in fact the main reason why at least some teachers question vociferously its impact and value in education”. This a concept that I would like to explore further.
When focusing on how mobile technology would impact teaching and learning, a good place to start would be the classroom. Research, in this case from Hattie and Yates’s Visible Learning and the Science of How We Learn, shows that lessons are most effective when they are structured thus:
- An initial review of prior knowledge
- A formal presentation
- Guided practice
- Initial feedback
- Independent practice
- A follow-up review
Those of us experienced in the use of technology in the classroom can immediately see how all of these aspects of a lesson can be supported and, in some instances, instantly improved by the application of technology. With this in mind, it is possible to begin to plan the integration of mobile technologies into the daily business of teaching and learning by taking into account how lessons are most effective and put in place the means and support to enable teachers to use technology in such a way that the quality of teaching and learning in their lessons is enhanced by its use, when it is possible and appropriate. And knowing that it may not always be so!
Studies by the Education Endowment Foundation have identified classroom interventions for which there is a substantial evidence base of positive impact on student outcomes, which they have measured in months’ gain (see main image, above). As you can see, though moderately impactful – four months’ gain according to the same research – digital technology does not make the top eight pedagogically profitable interventions. This apparent lack of impact is often seized upon by those who insist on placing educational technology in opposition to academic rigour, as if they were mutually incompatible concepts and you had to have one or the other. This is nonsense and does not stand up to any form of serious scrutiny because, as anyone knows, context is crucial. It is simply not good enough to ask where the evidence is, what we need to ask is what evidence is there for X in Y context?
So, at first glance, it appears that what research there is on the use of digital technologies to support teaching and learning suggests that its impact is so close to neutral that it may not be a sound investment compared to other, more impactful interventions, and that the cost incurred in using the technology is much greater than the benefit received – this is a concept referred to in microeconomic theory as opportunity cost. The problem with this analysis is that it assumes erroneously that technology is itself an intervention, rather than a mediator and facilitator of more impactful interventions, and that effective technology and good teaching are concepts that can be looked into separately, rather than flip sides of the same coin. Put simply, a lot of the stuff that’s shown to work makes some use of technology to help it do so. These things aren’t cleanly separable.
If you would like to download the Effective Interventions poster, please tap or click on the image, below: