The Impact of Technology on Student Achievement
Learn why it’s crucial for underfunded districts to invest in EdTech. Good EdTech software can provide differentiated lessons, saving educators time, engaging students & leading to higher student achievement rates.
“I believe the children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way.” –The Greatest Love of All
The world is changing at a rapid pace. It’s enough to leave adults’ heads spinning as they try to adapt. For students, rapid change is the new normal. However, if students are to successfully transition to the workplace, a good education is vital. With a solid educational background, students are able to make a smoother transition to the workforce, meet the demands of a fast-paced world and become productive adults.
Current Outlook on Student Achievement in the U.S.
Because education is critically important, the October 2019 news from The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as the Nation’s Report Card, is particularly disturbing.
The assessment, administered to over 600,000 fourth and eighth grade students, found that math scores showed a one-point increase for fourth graders and one point decrease for eighth graders. Average reading scores dropped for both grades, with eighth graders showing a significant (three-point) decline.
According to U.S. News & World Report, “Students in the U.S. made significant progress in math and reading achievement from 1990 until 2015, when the first major dip in achievement scores occurred.” Since 2015, scores have either stagnated or declined in each subject and grade.
The lowest-performing students, in particular, are struggling. “The distributions are pulling apart, with the bottom dropping faster,” said Peggy Carr, associate commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics.
These numbers are disappointing and lead to two questions: Why are scores declining, and what can be done to help students get back to raising their scores?
What Role Can Technology Play in Helping Districts Improve Student Achievement?
When reports like the NAEP are released, many people have a knee-jerk reaction and start to point fingers. While raising student scores is not a one-step simple conclusion, educators play a very meaningful role in every student’s education.
Since educators often have their hands full, technology can be a great ally. Today’s students have grown up on technology and are therefore comfortable and adept at navigating systems. EdTech can help compensate for the growing teacher shortage and assist educators as they strive to help students grow their skills.
According to Prometheans 2019 U.S. State of Technology” survey and report, 82% of teachers and administrators agree that technology accelerates learning. The same survey and report found that over 84% “of teachers believe technology increases student attention and interactivity and improves engagement (76%).”Improving student achievement starts with gaining the attention of students and getting them engaged.
However, expecting student achievement to soar as a result of simply putting computers or tablets in a classroom is silly. And not all technology is created equally.
Before deciding which technology might be right for your classroom, school, or district, it’s important to clearly determine the learning goals you want technology to help achieve. Once that objective is clarified, the process of purchasing the right software is easy.
“Make sure your product aligns with the curriculum,” notes one teacher in a Forbes article regarding advice she would give to an entrepreneur. “Technology is helpful when it provides rich content.” If the technology does not align with the curriculum and lacks rich content, it will not be impactful.
How Can EdTech Provide More Equity of Resources for Underserved Students?
Educators face challenges wherever they teach. However, the challenges are greater in schools that are underfunded. Such schools typically house students from more complex backgrounds with greater educational gaps. Teachers and school personnel often have to invest in students to a degree far beyond their job descriptions.
This degree of responsibility and stress can be overwhelming and lead to teachers leaving the profession. In fact, underfunded schools find it the most difficult to hire and retain staff.
In such schools or districts, EdTech is even more crucial. With teachers stretched and pulled in multiple directions, EdTech can fill a void and then some. According to an EdScoop article, “One strength of EdTech is the ability to help teachers provide differentiated lessons, and … the best EdTech can be used for students at various stages and across a variety of abilities.”
Good Edtech programs are able to reach each student where they are and guide them forward. Because the software is personalized, each student can feel comfortable and ultimately grow more confident.
For these benefits to be realized, schools must have digital equity, or as defined by Education Dive, “the equity of devices, bandwidth, infrastructure and skills … affects learning for students from a range of backgrounds.”
As one might suspect, those impacted by the digital divide tend to be low income, people of colour, or disadvantaged. To close the divide, schools are considering multiple avenues. In a district in Pennsylvania, “schools … began addressing the gap by distributing personal learning devices for every student in elementary, middle and high schools, funded in part by Title IV,” notes the Forbes article.
Whether it’s government funded, via charitable donations, or by other means, schools need to find a way to close the digital divide to give the most disadvantaged students access to EdTech. The technology, along with teacher creativity and input, can help students boost their knowledge and scores on the next nation’s report card.
Children are indeed our future, and to ensure their success, we need to educate them to their greatest potential. That means involving EdTech in a responsible way.