Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Value of Educational Technology Initiatives

Better late than never....right?

Obviously technology in education is a topic that is near and dear to me and other blogging teachers around the world, but I took this 'love' of technology to a whole new level over the course of the past two weeks. I have been preparing a literature review for my graduate research class over the value of different types of technology initiatives in school. I have spent a great deal of time compiling tons of information about specific technology learning initiatives including, Enhancing Missouri's Instructional Networked Strategies (eMINTS), Maine's Learning Technology Initiative (MLTI), the one-to-one initiative of Henrico County Schools (Richmond, VA), and the one-to-one initiative of Cobb County Schools (Atlanta, GA).

I am not looking to make a boring post about my review (that's what my paper is for), but what I would to share some observations from the literature I have read. So the main question I set out to answer was, "which initiative had the most effect on student performance?"

Ahhhhhh.....our beloved eMINTS program. For those unaware, eMINTS is a Missouri based program that focuses on supplying the educator and student with the technology needed for the classroom. Teachers that participate go through a two year training program and in return, their classroom is supplied with one computer per two students, SMARTboard, projector, staff PC, and all the extras needed to run the system.

As far as results go....there is still mixed feed back. eMINTS National Center released a report in '05 showing increases in standardized testing scores among eMINTS classroom students when compared to those in normal classroom settings. However, since this was not a scientific study, no random samples and no random assignment, it is hard to believe that this research can clam eMINTS as a total success thus far.

One-to-One Initiatives
One-to-one laptop programs, such as those implemented In Maine, Henrico County (Virginia), and Cobb County (Georgia), seem to be the new wave of technology and learning. Programs in Maine and Cobb County have teamed with Apple to outfit their schools with iBooks for teachers and students alike. Thousands upon thousands laptops have been deployed to these schools and now often serve as a "textbook" in many classes.

So much of what is done in laptop programs has a student centered approach, meaning since every student has a laptop (unlike eMINTS) lessons can be more individualized to cater the student's needs. In fact, one of the strongest gains in surveys conducted (among teachers) from these schools said this was the biggest impact observed in their instruction. Students have also noticed; many reported one of the biggest positives of the program was the individually of the instruction.

So which is better? Well laptops seem to be more student focused/center and more effective, but either one can and have been used effectively in the past. It is all about knowing how to manage your resources, whether you are in a one-to-one or two-to-one program.

So what does this all mean? I realize that my small blog post can not fully analyze the impact of technology on education, but the truth is it is hard to gauge no matter the forum you choose to report it on. There is tons of visual evidence that I can give someone that shows that technology has a positive impact on my students.....but, I could not put it into a number. I know my students are engaged and learning, but there is not a bubble on our standardized test that can prove it.

If there is one thing that I have learned from this process is that much more resource needs to be done on this topic. I firmly believe that technology needs to be weaved into our curriculum.....can't be done? Ask the state of Maine, their entire education system has rallied behind an initiative and have made technology a priority. The need for technology in school systems is glaring, and we owe it to ourselves and students to make it a priority in their education.

Mr. McClung


Jarrod Lamshed said...

I think it's a good thing that you have some of these programs available, even if they aren't perfect. We have very little available in Australia. There is no real move toward one to one computers at a primary (elementary) level, and we certainly don't have one computer between two students in the classroom.

Wm Chamberlain said...

Without the eMINTS program, I would not be doing any of the tech things I do. I would probably still be teaching old school. I see value in the tech initiatives because of the changes it makes in us.

jkmcclung said...

I agree, tech has really changed my approach to projects and everyday assignments. There is so much information that tech allows me to share with my students, and it makes my job a lot easier and makes it more enjoyable for my students.