Cutting To The Chase – How a School’s Approach To Technology Can Impact Learning Outcomes

By: Giancarlo Brotto

Technology can help transform learning. But as numerous studies have shown, more tech in the classroom doesn’t automatically equal better results. Most notably, OECD and Hattie have raised concerns that education spending does not equate to better outcomes. Effective learning and technology use each depend on systems and behaviors that are more complex than putting a device in someone’s hands.

But we know that when the conditions are right, technology can accelerate and advance learning significantly. So, getting the conditions right is vital for the success of today’s schools, teachers and learners.

Earlier this year, SMART Technologies commissioned a global survey of 481 education leaders to investigate the link between their reported EdTech capabilities and learning outcomes. Education leaders from 10 countries participated, including the United States, China, the United Kingdom, Germany, Canada, the Netherlands, and Spain.

The survey asked participants to rate themselves in 22 evidence-based capabilities identified through an extensive literature review of EdTech best practices from around the world. It also asked them to rate their success in achieving and advancing learning outcomes like better test scores, greater career readiness, and higher teacher satisfaction.

Our survey found that schools who reported higher development in the 22 capabilities also reported better learning outcomes. While the average stage of development worldwide was at 62 on a scale of 100, 16% of respondents reported significantly higher learning outcomes.

This 16 percent of respondents who identified themselves as high-outcomes schools showed some differences in the way they approach technology.

What Are The Conditions For EdTech Success?

Of the 22 EdTech capabilities measured in the survey, some showed especially strong correlation to learning outcomes. In fact, the 16 percent of respondents who reported high learning outcomes were more likely to:

  • Have detailed technology visions and plans
  • Involve teachers and students in technology planning
  • Formally and regularly evaluate the effectiveness of their technology

Interestingly, schools with high and low outcomes also said they prioritized EdTech capabilities differently. High-outcomes respondents placed a much higher priority on having a strong leadership vision and aligning stakeholders to it. They also prioritized the planning of professional development much more highly than low-outcomes respondents did.

High-outcomes schools also indicated they used more software relating to assessment, game-based learning and student collaboration than their lower outcome achieving peers.

Tackling Concerns

A 2016 study showed that technology drives better learning outcomes when it is chosen to complement defined teaching practices. That study, titled Teaching, Technology, and Learning: Understanding the Interconnection, concluded that superb teaching and school management involving collaborative learning, combined with complementary classroom technology, leads to more positive results among students

SMART’s global study discovers how technology and collaborative teaching are best used together; the results highlight great teachers as the unsung heroes behind improved student success and high outcomes; while, demonstrating the role school business managers can play bringing, the benefits of using technology in collaborative learning environments.

What Can We Learn From The Study?

I truly believe that success in the classroom begins with great teachers. I also believe our study shows that great teachers can only achieve great outcomes when they have the right support. They need technology that’s chosen to complement their desired teaching practices, sustained by shared capabilities among school management, and supported by strong professional development and infrastructure.

Technology providers need to work with schools, not only on product implementation but also on education and enablement—to make sure that their customers can make a meaningful impact in their business or classroom environment. Research has shown that well-implemented EdTech can also reduce costs in other areas.

At SMART Technologies, we embarked on this global study to help provide a roadmap for schools to understand and implement the right capabilities to inspire greatness in each student and achieve better outcomes overall.

It’s clear the right technology, used the right way, has the power to transform teaching and learning and secure a brighter future for schools and their pupils.

For more, see:

Global Education Strategist at SMART Technologies, Giancarlo Brotto has more than 20 years experience working in education technology in K-12 and university environments. His areas of expertise include education policy, classroom practice, training, and professional development, education research and technology implementation. (Twitter: @4GBrotto)

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Getting Smart loves its varied and ranging staff of guest contributors. From edleaders, educators and students to business leaders, tech experts and researchers we are committed to finding diverse voices that highlight the cutting edge of learning.

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