When a district (or a state) expends large sums of money on education technology, it is fair to expect that there would be a return on the investment, especially in improved student learning. There are those that think, for example, that Maine should stop paying for the Maine Learning Technology Initiative (MLTI) since, after 15 years, there has been no improvement in test scores.
There is, however, evidence that MLTI is positively impacting learning.
In some places.
Under certain circumstances.
There are studies that show when teachers participate in certain professional learning around the teaching of writing, and implement those practices in the classroom, writing scores improve.
There are studies that show when teachers participate in certain professional learning around the teaching of mathematics, and implement those practices in the classroom, math scores improve. And more recent research shows yet another approach to professional learning for teachers and implementing specific classroom strategies that improves math learning.
So why don’t state tests show improved scores if we have these studies showing the positive impact of MLTI on learning?
This article addresses several reasons, including that Maine is a local control state and that schools must choose to participate in such PD and choose to implement such instructional practices. And the scores of those that do are balanced out by those that choose not to.
Further, a recent meta analysis of the research on 1to1 learning environments shows that those studies that focused simply on the presence of technology had findings of no real improvement in learning. Yet, when a study focused on how the devices were used and on certain types of use (those focused on effective instructional practices), there was a real improvement in learning. This reinforces the idea that we have to focus on professional learning, and implementing effective (technology rich) instructional practices, if we want to impact student learning.
So, the bottom line is that we do see MLTI positively impacts learning, but only when we focus more on the learning than the technology.