Educational Technology Topic Guide

Power, Tom; Gater, Rosalind; Grant, Catherine and Winters, Niall (2014). Educational Technology Topic Guide. HEART Topic Guides. London: The Health & Education Advice & Resource Team (HEART).



This guide aims to contribute to what we know about the relationship between educational technology (edtech) and educational outcomes by addressing the following overarching question: What is the evidence that the use of edtech, by teachers or students, impacts teaching and learning practices, or learning outcomes? It also offers recommendations to support advisors to strengthen the design, implementation and evaluation of programmes that use edtech.

We define edtech as the use of digital or electronic technologies and materials to support teaching and learning. Recognising that technology alone does not enhance learning, evaluations must also consider how programmes are designed and implemented, how teachers are supported, how communities are developed and how outcomes are measured (see, 2014).

Effective edtech programmes are characterised by:
 a clear and specific curriculum focus
 the use of relevant curriculum materials
 a focus on teacher development and pedagogy
 evaluation mechanisms that go beyond outputs.
These findings come from a wide range of technology use including:
 interactive radio instruction (IRI)
 classroom audio or video resources accessed via teachers’ mobile phones
 student tablets and eReaders
 computer-assisted learning (CAL) to supplement classroom teaching.

However, there are also examples of large-scale investment in edtech – particularly computers for student use – that produce limited educational outcomes. We need to know more about:
 how to support teachers to develop appropriate, relevant practices using edtech
 how such practices are enacted in schools, and what factors contribute to or mitigate against
successful outcomes.

1. Edtech programmes should focus on enabling educational change, not delivering technology. In doing so, programmes should provide adequate support for teachers and aim to capture changes in teaching practice and learning outcomes in evaluation.
2. Advisors should support proposals that further develop successful practices or that address gaps in evidence and understanding.
3. Advisors should discourage proposals that have an emphasis on technology over education, weak programmatic support or poor evaluation.
4. In design and evaluation, value-for-money metrics and cost-effectiveness analyses should be carried out.

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