Technology and Learning. Evidence and Impact.

It’s not been until my current place of employment that I was asked, repeatedly, by parents and caregivers about what the impact would be of iPad devices being integrated in to their student’s learning. In saying that, it does not mean that other parents and caregivers has not been concerned in other settings! It was simply that I had not been asked.

Ever since then it has always been on my mind regarding what exact impact technology has on student learning. I can remember scouring the internet months ago looking for evidence based research to support the use of technology, particularly in a BYOD and or a 1:1 setting. What I found was ad hoc at best and not conducive to what I was wanting.

Now of course, when we think of programs, strategies, initiatives and so on that impact student learning you think of one person in particular – John Hattie.  Most of us would be well versed with Hattie’s meta-analyses of quantitative measures upon educational outcomes and the specific internal and external items that impact this.  Hattie’s books titled ‘Visible Learning’ and ‘Visible Learning and the Science of How We Learn” are predominately the most relevant texts in this space.

Along with this research came ‘effect sizes’ and numeral based based figures that gauged the impact of such programs and factors. The graphic below highlights this.

Obviously, we’re aiming for anything with an effect size 0.4 or above. As educators and school leaders we’re wanting what we do to have a positive impact. We want to to be involved in embedding practices that see student learning grow and not fall away. My mind often shifts to Marzano’s work in this space the impact that a highly effective teacher in a highly effective school can have. See below. The question being then however what is “effective”? I have previously written about this before here.

Where does however technology integration and BYOD / 1:1 fit in?

In Hattie’s “Visible Learning”, ‘Computer-Aided Instruction’ comes in with an effect size of 0.37. Not bad. Not great either. In thinking however about’Computer-Aided Instruction’, what though does that exactly mean?

What we know is that ‘Computer-Aided Instruction’ is exactly that. The use of technology to help teachers instruct. Period. What we also know is that is when the following is in play – that the effect size for this meta-analysis increases:

  • “The use of computers is more effective when there is teacher pre-training in the use of computers as a teaching and learning tool.
  • The use of computers is more effective when there are multiple opportunities for learning (e.g., deliberative practice, increasing time on task).
  • The use of computers is more effective when the student, not the teacher, is in “control” of learning.
  • The use of computers is more effective when peer learning is optimized (using ‘computers’ in pairs).The use of computers is more effective when feedback is optimized.”
    • Visible Learning, Hattie, 2009.

As data, evidence, to support technology integration, it’s a start.

This is as we may also know a lot of data and discussion about technology having little to no impact on student learning and growth. A Lot of this is driven by OECD reports and comparing student achievement in line with trending PISA results. For example:

Students, Computers and Learning: Making The Connection” says that even countries which have invested heavily in information and communication technologies (ICT) for education have seen no noticeable improvement in their performances in PISA results for reading, mathematics or science.” – New approach needed to deliver on technology’s potential in schools. OECD 2015.

Now. As all teachers and technology integration guru’s know is that the technology is a classroom tool. A tool to support the learning process. Personally, I dislike those therms. Technology use is more than that. So much more than just a tool, however I am rolling with it for now. We all also know it’s HOW we use the technology that makes the difference and with this brings the various integration models to assist educators in using technology for a purpose rather than for ‘the sake of it’.

We have SAMR, we have TPACK, we have Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy, we have the TIP and RAT models, we have LOTI and also the TIM model. I am sure there are more! The one we are most like to be familiar with is TPACK and SAMR, as show below. It is the SAMR model however that I will focus on for now.

TPACK Model.


SAMR Model.


Personally, I have used this for years within my own teaching as well as having preached it to others. It’s simple, clear and easily understood. There is a place for each of the ‘steps’ if you like in how we can use the SAMR model to assist us in using technology for a greater purpose, or more so to ther point, allowing students to learn in ways which is not at all possible without technology being involved.

Recently I had the opportunity to hear Dr. Chris Blundell speak at an Apple Learning Event in Melbourne. Chris now works at QUT in Queensland and prior to that having been a Deputy Head at the prestigious Redlands College, a setting very well know for using technology to positively impact student learning. Dr. Blundell has recently completed his doctorate with his major thesis having being completed titled “A case study of teachers transforming pedagogical practices through collaborative inquiry based professional learning in a ubiquitous technologies environment”. Yes, it’s a mouthful. You can access that particular thesis here. 

Unlike traditional Apple events where the core focus of what was discussed was being placed on the technology, Dr. Blundell focused purely on the transformation of Pedagogy with the use of digital technologies and the thinking associated with it.

The vast majority, if not all of what Dr. Blundell had to say, was purposeful, challenging, provocative and relevant. One particular graphic that he displayed, and hence this post, caught my attention. See below.

Courtesy of Dr. Chris Blundell. QUT. 2018.


Interesting isn’t it?

2 things immediately caught my eye. The negative impact that using technology can have on student learning. And the ridiculously large positive impact using technology can have on student learning. I have always said that there is a place for the substitution component of SAMR to be used in a learning space. Note taking is a classic example of that. It seems though based on above that as educators we need to be quite mindful of what we are using technology for,

We know in linking back to Hattie’s effect size work, anything with an effect size 0.75 will reap gains of 12 months growth on top of what is expected, so looking at effect sizes of 1.5 +, is quite motivating. Provided that the adoption and integration of technology is being used the correct way, that is, to transform pedagogy and redefine how learning can take place. The question that stems from this then for me is “what exactly does that look like?”. In the same breath I/you need to forget about the anxiety and challenges that come with this. Asking teachers to embrace change and shift their pedagogy is a massive ask. Some of us, not me!, have been teaching the same or similar way for 30 years. Allowing students to bring in 25 ipads devices in which that particular teacher knows little to nothing about is always going to not go well. As Dr. Blundell mentioned and discussed, it is about teachers being asked to change their roles, relationships & actions. Again, changing something they they are very familiar with. That is a whole new post right there. Or thesis! 

So if we now know that teachers who can effectively transform their practices to redefine what student learning looks like, through the adoption of digital technologies, and that they can have a very very large impact on student learning, what is it that we need to do to make this happen more effectively and more often? There’s another post! 

In thinking further about SAMR and its use… SAMR is good, but not great. It certainly assists educators and guides their thinking towards the use of technology to support learning. What is the real game changer is that we see considerable impact being had on student learning when teachers look towards changing (transforming) their pedagogy with the use of digital technologies. To be able to get to this point though there is a lot of work that needs to be done before we can expect to be seeing large student growth and be able to pin that on transformative technology use and integration.

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1 Reply to “Technology and Learning. Evidence and Impact.

  1. Interesting reflections Corrie.

    I thought the one person to turn to in regards to the effectiveness of technology was Gary Stager. He certainly has some interesting things to say:

    @mrkrndvs @jjash @jennyluca We are only ever asked to provide evidence for things kids like.— Gary Stager, Ph.D. (@garystager) March 5, 2016

    I am intrigued by your reference to Marzano in association with technology. Have you read his work on IWBs?

    I have always had concerns with SAMR, my particular gripe is the lack of awareness to the wider context. I have really enjoyed following Ian Guest’s work assocaited with Twitter, in particular his reference to ‘non-human’ actors. This is why I think that there is hope with the Modern Learning Canvas to support teachers in developing a richer appreciation of practice. See for example the canvas I made assocaited with our learning model:

    “Modern Learning Canvas – Instructional Model” by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

    If we ask teachers to change their “roles, relationships and actions”, I think that we need a way of seeing and appreciating that. The canvas provides a great tool to identify transformation.

    Lastly, in regards to wider research, I collected some links here if you need anything.


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