Current research on educational technology’s impact on student learning is mixed but most of the research comes from “rich” nations where the alternative to being taught by a teacher is being taught by a highly-motivated and highly-qualified teacher. In poor countries, and in poor regions of moderately well-off nations where teacher quality is low, the evidence on the effectiveness of computer assisted programs versus teachers, though sparse, is quite positive. Research in India, for
example, showed that children who played a computer math game two hours per week had learning gains as large as some of the most successful educational innovations tried over the years.
In spite of the varied results of research regarding the impact of technology to student learning, under certain conditions, technology demonstrates positive benefits:
1. Technology can compensate for poor teacher quality:An increasing body of research demonstrates that exposure to ICTs may increase the cognitive abilities of students, allowing them to learn faster. This is particularly true in contexts where teacher quality is poor (Carillo, Onofa & Ponce, 2010:2; Banerjee & Duflo, 2011)
2. Technology can benefit special populations: Research increasingly and cumulatively suggests that under certain conditions, technology can promote small to moderate gains in student learning (Tamim, et al., 2011), especially for learners with special needs (Ofsted, 2009) and for preschool learners in terms of early literacy
3. Technology is most successful when part of an overall focus on the key components of teaching and learning: The dominant theme that emerges from technology in education is that content, instruction, assessment and sound policies, practices and support matter far more than the kind of laptop, the software suite or whether or not teachers can make a spreadsheet (Means, Toyama, Murphy, Bakia, & Jones, 2009; Tamim et al., 2011). As research and experience inform us, technology “works” when it supports intended learning outcomes and when it is used to deepen content knowledge, instruction and assessment. Successful
use of technology—helping students learn in ways are measurably better or that would otherwise be impossible—still depends, not on boxes, bandwidth or wires, but on that most fundamental classroom transaction—good instruction.