Blended Research: Learning with Technologies

Enlightened educators aim to integrate research and best practices to meaningfully and successfully implement technologies.  John Hattie’s ‘Visible Learning’ (2009) research provides quality guidance.  It is the culmination of 15 years of research synthesis of 800 + meta-analyses (over 50,000 studies) that focused on top factors influencing school-aged learners’ achievement. It is the largest collection of evidence-based research into what ‘really’ works and ‘doesn’t’ work to enhance learning.

Following, in priority order, are the top influencers of increased student achievement according to Hattie’s meta-analyses:

  • Feedback
  • Teacher-Student Relationships
  • Mastery Learning
  • Challenge of Goals
  • Peer Tutoring
  • Expectations
  • Homework
  • Aims & Policies of the School
  • Ability Grouping

Merging these findings with planning for technology integrations is a key to success.  In traditional, non-technology infused classrooms – where the ratio is one teacher to 30 plus students (in secondary settings it may be one teacher to 150-160 students per day) it is very difficult to individualize and foster these factors.  With the variety of today’s technologies, educators can provide efficient avenues for enhancing each of these influencers.

The most efficient and effective systems are where student to computer device ratios are low – especially when they are one to one.  Hattie’s ‘visible learning’ qualities are greatly enhanced in one to one environments evidenced by the research from Project RED (2010), Freedom to Learn (2007), Maine’s Learning Technology Initiative (2009), and the Berkshire Wireless Learning Initiative (2009).  The Ozarks Educational Research Initiative (OERI), in their 2012 Meta-Synthesis of Research on 1:1 Technology, found that one-to-one technologies in schools has a largely positive effect on learners’ development of 21st century (universal) skills.

The ‘visible learning’ factor with the strongest impact on student achievement is feedback. Connections between and among learners and teachers and learners and learners.   The quality of the feedback matters more than the quantity.  The most potent feedback is that from students to teachers.  It is important to define and operationalize a feedback loop between teachers and students, going both ways, to ensure increased student academic growth.

Michael Fullan and Maria Langworthy describe the ideal relationship between learners and teachers is that of partnership (A Rich Seam How New Pedagogies Find Deep Learning 2014).   They discuss this ‘first force’ as one of “new pedagogies’ (that) spring from the new learning partnerships that emerge between and among students and teachers when digital tools and resources become pervasive.” Through the use of technology tools and programs students and teachers can engage in consistent communications, formative assessments that inform instruction, collaborative products and power up student-directed learning and goal setting. There are some example tools on this site:  http://www.freetech4teachers.com/2012/06/12-tools-for-quickly-gathering-informal.html.

The above ties in closely with mastery or competency-based learning.     Hattie found that all students can achieve when they are focused on mastering tasks in a collaborative setting.  Along this line, he found that there are required classroom conditions driving this kind of student achievement.  They are:  elevated levels of peer collaboration, teacher feedback that is focused, diagnostic, frequent, and flexible timelines for each student to reach mastery goals.  Meaningful use of technologies will produce high levels of efficiency and productivity along the mastery learning spectrum. Memorial Middle School’s (Sioux Falls School District) Earth Science teachers produced a great presentation on ‘mastery learning’ and the use of technology tools.  You can check it out here:  http://techtools4mastery.weebly.com/

Teacher-learner developed digital content and assessments is an avenue that ensures student voice, choice and the ability to personalize paths toward achievement.  Immediate feedback on learner progress or need for remediation gives students and teachers direction regarding resources and strategies aimed at achieving specific outcomes.  Peer collaborations are well accommodated by a host of technology tools for group development, review and revision-Googledocs being just one example. Here are others: http://www.educatorstechnology.com/2012/08/the-top-27-free-tools-to-collaborate.html.

More of Hattie’s influencing factors can be accommodated through effective use of technologies. The above is a ‘beginning’ survey and overview.  Using this research to guide instructional strategies and learner experiences will drive desired learner outcomes.  Powering up the latter through many kinds of technology tools will greatly improve productivities and efficiencies of scale.

Leslie Wilson
Chief Executive Officer
One-to-One Institute

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