Making a difference

Many times I've heard it said that there is no evidence that technology improves learning. This is a vacuous claim, based on ignorance of the research literature, and possibly borne out of a fear or dislike of technology in general. My usual retort to such a claim is that children with special educational needs are a classic example of technology improving learning. For children with special needs, especially those with physical disabilities such as deafness or vision impairment, technology not only improves learning, it actually enables learning. Without adaptive technology, many disabled children could not access certain types of education. But there is a mass of evidence to show that technology is not only making the difference for all learners, it is actually creating new and previously unattainable opportunities for learning. Technology does make a difference.

A recent research study at the Durham University in the North East of England suggests that multi-touch, multi-user surfaces can improve the learning of mathematics. 400 children were involved in the study, which demonstrated that 'smart tables' enabled better collaboration and problem solving during maths lessons. Class teachers receive a live feed of output from the children's interactions on the surface, and can intervene when necessary. Research has shown that the touch surfaces enable children to discover a range of alternative solutions to maths problems, simply through interacting with each other in new ways.

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Martin King said…
Steve - I think I would qualify that as technology CAN make a difference - It depends on context - so often I've seen technology simply reinforce existing practice.

However, the difference may be that institutional technology reinforces existing practices whereas personal technology may disrupt - as you tweeted earlier BYOD = Bring Your Own Disruption!
Steve Wheeler said…
Martin, I hear what you are saying, and I'm a techno-realist myself. On this occasion though I'm reporting on an instance where the technology is clearly being applied appropriately, and learning is being improved, hence the headline 'making a difference'.
Simon Ensor said…
Of course technology (in its wider sense) enhances learning. Of course no technology necessarily enhances teaching what people have no personal interest in learning. It is debatable whether learners are primarily learning what researchers are thinking they are. What is worrying is trying to limit learning to what 'managers' want to measure. Could we not encourage unpredictability rather than predictability? After-thought: Books are rubbish hammers.
Simon Ensor said…
After-thought rant: just seen national news report on French education lagging behind UK on implementation of ICT. Innovation presented as silent students answering questionnaires 'even at home' while teacher stands around looking like foreman in factory 'workshop'. Alternatively primary school teacher championing interactive white board centre stage.

Feel technology enhanced emigration (even virtual) as essential to survival of soul.

Mr Skinner. This is your life. Au secours. Change Channel.
They have been showing Chaplin films on TV. Tonight: "The Dictator"
This is 2012, this is just a bad dream.
Yesterday's film: "Modern Times."
Disturbing nostalgia.
sophie said…
Steve - Thanks for the post, after reading your post I came across this website the and I really think you should take a look at it. It combines interactive learning with students and technology in a clever way!! Worth your time

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