While there is some nuance in terms of how these are implemented, they all seem to have a strong relationship with student outcomes as well as student retention. What one notices, however, is the absence of “educational technology” on this list. This is very interesting since there is such a strong movement to increase ed tech throughout all levels of education. I personally have called for this in practice and in my own academic writing.
Let me reconcile this disconnect. You see, much like the items above, if taken individually ed tech is an excellent but insufficient contributor to improved student outcomes. When an innovative teacher couples the use of ed tech with engaging pedagogical practices, learns appropriate use of ed tech within a faculty development environment, or redesigns a course by including ed tech, then ed tech can have a magnification effect on the determinants above. When faculty increase their levels of student engagement and active learning in their classrooms with the use of ed tech, many studies show these actions create a favorable environment and a positive impact on student performance.
How, then, should Ed Tech companies strive for better student outcomes? They should first strive to fully understand the above determinants and what each of them mean to educational institutions and teaching professionals. Next, ed tech companies should work with institutions and professionals to uncover how ed tech enhances the pedagogical environment. Ed tech companies should not innovate in a vacuum. Every iterative step of technology production and deployment must involve comprehensive understanding of student outcome determinants and productive conversations with education stakeholders. Many companies are very good at this, which becomes obvious when using their tech tools (for example, apps like GoodReader, Explain Everything, and the ShowME Interactive Whiteboard). Others clearly have a long way to go.
We definitely need more ed tech companies who are concerned about student outcomes and these companies should ideally work in concert with innovative school systems. In a three-part blog post series on how schools and universities should increase their impact, Christenson Institute researcher Thomas Arnett argues that innovation is the “key to real and lasting progress in education.”