21st Century Technologies and Their Relationship to Student Achievement

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The Holy Grail in education today is to link an educational strategy, program, initiative or technology to student achievement. There are numerous organizations advocating for Technology Literacy, Information Literacy, 21st Century Learning Skills, and any number of other titles for literacy in a modern context. In all sectors of human society, the technology of the 21st Century has revolutionized and enhanced our way of life. From medicine to the military and from business to the arts, the technologies of today have made our lives better. It is not surprising then, that the public expects technology to have a similar revolutionary effect on education. After all, the biggest advancements of the last 20 years have been in the realm of information and the tools of human knowledge; this is Education’s back-yard. Yet, when people look at our schools they see many classrooms that seem to have been immune to these advances. There are obstacles that education faces in implementing a 21st Century approach to education not the least of which is finding a definition and a clear picture of what it really looks like and whether it will be more effective for students. Costs to implement technology-rich programs quickly seem prohibitive when scaling to an entire school system, particularly so in a state that lags the nation in educational funding. Teachers are our biggest asset and are known to be the single largest influence on student achievement the district can provide, so professional development is crucial and fundamental. The measure of success, the CSAP, is a paper and pencil test which will be unable to measure all the positive effects technology can have for student learning. Indeed, a 20th Century test method will be unable to properly assess (and may even inhibit) the skills development of a 21st Century learner. And then, are we just about the content and helping students master it, or is education about something more as well? Therefore, making the case that investment in technology will increase student achievement can be fraught with pitfalls and obstacles. To attempt to tackle this issue, the authors of this paper will review quality research and commentary in an array of areas where technology-related tools and strategies have been implemented with positive effects for students. A strict filter of studies that produce higher test results will not be used because of the limitations current paper and pencil tests have in assessment of 21st Century skills. In addition to improved assessment performances, the reader is encouraged to consider the context of a global workplace and education’s duty to prepare students to thrive in a highly digital, interactive knowledge workforce. Research that shows increased student achievement on assessments, studies that point to ways education can successfully prepare students for a modern workforce and our own experiences in Littleton Public Schools shall all be considered positive correlations between technology and student achievement in this paper.

The Challenge Inherent in Determining the Effectiveness of Technologies via Research The following is an excerpt that addresses a gestalt view of technology and its correlation to student achievement: When we try to determine the effectiveness of educational technologies, we are confronted by a number of methodological and practical issues. First, we need to remember that technology is only one component of an instructional activity. Assessments of the impact of technology are really assessments of instruction enabled by technology, and the outcomes are highly dependent on the quality of the implementation of the instructional design. According to Roy Pea, director of SRI Center for Technology in Learning in Menlo Park, California, the "social contexts" of how technology is used are crucial to understanding how technology might influence teaching and learning. Educational technologies cannot be...
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