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What is “EDU STAR”: Harnessing Technology to Improve K-12 Education

28 Sep

As everything in society becomes more closely tied to technology, key questions are whether technology is useful in a given circumstance and how to evaluate the usefulness of a particular technology application. In a 2004 policy report, Evaluating The Effectiveness of Technology in Our Schools, ACT had some interesting questions about the use of technology in schools:

Specifically, this report:

Focuses on issues that need to be considered as we assess the impact of technology and develop evidence-based strategies for technology integration that contribute to high achievement for all students.  Provides useful information and specific recommendations about evaluating the effectiveness of technological applications implemented to enhance teaching, learning, and achievement. Technology should be a tool to help educators meet the educational needs of all children. As such, technologies cannot function as solutions in isolation but must be thought of as key ingredients in making it possible for schools to address core educational challenges1. Technology can serve as an enabler in teaching and learning to:

 Help organize and provide structure for material to students.

 Help students, teachers, and parents interact, anytime and anywhere.

 Facilitate and assist in the authentication and prioritization of Internet material.

 Simulate, visualize, and interact with scientific structures, processes, and models.

 Help in learning history and depicting future trends.

 Serve as an extension and enhancer for handicapped populations.

 Provide automated translators for multilingual populations2.

However, technology and equity are not inevitable partners. Simply providing access does not ensure that technology will effectively enhance teaching and learning and result in improved achievement. Nor does providing access imply that all teachers and students will make optimal use of the technology. Technology may mean little without appropriate objectives and goals for its use, structures for its application, trained and skillful deliverers, and clearly envisioned plans for evaluating its effectiveness.

Two yardsticks we can use to measure the strides technology has made are accessibility by students (and teachers) to technology resources and how technology is actually utilized by schools and teachers in different settings and for different students. http://www.act.org/research/policymakers/pdf/school_tech.pdf

Two researchers are proposing a systematic method for evaluating technology for schools.

Huffington Post has an interesting article about a proposed system to evaluate education technology. In the article, Education Technology: Hamilton Project Report Calls For EDU STAR To Evaluate Tech In Schools, the technology is described:

In a new paper for The Hamilton Project, Duke University’s Aaron Chatterji and Northwestern’s Benjamin Jones propose establishing a third-party ratings organization dubbed “EDU STAR” that would evaluate education technologies.

The proposal aims to encourage innovation in the education sector — which has seen relatively little new technologies compared to other industries — and provide new methods to help students learn.

While instructional software can offer personalized learning for students and potentially complement a teacher’s skillset, little is known about the effectiveness of learning technologies. According to the report, schools often have no way of knowing if a product works, and collecting such information or running their own tests requires investing both time and money.

In their paper, Chatterji and Jones write that their proposed nonprofit organization would bridge the information gap between market suppliers and schools, test software-based learning tools, and disseminate ratings and other measures of effectiveness online — similar to the publication Consumer Reports.

EDU STAR would begin by focusing on instructional content, which it would evaluate based on one or more of the Common Core State Standards. The organization would also collaborate with entrepreneurs, screening their products before they go into schools.

According to the report, EDU STAR plans to partner with a group of schools or school districts to test new technologies. The idea is that every school would set aside time for students to engage in digital learning, during which they would log into the EDU STAR system and work with the products that are being evaluated.

Chatterji and Jones estimate that one large school district would be enough to provide comprehensive results. In the event that there is not sufficient interest from schools, EDU STAR may offer incentives like discounts on software or compensation.

When it comes to disseminating results, the organization would be responsible for creating easily accessible reports detailing the effectiveness of various products and publishing these reports online. EDU STAR would rate each technology on a scale of one to five stars, and would also include supplemental information like how many students have used the software, how it was tested, user ratings from both students and teachers, and how effective the product is for different types of students. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/27/hamilton-project-report-c_n_1917166.html?utm_hp_ref=education

Technology is just a tool. In terms of getting the kids working together and motivating them, the teacher is most important.”                                Bill Gates



Technological progress has consistently driven remarkable advances in the U.S. economy, yet K–12 education sees little technological change compared to other sectors, even as U.S. K–12 students increasingly lag behind students in other nations. This proposal considers how we can take a signature American strength—innovation—and apply it to K–12 education. We argue that the advent of Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and broadband Internet create promising opportunities for developing new learning technologies but that a fundamental obstacle remains: the effectiveness of learning technologies is rarely known. Not surprisingly, when no one knows what works, schools are unlikely to buy, and innovators are unlikely to create. Our proposed EDU STAR system will solve this problem by (a) undertaking rapid, rigorous, and low-cost evaluations of learning tools and (b) reporting results to the public. Coupling Internet-based real-time evaluation systems (demonstrated daily by many leading companies) with trusted reporting (modeled by Consumer Reports and others), the proposed EDU STAR platform will help schools make informed learning technology decisions and substantially reduce entry barriers for innovators. EDU STAR will bring together K–12 schools, teachers, and innovators and continually improve this critical foundation for economic prosperity.


  • Aaron Chatterji

    Associate Professor, Fuqua School of Business, Duke University

  • Benjamin Jones

    Associate Professor, Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University


What Forty Years of Research Says About the Impact of Technology on Learning

A Second-Order Meta-Analysis and Validation Study

  1. Rana M. Tamim
  1. Hamdan Bin Mohammed e-University
  1. Robert M. Bernard
  2. Eugene Borokhovski
  3. Philip C. Abrami
  4. Richard F. Schmid
  1. Concordia University
    This research study employs a second-order meta-analysis procedure to summarize 40 years of research activity addressing the question, does computer technology use affect student achievement in formal face-to-face classrooms as compared to classrooms that do not use technology? A study-level meta-analytic validation was also conducted for purposes of comparison. An extensive literature search and a systematic review process resulted in the inclusion of 25 meta-analyses with minimal overlap in primary literature, encompassing 1,055 primary studies. The random effects mean effect size of 0.35 was significantly different from zero. The distribution was heterogeneous under the fixed effects model. To validate the second-order meta-analysis, 574 individual independent effect sizes were extracted from 13 out of the 25 meta-analyses. The mean effect size was 0.33 under the random effects model, and the distribution was heterogeneous. Insights about the state of the field, implications for technology use, and prospects for future research are discussed.

This Article

  1. Published online before print January 10, 2011, doi: 10.3102/0034654310393361 REVIEW OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH March 2011 vol. 81 no. 1 4-28
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    All Versions of this Article:

    1. current version image indicatorVersion of Record – Mar 2, 2011
    2. 0034654310393361v1 – Jan 10, 2011

Researcher Studies Effects of Technology in Schools http://www.komu.com/news/researcher-studies-effects-of-technology-in-schools-29344/

Technology In Schools: Weighing The Pros And Cons http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/10/22/technology-in-schools-wei_n_772674.html


Technology report: Ed-Fi, the student info data base                                https://drwilda.com/2012/05/14/technology-report-ed-fi-the-student-info-data-base/

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