Category Archives: Education

What 126 studies say about education technology


MIT stock photo

via J-PAL North America in MIT News
February 26, 2019

A J-PAL North America publication aims to help decision-makers understand how education technology can help — or hinder — student learning.

 

In recent years, there has been widespread excitement around the transformative potential of technology in education. In the United States alone, spending on education technology has now exceeded $13 billion. Programs and policies to promote the use of education technology may expand access to quality education, support students’ learning in innovative ways, and help families navigate complex school systems.

However, the rapid development of education technology in the United States is occurring in a context of deep and persistent inequality. Depending on how programs are designed, how they are used, and who can access them, education technologies could alleviate or aggravate existing disparities. To harness education technology’s full potential, education decision-makers, product developers, and funders need to understand the ways in which technology can help — or in some cases hurt — student learning.

To address this need, J-PAL North America recently released a new publication summarizing 126 rigorous evaluations of different uses of education technology. Drawing primarily from research in developed countries, the publication looks at randomized evaluations and regression discontinuity designs across four broad categories: (1) access to technology, (2) computer-assisted learning or educational software, (3) technology-enabled nudges in education, and (4) online learning.

This growing body of evidence suggests some areas of promise and points to four key lessons on education technology.

First, supplying computers and internet alone generally do not improve students’ academic outcomes from kindergarten to 12th grade, but do increase computer usage and improve computer proficiency. Disparities in access to information and communication technologies can exacerbate existing educational inequalities. Students without access at school or at home may struggle to complete web-based assignments and may have a hard time developing digital literacy skills.

Broadly, programs to expand access to technology have been effective at increasing use of computers and improving computer skills. However, computer distribution and internet subsidy programs generally did not improve grades and test scores and in some cases led to adverse impacts on academic achievement. The limited rigorous evidence suggests that distributing computers may have a more direct impact on learning outcomes at the postsecondary level.

Second, educational software (often called “computer-assisted learning”) programs designed to help students develop particular skills have shown enormous promise in improving learning outcomes, particularly in math. Targeting instruction to meet students’ learning levels has been found to be effective in improving student learning, but large class sizes with a wide range of learning levels can make it hard for teachers to personalize instruction. Software has the potential to overcome traditional classroom constraints by customizing activities for each student. Educational software programs range from light-touch homework support tools to more intensive interventions that re-orient the classroom around the use of software.

Most educational software that have been rigorously evaluated help students practice particular skills through personalized tutoring approaches. Computer-assisted learning programs have shown enormous promise in improving academic achievement, especially in math. Of all 30 studies of computer-assisted learning programs, 20 reported statistically significant positive effects, 15 of which were focused on improving math outcomes.

Third, technology-based nudges — such as text message reminders — can have meaningful, if modest, impacts on a variety of education-related outcomes, often at extremely low costs. Low-cost interventions like text message reminders can successfully support students and families at each stage of schooling. Text messages with reminders, tips, goal-setting tools, and encouragement can increase parental engagement in learning activities, such as reading with their elementary-aged children.

Middle and high schools, meanwhile, can help parents support their children by providing families with information about how well their children are doing in school. Colleges can increase application and enrollment rates by leveraging technology to suggest specific action items, streamline financial aid procedures, and/or provide personalized support to high school students.

Online courses are developing a growing presence in education, but the limited experimental evidence suggests that online-only courses lower student academic achievement compared to in-person courses. In four of six studies that directly compared the impact of taking a course online versus in-person only, student performance was lower in the online courses. However, students performed similarly in courses with both in-person and online components compared to traditional face-to-face classes.

The new publication is meant to be a resource for decision-makers interested in learning which uses of education technology go beyond the hype to truly help students learn. At the same time, the publication outlines key open questions about the impacts of education technology, including questions relating to the long-term impacts of education technology and the impacts of education technology on different types of learners.

To help answer these questions, J-PAL North America’s Education, Technology, and Opportunity Initiative is working to build the evidence base on promising uses of education technology by partnering directly with education leaders.

Education leaders are invited to submit letters of interest to partner with J-PAL North America through its Innovation Competition. Anyone interested in learning more about how to apply is encouraged to contact initiative manager Vincent Quan.

Virtual Reality and Subliminal Marketing

March 20, 2019  – By Daniel Burrus, Futurist Speaker, Business Strategist, Author and Advisor

Virtual reality (VR) has become a reality, as nearly every tech company has created a product that features it, and it is now seen by many as mainstream. Facebook-owned Oculus Rift, PlayStation VR, and the HTC Vive are just a few examples of household names that have launched us into the future of the immersive experience.

There is little doubt that VR has the potential to revolutionize the entire entertainment, tourism and even learning industries if audiences adopt the concept of strapping a device to their heads. At the same time, there will be those who feel instantly compelled to compare the technology to such fads as the first 3D television.

However, if the masses embrace VR as predicted, should we be concerned that this completely immersive experience could lead us once again down the dark road of sinister subliminal advertising?

Applied to VR equipment and other, similar technology, subliminal advertising has the increasing capability of wielding a much deeper impact on the unknowing user. Given the vast, immersive characteristics of the VR environment. Consider one concept we’ve seen, where music apps and a smartwatch claim to play subliminal messages at a frequency overlaying music that cannot be detected by the ear, but only by the subconscious brain. This seemingly harmless idea could be incredibly valuable to savvy advertising agencies, as well as to candidates running for office.

Removing the everyday distractions of modern life and locking consumers away in an entirely immersive experience is every marketer’s dream — so before “plugging in,” we should all consider the potential implications of the use of this unregulated technology  to manipulate us.

When we take a closer look at the advertising that surrounds us, it’s obvious that subliminal messages are real and powerful, as seen in one 2015 example created by a Brazilian advertising agency. The advertisers placed a billboard of people yawning at a busy metro station in Sao Paulo. This “contagious billboard” was fitted with a motion sensor that automatically detected when commuters were passing by and then displayed a video of somebody yawning.

The campaign aimed to convince passers-by that they were tired by using infectious yawning.  The billboard followed the yawning video with this message: “Did you yawn, too? Time for coffee!” If it is possible to convince busy commuters to buy coffee by broadcasting a subliminal message, can you imagine the power potentially wielded within an immersive virtual reality experience that is completely free from distraction?

The gathering of data from our online purchases already allows subtle messaging for influential purposes, so the adverts that pop up and the messages we receive are certainly no accident or coincidence. Everywhere we turn, we are unwittingly subjected to product placements in video games and movies, but we congratulate ourselves on being able to see the messages and resist their pull. However, would we be as resistant to such messages if they appeared while we were completely immersed in virtual reality?

There is an enormous responsibility for any advertising agency considering bringing any form of advertising or marketing to virtual reality. If the consumer experience is in any way tainted by the out-of-date and detested marketing messages from our past, consumers will fail even to adopt the medium.

The main problem is that the current method of advertising is broken, and billions of dollars are wasted on ads that are either not seen or deemed irrelevant to a consumer’s lifestyle. This change in customer behavior is ushering in a new era of marketing called “targeted display advertising” (TDA) that uses consumers’ own data to deliver personalized ads that resonate with them.

Organizations finally have a handle on big data, and they will be able to leverage our mobile devices to learn what we’re interested in even before we clearly know ourselves, based solely on our browsing histories.

As we drift between devices and screens, we have surrounded ourselves with wave of white noise that has become a frustrating obstacle for any advertiser striving to stand out amongst  all the distractions. However, a headset that removes any form of outside interruption by pumping sound into a consumer’s ears and preventing his or her eyes from wandering could make subliminal messaging hard to avoid.

Before becoming paranoid about what’s to come, it is important to understand how this technology can also be used for the greater good, too.

Virtual reality can make a positive difference in our lives by opening up fantastic opportunities for learning, rehabilitation, teaching and tourism. But I would like to see more conversations and debates about how subliminal marketing messages should be used in that environment, to help solve any problems before they occur.

What are your thoughts on the immersive experience virtual reality delivers to audiences, and about the benefits and downsides of its being leveraged to deliver subliminal messaging?

To better determine and understand the Hard Trend opportunities the immersive experience virtual reality delivers to audiences, get my latest book The Anticipatory Organization.

Pick up your copy today at www.TheAOBook.com