During the 1980s, studies demonstrated that using computer technology could motivate students, enhance instruction for special needs students, improve students' attitudes toward learning, and motivate teachers and free them from some routine instructional tasks. The Software Publishers Association's 1990 Report on the Effectiveness of Microcomputers in Schools presented studies that showed that the use of technology as a learning tool could make a measurable positive difference in student achievement, attitudes, and interaction with teachers and other students. These effects were related to a number of factors—such as subject area, characteristics of the student population, the teacher's role, patterns of student grouping, software design, and the level of access to technology.(3)
The 1996 report summarized here documents the growing research on the effectiveness of technology and extends the findings presented earlier.(4) It is based on 176 research reviews and reports of original research projects, from both published and unpublished sources, that appeared between 1990 and 1995. The 176 studies were chosen from an original set of over 1000; studies were excluded from the final set for such reasons as methodological weakness (e.g., lack of alternative treatments in comparative studies) and focus on extraneous issues (e.g., critiques of typical research methods, research on the attitudes of student teachers, research on the physical layout of technology-rich classrooms). Seventy of the final set appeared in professional journals, while 33 were doctoral dissertations.
The report itself is presented in four sections:
1. the effects of technology on students' achievement,
2. the effects of technology on student self-concept and attitudes about learning,
3. the effects of technology on interactions involving teachers and students in the learning environment, and
4. a complete bibliography of the work cited.
This article both surveys the general results presented in the report and highlights findings and issues that are especially important to library media specialists.
Technology and Student Achievement
The bulk of the report—twenty-four of the thirty-eight pages it devotes to discussing particular findings—addresses the effects of technology on student achievement. In general, the studies reviewed in this section suggest that:
educational technology has demonstrated a significant positive effect on achievement. Positive effects have been found for all major subject areas, in preschool through higher education, and for both regular education and special needs students. Evidence suggests that interactive video is especially effective when the skills and concepts to be learned have a visual component and when the software incorporates a research-based instructional design. Use of online telecommunications for collaboration across classrooms in different geographic locations has also been shown to improve academic skills.(5)
The report focuses initially on several meta-analyses of the effects of technology-based instruction as compared to other instructional methods. A helpful (if somewhat controversial) methodology, meta-analysis is designed to provide general statements that summarize the findings of a number of studies on a particular topic. It uses statistical techniques to analyze and synthesize data from these studies in…