This article touches on concern about overuse of tech — but also talks about research done on whether or not these methods actually help the kids. The author didn’t have a lot of glowing things to say.
But in the midst of all the excitement, there’s little strong evidence that classroom technology, including personalized learning, is improving educational outcomes. A 2015 report from the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development found that countries that invested heavily in computer technology for schools showed “no appreciable improvements” in reading, math or science, and that technology “is of little help in bridging the skills divide between advantaged and disadvantaged students.”
A recent Rand study evaluating the use of personalized learning found emerging signs of promise, but with plenty of caveats. Students in 40 schools with personalized-learning programs funded by the Gates Foundation scored a bit higher on standardized English and math tests over the course of one school year, with only the math gains reaching statistical significance. A “slight majority” of schools had positive gains, the report found. But because it didn’t have a randomized control group, “our study is not able to make a very strong statement about whether the personalized learning approaches actually caused the improvement,” Elizabeth Steiner, a study co-leader and an associate policy researcher at the think tank, told me.
The Rand report also found challenges: Helping students work at their own pace can make group projects and collaboration more difficult because students are at different places, while also making it harder to prepare kids for year-end standardized tests. Another review of the Gates-funded effort, by the Center for Reinventing Public Education, concluded that: “At the end of two years, despite some pockets of innovation, few schools had developed replicable strategies for personalized learning.”