It depends…

“It depends” is a phrase that most evaluators know well.  In the work that we do, context and participant characteristics often matter a great deal.  In this recent EdSurge article by Patricia Gomes she explores concepts and caveats that relate to efficacy as discussed by Barbara Means and Jeremy Roschelle, co-directors of SRI’s Center for Technology in Learning:

Big takeaways:

  1. Tools don’t exist in isolation.  How they are used by educators matters a great deal. A great tool being implemented half-heartedly or incorrectly may not produce desired results.  Conversely, a poor tool being implemented in the right context by a skilled educator could produce results that wouldn’t be seen in other contexts.
  2. Educators often seek a one-sized-fits all approach, but like cars, maybe the best product varies based on the needs and preferences of different users.
  3. Measures matter too.  You’ve got to know what you are looking for and pick measures that can effectively identify desired outcomes.  (I would also add a note about the fact that it is also good to incorporate methodology that also allows you to uncover unintended outcomes – if we are too focused on very specific outcomes, we may miss other unanticipated outcomes–both positive or negative–that could also be important to understand).
  4. Some outcomes may take time to emerge. Big and fundamental changes in learners take time.
  5. For all these reasons: “It depends” is a valid and accurate response for people who wonder if certain ed tech tools work.

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