2e Tech by Marlo PayneThurman

What the Research Says about
Educational Technology

July, 2014

In the first 2e Tech column, we covered the foundation and background principles that underlie the field of educational technology. Then, in the last column, we explored some futuristic ideas for the education of our gifted and twice-exceptional learners. Now, with both history and possibility in place, this column will highlight the use of educational technology in our schools, based on the evidence-based literature. We’ll look at research findings that pertain most to our 2e learners.

Better than a Classroom Teacher?

Computer technology has revolutionized how we live, work, and learn. The U.S. Department of Education estimates that roughly 3 percent of its 1.1 trillion dollar annual budget goes for technology and ancillary support services. Yet, solid research about the effects on student achievement of computers and computer-aided instructional programs and tools is still in its infancy. Moreover, no studies to date have specifically examined the effectiveness of educational technologies on 2e students, even though hundreds of books and articles have suggested the use of technology as a panacea for at least part of the challenges these kids face.

Unfortunately, few studies done on educational software, games, learning programs, and computer-based learning products have been conducted under the rigorous standards we set for other fields of research. Nevertheless, in examining the studies we have, it seems that only a handful of today’s educational learning materials demonstrate a level of effectiveness above regular classroom teaching. 

One prominent study evaluated the 10 top-selling reading and mathematics software products, analyzing data on more than 11,000 students in 400 classrooms. The study tested the effectiveness of each software product by comparing standardized test scores. Researchers found that only one of the six top-selling reading products and none of four leading math products produced achievement results that were better than classroom teachers. Additional studies have even suggested that software products focusing primarily on drill and repetition could lead to decreased levels of achievement. 

Laptop Pros and Cons

The use of computers to complete traditional classwork and take notes in class is of special interest for our 2e learners. Longitudinal studies have compared the grade point averages of large numbers of students who use laptops regularly with those who do not. Findings showed that students with regular access to a laptop, for use in all subjects, consistently outperformed students without laptops across all areas of academic achievement.

Furthermore, studies on computer use have suggested that students with their own laptops do the following:

  • Spend more time involved in collaborative work
  • Participate in more project-based instruction
  • Produce writing of higher quality and greater length
  • Are more likely to access related content not specifically presented by the instructor
  • Demonstrate improved research and analysis skills
  • Spend more time doing homework in general.

In addition, some researchers have found that students who use computers develop higher-order thinking skills that can be positively related to several aspects of mathematics. Other researchers observed that, in the fields of science, technology, and mathematics, girls and boys perform equally well when using educational technologies and computer-based tools. 

Along with identifying the benefits of using computers, studies have also found some negative outcomes. For example, researchers noted that using a computer merely as an alternative to writing is an ineffective way to increase student learning. Students who used pencil and paper outperformed those on laptops by an average of 18 percent.

Finally, several studies have shown that when computer-assisted programs are implemented, none of the following appear to improve:

  • Assessments of reading vocabulary
  • Reading comprehension
  • Conceptual understanding in mathematics
  • Work-study habits.

Achieving Success with Educational Technology

In the research, it appears that one of the biggest challenges to the successful implementation of educational technologies is the teachers themselves. According to one researcher, professional vision, skill development, time, and beliefs about the value of educational technology are needed before educational technologies can be used to their full potential. SMART board technologies have been especially criticized because, it seems, many teachers simply use them as “glorified chalk boards.”

Other studies have suggested that schools that make effective use of educational technology use it as a means to promote education rather than teach technology for technology’s sake. In other words, the successful use of the technology grows out of purposeful planning and integration aimed at creating a challenging and cohesive learning environment.


Educational technology research, especially for students with exceptionalities, is quite limited and lacks a rigorous evidence base. While it appears that students can make academic gains with the addition of educational technologies, much still needs to be done to research these technologies, especially for certain populations like our twice-exceptional learners.

Educational Technology Research

Want to know more about the research referred to in this column? Here’s a listing of studies to check out.


Anderson, R., Becker, H. (2001). School investments in instructional technology. Teaching, Learning and Computing: 1998 National Survey Report #8. Center for Research on Information Technology and Organizations, Irvine: University of California.

Aguilar-Roca, N., Williams, A., & O’Dowd, D. (2012). The impact of laptop-free zones on student performance and attitudes in large lectures. Computers and Education, 59(4), 1300-1308. doi: 10.3102/00028312038004813

Baker, E.L., Gearhart, M., &Herman, J.L. (1994). Evaluation: The apple classrooms of tomorrow. In E.L. Baker, and H.F. O’Neil. Jr. (Eds.) Technology Assessment in Education and Training. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Earlbaum.

Barrow, L., Markman, L., & Rouse, C. E. (2009). Technology’s edge: The educational benefits of computer-aided instruction (No. w14240). National Bureau of Economic Research. Retrieved from: www.nber.org/papers/w14240.pdf

Campuzano, L., Dynarski, M., Agodini, R. & Rall, K. (2009). Effectiveness of reading and mathematics software products: Findings from two student cohorts. (NCEE Report 2009-4041). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Sciences: U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved from: http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED504657.pdf

 Gulek, J.C., & Demirtas, H. (2005). Learning with technology: The impact of laptop use on student achievement. The Journal of Technology, Learning and Assessment, 3, 1-37. Retrieved from: http://napoleon.bc.edu/ojs/index.php/jtla/article/view/1655/1501

Harel, I. (1990). Constructionist learning: A 5th anniversary collection of papers reflecting research reports, projects and essays by the epistemology and learning group. Cambridge, MA: MIT Media Laboratory.

Mann, D., Shakeshaft, C., Baker, J. and Kottkamp, R. (1990). West Virginia’s basic skills computer education program: An analysis of student achievement. Santa Monica, CA: Milliken Family Foundation.

Roschelle, J., Tatar, D., Schectman, N., Hegedus, S., Hopkins, B., Knudsen, J, & Stroter, A. (2007). Scaling up SimCalc project: Can a technology enhanced curriculum improve student learning of important mathematics? (Technical Report 01). Menlo Park, CA: SRI International. Retrieved from: http://math.coe.uga.edu/olive/emat9640/SimCalc_TechReport01.pdf

Sahin, S. (2012). Preservice teachers’ perspectives of the diffusion of information and communication technologies and the effect of case-based discussions. Computers and Education, 59(4), 1089-1098. Retrieved from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2012.04.007

Schacter, J. (1999). The impact of education technology on student achievement: What the most current research has to say. Santa Monica, CA: Milliken Family Foundation. Retrieved from: http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED430537.pdf

Sweet, J. (2004). Case studies of high-performing, high technology schools: Final research report on schools with predominantly low-income, African American or Latino student populations. North Central Regional Educational Laboratory, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, contract number ED01CO0011. Retrieved from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED489508.pdf

Wenglinsky, H. (1998). Does it compute? The relationship between educational technology and student achievement in mathematics. Educational Testing Service Policy Information Center. Retrieved from: http://.ets.org/pub/res/technolog.pdf 



Marlo Payne Thurman, M.S., is a school psychologist, education consultant, and member of the 2e Newsletter Editorial Advisory Board. She specializes in assessment, advocacy, cognitive training, sensory and behavior support, and socio-emotional coaching for individuals from around the country who are gifted yet asynchronous. Marlo operates the Brideun Learning Communities, which designs custom play-based therapeutic programs and, in addition to her private practice, she provides consultative support to new 2e program start-ups. Marlo holds a board position with the United States Autism and Asperger’s Association, is the director of the U.S. College Autism Project, and teaches a course in the Special Education Department of the University of Northern Colorado.

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