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Why Do We Need Technology Integration?

The myriad benefits of integrating technology into the classroom.

Technology is a ubiquitous part of children's lives. It is transparent. Most homes have connected computers or Internet-enabled devices. As prices of technology drop, computers and digital devices may replace television as we know it. When pioneering educational technology advocate Jan Hawkins wrote an essay for Edutopia in 1997, " The World at Your Fingertips: Education Technology Opens Doors ," about how technology brings the tools of empowerment into the hands and minds of those who use them, she couldn't have known her words would be even more relevant today.

Now, walk into a classroom. Are there computers and if so, how are they being used? Are they being used at all? Technology has revolutionized the way we think, work, and play. Technology, when integrated into the curriculum, revolutionizes the learning process. More and more studies show that technology integration in the curriculum improves students' learning processes and outcomes. Teachers who recognize computers as problem-solving tools change the way they teach. They move from a behavioral approach to a more constructivist approach. Technology and interactive multimedia are more conducive to project-based learning. Students are engaged in their learning using these powerful tools, and can become creators and critics instead of just consumers.

the inclusion of technology in the learning process essay

Another reason for technology integration is the necessity of today's students to have 21st century skills.

These 21st century skills include

  • personal and social responsibility
  • planning, critical thinking, reasoning, and creativity
  • strong communication skills, both for interpersonal and presentation needs
  • cross-cultural understanding
  • visualizing and decision making
  • knowing how and when to use technology and choosing the most appropriate tool for the task

A great starting point for more information about 21st century skills is the Partnership for 21st Century Skills website .

The Edutopia article "Why Integrate Technology into the Curriculum?: The Reasons Are Many" offers this summary: "Integrating technology into classroom instruction means more than teaching basic computer skills and software programs in a separate computer class. Effective tech integration must happen across the curriculum in ways that research shows deepen and enhance the learning process. In particular, it must support four key components of learning: active engagement, participation in groups, frequent interaction and feedback, and connection to real-world experts."

Technology helps change the student/teacher roles and relationships: students take responsibility for their learning outcomes, while teachers become guides and facilitators. Technology lends itself as the multidimensional tool that assists that process. For economically disadvantaged students, the school may be the only place where they will have the opportunity to use a computer and integrate technology into their learning (for more about equity, access, and digital inclusion, check out our Digital Divide Resource Roundup .)

There is a growing body of evidence that technology integration positively affects student achievement and academic performance. The Center for Applied Research in Educational Technology (CARET) found that, when used in collaborative learning methods and leadership that is aimed at improving the school through technology planning, technology impacts achievement in content area learning, promotes higher-order thinking and problem solving skills, and prepares students for the workforce. Look at the research findings on student learning in CARET's Questions & Answers for the question: "How can technology influence student academic performance?"

You will find more links to research and resources in the Resources for Tech Integration section of this guide.

Continue to the next section of the guide, What Is Tech Integration?

This guide is organized into six sections:

  • Introduction
  • Why Integrate Technology?
  • What Is Tech Integration?
  • How to Integrate Technology
  • Workshop Activities
  • Resources for Tech Integration

REALIZING THE PROMISE:

Leading up to the 75th anniversary of the UN General Assembly, this “Realizing the promise: How can education technology improve learning for all?” publication kicks off the Center for Universal Education’s first playbook in a series to help improve education around the world.

It is intended as an evidence-based tool for ministries of education, particularly in low- and middle-income countries, to adopt and more successfully invest in education technology.

While there is no single education initiative that will achieve the same results everywhere—as school systems differ in learners and educators, as well as in the availability and quality of materials and technologies—an important first step is understanding how technology is used given specific local contexts and needs.

The surveys in this playbook are designed to be adapted to collect this information from educators, learners, and school leaders and guide decisionmakers in expanding the use of technology.  

Introduction

While technology has disrupted most sectors of the economy and changed how we communicate, access information, work, and even play, its impact on schools, teaching, and learning has been much more limited. We believe that this limited impact is primarily due to technology being been used to replace analog tools, without much consideration given to playing to technology’s comparative advantages. These comparative advantages, relative to traditional “chalk-and-talk” classroom instruction, include helping to scale up standardized instruction, facilitate differentiated instruction, expand opportunities for practice, and increase student engagement. When schools use technology to enhance the work of educators and to improve the quality and quantity of educational content, learners will thrive.

Further, COVID-19 has laid bare that, in today’s environment where pandemics and the effects of climate change are likely to occur, schools cannot always provide in-person education—making the case for investing in education technology.

Here we argue for a simple yet surprisingly rare approach to education technology that seeks to:

  • Understand the needs, infrastructure, and capacity of a school system—the diagnosis;
  • Survey the best available evidence on interventions that match those conditions—the evidence; and
  • Closely monitor the results of innovations before they are scaled up—the prognosis.

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The framework.

Our approach builds on a simple yet intuitive theoretical framework created two decades ago by two of the most prominent education researchers in the United States, David K. Cohen and Deborah Loewenberg Ball. They argue that what matters most to improve learning is the interactions among educators and learners around educational materials. We believe that the failed school-improvement efforts in the U.S. that motivated Cohen and Ball’s framework resemble the ed-tech reforms in much of the developing world to date in the lack of clarity improving the interactions between educators, learners, and the educational material. We build on their framework by adding parents as key agents that mediate the relationships between learners and educators and the material (Figure 1).

Figure 1: The instructional core

Adapted from Cohen and Ball (1999)

As the figure above suggests, ed-tech interventions can affect the instructional core in a myriad of ways. Yet, just because technology can do something, it does not mean it should. School systems in developing countries differ along many dimensions and each system is likely to have different needs for ed-tech interventions, as well as different infrastructure and capacity to enact such interventions.

The diagnosis:

How can school systems assess their needs and preparedness.

A useful first step for any school system to determine whether it should invest in education technology is to diagnose its:

  • Specific needs to improve student learning (e.g., raising the average level of achievement, remediating gaps among low performers, and challenging high performers to develop higher-order skills);
  • Infrastructure to adopt technology-enabled solutions (e.g., electricity connection, availability of space and outlets, stock of computers, and Internet connectivity at school and at learners’ homes); and
  • Capacity to integrate technology in the instructional process (e.g., learners’ and educators’ level of familiarity and comfort with hardware and software, their beliefs about the level of usefulness of technology for learning purposes, and their current uses of such technology).

Before engaging in any new data collection exercise, school systems should take full advantage of existing administrative data that could shed light on these three main questions. This could be in the form of internal evaluations but also international learner assessments, such as the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), and/or the Progress in International Literacy Study (PIRLS), and the Teaching and Learning International Study (TALIS). But if school systems lack information on their preparedness for ed-tech reforms or if they seek to complement existing data with a richer set of indicators, we developed a set of surveys for learners, educators, and school leaders. Download the full report to see how we map out the main aspects covered by these surveys, in hopes of highlighting how they could be used to inform decisions around the adoption of ed-tech interventions.

The evidence:

How can school systems identify promising ed-tech interventions.

There is no single “ed-tech” initiative that will achieve the same results everywhere, simply because school systems differ in learners and educators, as well as in the availability and quality of materials and technologies. Instead, to realize the potential of education technology to accelerate student learning, decisionmakers should focus on four potential uses of technology that play to its comparative advantages and complement the work of educators to accelerate student learning (Figure 2). These comparative advantages include:

  • Scaling up quality instruction, such as through prerecorded quality lessons.
  • Facilitating differentiated instruction, through, for example, computer-adaptive learning and live one-on-one tutoring.
  • Expanding opportunities to practice.
  • Increasing learner engagement through videos and games.

Figure 2: Comparative advantages of technology

Here we review the evidence on ed-tech interventions from 37 studies in 20 countries*, organizing them by comparative advantage. It’s important to note that ours is not the only way to classify these interventions (e.g., video tutorials could be considered as a strategy to scale up instruction or increase learner engagement), but we believe it may be useful to highlight the needs that they could address and why technology is well positioned to do so.

When discussing specific studies, we report the magnitude of the effects of interventions using standard deviations (SDs). SDs are a widely used metric in research to express the effect of a program or policy with respect to a business-as-usual condition (e.g., test scores). There are several ways to make sense of them. One is to categorize the magnitude of the effects based on the results of impact evaluations. In developing countries, effects below 0.1 SDs are considered to be small, effects between 0.1 and 0.2 SDs are medium, and those above 0.2 SDs are large (for reviews that estimate the average effect of groups of interventions, called “meta analyses,” see e.g., Conn, 2017; Kremer, Brannen, & Glennerster, 2013; McEwan, 2014; Snilstveit et al., 2015; Evans & Yuan, 2020.)

*In surveying the evidence, we began by compiling studies from prior general and ed-tech specific evidence reviews that some of us have written and from ed-tech reviews conducted by others. Then, we tracked the studies cited by the ones we had previously read and reviewed those, as well. In identifying studies for inclusion, we focused on experimental and quasi-experimental evaluations of education technology interventions from pre-school to secondary school in low- and middle-income countries that were released between 2000 and 2020. We only included interventions that sought to improve student learning directly (i.e., students’ interaction with the material), as opposed to interventions that have impacted achievement indirectly, by reducing teacher absence or increasing parental engagement. This process yielded 37 studies in 20 countries (see the full list of studies in Appendix B).

Scaling up standardized instruction

One of the ways in which technology may improve the quality of education is through its capacity to deliver standardized quality content at scale. This feature of technology may be particularly useful in three types of settings: (a) those in “hard-to-staff” schools (i.e., schools that struggle to recruit educators with the requisite training and experience—typically, in rural and/or remote areas) (see, e.g., Urquiola & Vegas, 2005); (b) those in which many educators are frequently absent from school (e.g., Chaudhury, Hammer, Kremer, Muralidharan, & Rogers, 2006; Muralidharan, Das, Holla, & Mohpal, 2017); and/or (c) those in which educators have low levels of pedagogical and subject matter expertise (e.g., Bietenbeck, Piopiunik, & Wiederhold, 2018; Bold et al., 2017; Metzler & Woessmann, 2012; Santibañez, 2006) and do not have opportunities to observe and receive feedback (e.g., Bruns, Costa, & Cunha, 2018; Cilliers, Fleisch, Prinsloo, & Taylor, 2018). Technology could address this problem by: (a) disseminating lessons delivered by qualified educators to a large number of learners (e.g., through prerecorded or live lessons); (b) enabling distance education (e.g., for learners in remote areas and/or during periods of school closures); and (c) distributing hardware preloaded with educational materials.

Prerecorded lessons

Technology seems to be well placed to amplify the impact of effective educators by disseminating their lessons. Evidence on the impact of prerecorded lessons is encouraging, but not conclusive. Some initiatives that have used short instructional videos to complement regular instruction, in conjunction with other learning materials, have raised student learning on independent assessments. For example, Beg et al. (2020) evaluated an initiative in Punjab, Pakistan in which grade 8 classrooms received an intervention that included short videos to substitute live instruction, quizzes for learners to practice the material from every lesson, tablets for educators to learn the material and follow the lesson, and LED screens to project the videos onto a classroom screen. After six months, the intervention improved the performance of learners on independent tests of math and science by 0.19 and 0.24 SDs, respectively but had no discernible effect on the math and science section of Punjab’s high-stakes exams.

One study suggests that approaches that are far less technologically sophisticated can also improve learning outcomes—especially, if the business-as-usual instruction is of low quality. For example, Naslund-Hadley, Parker, and Hernandez-Agramonte (2014) evaluated a preschool math program in Cordillera, Paraguay that used audio segments and written materials four days per week for an hour per day during the school day. After five months, the intervention improved math scores by 0.16 SDs, narrowing gaps between low- and high-achieving learners, and between those with and without educators with formal training in early childhood education.

Yet, the integration of prerecorded material into regular instruction has not always been successful. For example, de Barros (2020) evaluated an intervention that combined instructional videos for math and science with infrastructure upgrades (e.g., two “smart” classrooms, two TVs, and two tablets), printed workbooks for students, and in-service training for educators of learners in grades 9 and 10 in Haryana, India (all materials were mapped onto the official curriculum). After 11 months, the intervention negatively impacted math achievement (by 0.08 SDs) and had no effect on science (with respect to business as usual classes). It reduced the share of lesson time that educators devoted to instruction and negatively impacted an index of instructional quality. Likewise, Seo (2017) evaluated several combinations of infrastructure (solar lights and TVs) and prerecorded videos (in English and/or bilingual) for grade 11 students in northern Tanzania and found that none of the variants improved student learning, even when the videos were used. The study reports effects from the infrastructure component across variants, but as others have noted (Muralidharan, Romero, & Wüthrich, 2019), this approach to estimating impact is problematic.

A very similar intervention delivered after school hours, however, had sizeable effects on learners’ basic skills. Chiplunkar, Dhar, and Nagesh (2020) evaluated an initiative in Chennai (the capital city of the state of Tamil Nadu, India) delivered by the same organization as above that combined short videos that explained key concepts in math and science with worksheets, facilitator-led instruction, small groups for peer-to-peer learning, and occasional career counseling and guidance for grade 9 students. These lessons took place after school for one hour, five times a week. After 10 months, it had large effects on learners’ achievement as measured by tests of basic skills in math and reading, but no effect on a standardized high-stakes test in grade 10 or socio-emotional skills (e.g., teamwork, decisionmaking, and communication).

Drawing general lessons from this body of research is challenging for at least two reasons. First, all of the studies above have evaluated the impact of prerecorded lessons combined with several other components (e.g., hardware, print materials, or other activities). Therefore, it is possible that the effects found are due to these additional components, rather than to the recordings themselves, or to the interaction between the two (see Muralidharan, 2017 for a discussion of the challenges of interpreting “bundled” interventions). Second, while these studies evaluate some type of prerecorded lessons, none examines the content of such lessons. Thus, it seems entirely plausible that the direction and magnitude of the effects depends largely on the quality of the recordings (e.g., the expertise of the educator recording it, the amount of preparation that went into planning the recording, and its alignment with best teaching practices).

These studies also raise three important questions worth exploring in future research. One of them is why none of the interventions discussed above had effects on high-stakes exams, even if their materials are typically mapped onto the official curriculum. It is possible that the official curricula are simply too challenging for learners in these settings, who are several grade levels behind expectations and who often need to reinforce basic skills (see Pritchett & Beatty, 2015). Another question is whether these interventions have long-term effects on teaching practices. It seems plausible that, if these interventions are deployed in contexts with low teaching quality, educators may learn something from watching the videos or listening to the recordings with learners. Yet another question is whether these interventions make it easier for schools to deliver instruction to learners whose native language is other than the official medium of instruction.

Distance education

Technology can also allow learners living in remote areas to access education. The evidence on these initiatives is encouraging. For example, Johnston and Ksoll (2017) evaluated a program that broadcasted live instruction via satellite to rural primary school students in the Volta and Greater Accra regions of Ghana. For this purpose, the program also equipped classrooms with the technology needed to connect to a studio in Accra, including solar panels, a satellite modem, a projector, a webcam, microphones, and a computer with interactive software. After two years, the intervention improved the numeracy scores of students in grades 2 through 4, and some foundational literacy tasks, but it had no effect on attendance or classroom time devoted to instruction, as captured by school visits. The authors interpreted these results as suggesting that the gains in achievement may be due to improving the quality of instruction that children received (as opposed to increased instructional time). Naik, Chitre, Bhalla, and Rajan (2019) evaluated a similar program in the Indian state of Karnataka and also found positive effects on learning outcomes, but it is not clear whether those effects are due to the program or due to differences in the groups of students they compared to estimate the impact of the initiative.

In one context (Mexico), this type of distance education had positive long-term effects. Navarro-Sola (2019) took advantage of the staggered rollout of the telesecundarias (i.e., middle schools with lessons broadcasted through satellite TV) in 1968 to estimate its impact. The policy had short-term effects on students’ enrollment in school: For every telesecundaria per 50 children, 10 students enrolled in middle school and two pursued further education. It also had a long-term influence on the educational and employment trajectory of its graduates. Each additional year of education induced by the policy increased average income by nearly 18 percent. This effect was attributable to more graduates entering the labor force and shifting from agriculture and the informal sector. Similarly, Fabregas (2019) leveraged a later expansion of this policy in 1993 and found that each additional telesecundaria per 1,000 adolescents led to an average increase of 0.2 years of education, and a decline in fertility for women, but no conclusive evidence of long-term effects on labor market outcomes.

It is crucial to interpret these results keeping in mind the settings where the interventions were implemented. As we mention above, part of the reason why they have proven effective is that the “counterfactual” conditions for learning (i.e., what would have happened to learners in the absence of such programs) was either to not have access to schooling or to be exposed to low-quality instruction. School systems interested in taking up similar interventions should assess the extent to which their learners (or parts of their learner population) find themselves in similar conditions to the subjects of the studies above. This illustrates the importance of assessing the needs of a system before reviewing the evidence.

Preloaded hardware

Technology also seems well positioned to disseminate educational materials. Specifically, hardware (e.g., desktop computers, laptops, or tablets) could also help deliver educational software (e.g., word processing, reference texts, and/or games). In theory, these materials could not only undergo a quality assurance review (e.g., by curriculum specialists and educators), but also draw on the interactions with learners for adjustments (e.g., identifying areas needing reinforcement) and enable interactions between learners and educators.

In practice, however, most initiatives that have provided learners with free computers, laptops, and netbooks do not leverage any of the opportunities mentioned above. Instead, they install a standard set of educational materials and hope that learners find them helpful enough to take them up on their own. Students rarely do so, and instead use the laptops for recreational purposes—often, to the detriment of their learning (see, e.g., Malamud & Pop-Eleches, 2011). In fact, free netbook initiatives have not only consistently failed to improve academic achievement in math or language (e.g., Cristia et al., 2017), but they have had no impact on learners’ general computer skills (e.g., Beuermann et al., 2015). Some of these initiatives have had small impacts on cognitive skills, but the mechanisms through which those effects occurred remains unclear.

To our knowledge, the only successful deployment of a free laptop initiative was one in which a team of researchers equipped the computers with remedial software. Mo et al. (2013) evaluated a version of the One Laptop per Child (OLPC) program for grade 3 students in migrant schools in Beijing, China in which the laptops were loaded with a remedial software mapped onto the national curriculum for math (similar to the software products that we discuss under “practice exercises” below). After nine months, the program improved math achievement by 0.17 SDs and computer skills by 0.33 SDs. If a school system decides to invest in free laptops, this study suggests that the quality of the software on the laptops is crucial.

To date, however, the evidence suggests that children do not learn more from interacting with laptops than they do from textbooks. For example, Bando, Gallego, Gertler, and Romero (2016) compared the effect of free laptop and textbook provision in 271 elementary schools in disadvantaged areas of Honduras. After seven months, students in grades 3 and 6 who had received the laptops performed on par with those who had received the textbooks in math and language. Further, even if textbooks essentially become obsolete at the end of each school year, whereas laptops can be reloaded with new materials for each year, the costs of laptop provision (not just the hardware, but also the technical assistance, Internet, and training associated with it) are not yet low enough to make them a more cost-effective way of delivering content to learners.

Evidence on the provision of tablets equipped with software is encouraging but limited. For example, de Hoop et al. (2020) evaluated a composite intervention for first grade students in Zambia’s Eastern Province that combined infrastructure (electricity via solar power), hardware (projectors and tablets), and educational materials (lesson plans for educators and interactive lessons for learners, both loaded onto the tablets and mapped onto the official Zambian curriculum). After 14 months, the intervention had improved student early-grade reading by 0.4 SDs, oral vocabulary scores by 0.25 SDs, and early-grade math by 0.22 SDs. It also improved students’ achievement by 0.16 on a locally developed assessment. The multifaceted nature of the program, however, makes it challenging to identify the components that are driving the positive effects. Pitchford (2015) evaluated an intervention that provided tablets equipped with educational “apps,” to be used for 30 minutes per day for two months to develop early math skills among students in grades 1 through 3 in Lilongwe, Malawi. The evaluation found positive impacts in math achievement, but the main study limitation is that it was conducted in a single school.

Facilitating differentiated instruction

Another way in which technology may improve educational outcomes is by facilitating the delivery of differentiated or individualized instruction. Most developing countries massively expanded access to schooling in recent decades by building new schools and making education more affordable, both by defraying direct costs, as well as compensating for opportunity costs (Duflo, 2001; World Bank, 2018). These initiatives have not only rapidly increased the number of learners enrolled in school, but have also increased the variability in learner’ preparation for schooling. Consequently, a large number of learners perform well below grade-based curricular expectations (see, e.g., Duflo, Dupas, & Kremer, 2011; Pritchett & Beatty, 2015). These learners are unlikely to get much from “one-size-fits-all” instruction, in which a single educator delivers instruction deemed appropriate for the middle (or top) of the achievement distribution (Banerjee & Duflo, 2011). Technology could potentially help these learners by providing them with: (a) instruction and opportunities for practice that adjust to the level and pace of preparation of each individual (known as “computer-adaptive learning” (CAL)); or (b) live, one-on-one tutoring.

Computer-adaptive learning

One of the main comparative advantages of technology is its ability to diagnose students’ initial learning levels and assign students to instruction and exercises of appropriate difficulty. No individual educator—no matter how talented—can be expected to provide individualized instruction to all learners in his/her class simultaneously . In this respect, technology is uniquely positioned to complement traditional teaching. This use of technology could help learners master basic skills and help them get more out of schooling.

Although many software products evaluated in recent years have been categorized as CAL, many rely on a relatively coarse level of differentiation at an initial stage (e.g., a diagnostic test) without further differentiation. We discuss these initiatives under the category of “increasing opportunities for practice” below. CAL initiatives complement an initial diagnostic with dynamic adaptation (i.e., at each response or set of responses from learners) to adjust both the initial level of difficulty and rate at which it increases or decreases, depending on whether learners’ responses are correct or incorrect.

Existing evidence on this specific type of programs is highly promising. Most famously, Banerjee et al. (2007) evaluated CAL software in Vadodara, in the Indian state of Gujarat, in which grade 4 students were offered two hours of shared computer time per week before and after school, during which they played games that involved solving math problems. The level of difficulty of such problems adjusted based on students’ answers. This program improved math achievement by 0.35 and 0.47 SDs after one and two years of implementation, respectively. Consistent with the promise of personalized learning, the software improved achievement for all students. In fact, one year after the end of the program, students assigned to the program still performed 0.1 SDs better than those assigned to a business as usual condition. More recently, Muralidharan, et al. (2019) evaluated a “blended learning” initiative in which students in grades 4 through 9 in Delhi, India received 45 minutes of interaction with CAL software for math and language, and 45 minutes of small group instruction before or after going to school. After only 4.5 months, the program improved achievement by 0.37 SDs in math and 0.23 SDs in Hindi. While all learners benefited from the program in absolute terms, the lowest performing learners benefited the most in relative terms, since they were learning very little in school.

We see two important limitations from this body of research. First, to our knowledge, none of these initiatives has been evaluated when implemented during the school day. Therefore, it is not possible to distinguish the effect of the adaptive software from that of additional instructional time. Second, given that most of these programs were facilitated by local instructors, attempts to distinguish the effect of the software from that of the instructors has been mostly based on noncausal evidence. A frontier challenge in this body of research is to understand whether CAL software can increase the effectiveness of school-based instruction by substituting part of the regularly scheduled time for math and language instruction.

Live one-on-one tutoring

Recent improvements in the speed and quality of videoconferencing, as well as in the connectivity of remote areas, have enabled yet another way in which technology can help personalization: live (i.e., real-time) one-on-one tutoring. While the evidence on in-person tutoring is scarce in developing countries, existing studies suggest that this approach works best when it is used to personalize instruction (see, e.g., Banerjee et al., 2007; Banerji, Berry, & Shotland, 2015; Cabezas, Cuesta, & Gallego, 2011).

There are almost no studies on the impact of online tutoring—possibly, due to the lack of hardware and Internet connectivity in low- and middle-income countries. One exception is Chemin and Oledan (2020)’s recent evaluation of an online tutoring program for grade 6 students in Kianyaga, Kenya to learn English from volunteers from a Canadian university via Skype ( videoconferencing software) for one hour per week after school. After 10 months, program beneficiaries performed 0.22 SDs better in a test of oral comprehension, improved their comfort using technology for learning, and became more willing to engage in cross-cultural communication. Importantly, while the tutoring sessions used the official English textbooks and sought in part to help learners with their homework, tutors were trained on several strategies to teach to each learner’s individual level of preparation, focusing on basic skills if necessary. To our knowledge, similar initiatives within a country have not yet been rigorously evaluated.

Expanding opportunities for practice

A third way in which technology may improve the quality of education is by providing learners with additional opportunities for practice. In many developing countries, lesson time is primarily devoted to lectures, in which the educator explains the topic and the learners passively copy explanations from the blackboard. This setup leaves little time for in-class practice. Consequently, learners who did not understand the explanation of the material during lecture struggle when they have to solve homework assignments on their own. Technology could potentially address this problem by allowing learners to review topics at their own pace.

Practice exercises

Technology can help learners get more out of traditional instruction by providing them with opportunities to implement what they learn in class. This approach could, in theory, allow some learners to anchor their understanding of the material through trial and error (i.e., by realizing what they may not have understood correctly during lecture and by getting better acquainted with special cases not covered in-depth in class).

Existing evidence on practice exercises reflects both the promise and the limitations of this use of technology in developing countries. For example, Lai et al. (2013) evaluated a program in Shaanxi, China where students in grades 3 and 5 were required to attend two 40-minute remedial sessions per week in which they first watched videos that reviewed the material that had been introduced in their math lessons that week and then played games to practice the skills introduced in the video. After four months, the intervention improved math achievement by 0.12 SDs. Many other evaluations of comparable interventions have found similar small-to-moderate results (see, e.g., Lai, Luo, Zhang, Huang, & Rozelle, 2015; Lai et al., 2012; Mo et al., 2015; Pitchford, 2015). These effects, however, have been consistently smaller than those of initiatives that adjust the difficulty of the material based on students’ performance (e.g., Banerjee et al., 2007; Muralidharan, et al., 2019). We hypothesize that these programs do little for learners who perform several grade levels behind curricular expectations, and who would benefit more from a review of foundational concepts from earlier grades.

We see two important limitations from this research. First, most initiatives that have been evaluated thus far combine instructional videos with practice exercises, so it is hard to know whether their effects are driven by the former or the latter. In fact, the program in China described above allowed learners to ask their peers whenever they did not understand a difficult concept, so it potentially also captured the effect of peer-to-peer collaboration. To our knowledge, no studies have addressed this gap in the evidence.

Second, most of these programs are implemented before or after school, so we cannot distinguish the effect of additional instructional time from that of the actual opportunity for practice. The importance of this question was first highlighted by Linden (2008), who compared two delivery mechanisms for game-based remedial math software for students in grades 2 and 3 in a network of schools run by a nonprofit organization in Gujarat, India: one in which students interacted with the software during the school day and another one in which students interacted with the software before or after school (in both cases, for three hours per day). After a year, the first version of the program had negatively impacted students’ math achievement by 0.57 SDs and the second one had a null effect. This study suggested that computer-assisted learning is a poor substitute for regular instruction when it is of high quality, as was the case in this well-functioning private network of schools.

In recent years, several studies have sought to remedy this shortcoming. Mo et al. (2014) were among the first to evaluate practice exercises delivered during the school day. They evaluated an initiative in Shaanxi, China in which students in grades 3 and 5 were required to interact with the software similar to the one in Lai et al. (2013) for two 40-minute sessions per week. The main limitation of this study, however, is that the program was delivered during regularly scheduled computer lessons, so it could not determine the impact of substituting regular math instruction. Similarly, Mo et al. (2020) evaluated a self-paced and a teacher-directed version of a similar program for English for grade 5 students in Qinghai, China. Yet, the key shortcoming of this study is that the teacher-directed version added several components that may also influence achievement, such as increased opportunities for teachers to provide students with personalized assistance when they struggled with the material. Ma, Fairlie, Loyalka, and Rozelle (2020) compared the effectiveness of additional time-delivered remedial instruction for students in grades 4 to 6 in Shaanxi, China through either computer-assisted software or using workbooks. This study indicates whether additional instructional time is more effective when using technology, but it does not address the question of whether school systems may improve the productivity of instructional time during the school day by substituting educator-led with computer-assisted instruction.

Increasing learner engagement

Another way in which technology may improve education is by increasing learners’ engagement with the material. In many school systems, regular “chalk and talk” instruction prioritizes time for educators’ exposition over opportunities for learners to ask clarifying questions and/or contribute to class discussions. This, combined with the fact that many developing-country classrooms include a very large number of learners (see, e.g., Angrist & Lavy, 1999; Duflo, Dupas, & Kremer, 2015), may partially explain why the majority of those students are several grade levels behind curricular expectations (e.g., Muralidharan, et al., 2019; Muralidharan & Zieleniak, 2014; Pritchett & Beatty, 2015). Technology could potentially address these challenges by: (a) using video tutorials for self-paced learning and (b) presenting exercises as games and/or gamifying practice.

Video tutorials

Technology can potentially increase learner effort and understanding of the material by finding new and more engaging ways to deliver it. Video tutorials designed for self-paced learning—as opposed to videos for whole class instruction, which we discuss under the category of “prerecorded lessons” above—can increase learner effort in multiple ways, including: allowing learners to focus on topics with which they need more help, letting them correct errors and misconceptions on their own, and making the material appealing through visual aids. They can increase understanding by breaking the material into smaller units and tackling common misconceptions.

In spite of the popularity of instructional videos, there is relatively little evidence on their effectiveness. Yet, two recent evaluations of different versions of the Khan Academy portal, which mainly relies on instructional videos, offer some insight into their impact. First, Ferman, Finamor, and Lima (2019) evaluated an initiative in 157 public primary and middle schools in five cities in Brazil in which the teachers of students in grades 5 and 9 were taken to the computer lab to learn math from the platform for 50 minutes per week. The authors found that, while the intervention slightly improved learners’ attitudes toward math, these changes did not translate into better performance in this subject. The authors hypothesized that this could be due to the reduction of teacher-led math instruction.

More recently, Büchel, Jakob, Kühnhanss, Steffen, and Brunetti (2020) evaluated an after-school, offline delivery of the Khan Academy portal in grades 3 through 6 in 302 primary schools in Morazán, El Salvador. Students in this study received 90 minutes per week of additional math instruction (effectively nearly doubling total math instruction per week) through teacher-led regular lessons, teacher-assisted Khan Academy lessons, or similar lessons assisted by technical supervisors with no content expertise. (Importantly, the first group provided differentiated instruction, which is not the norm in Salvadorian schools). All three groups outperformed both schools without any additional lessons and classrooms without additional lessons in the same schools as the program. The teacher-assisted Khan Academy lessons performed 0.24 SDs better, the supervisor-led lessons 0.22 SDs better, and the teacher-led regular lessons 0.15 SDs better, but the authors could not determine whether the effects across versions were different.

Together, these studies suggest that instructional videos work best when provided as a complement to, rather than as a substitute for, regular instruction. Yet, the main limitation of these studies is the multifaceted nature of the Khan Academy portal, which also includes other components found to positively improve learner achievement, such as differentiated instruction by students’ learning levels. While the software does not provide the type of personalization discussed above, learners are asked to take a placement test and, based on their score, educators assign them different work. Therefore, it is not clear from these studies whether the effects from Khan Academy are driven by its instructional videos or to the software’s ability to provide differentiated activities when combined with placement tests.

Games and gamification

Technology can also increase learner engagement by presenting exercises as games and/or by encouraging learner to play and compete with others (e.g., using leaderboards and rewards)—an approach known as “gamification.” Both approaches can increase learner motivation and effort by presenting learners with entertaining opportunities for practice and by leveraging peers as commitment devices.

There are very few studies on the effects of games and gamification in low- and middle-income countries. Recently, Araya, Arias Ortiz, Bottan, and Cristia (2019) evaluated an initiative in which grade 4 students in Santiago, Chile were required to participate in two 90-minute sessions per week during the school day with instructional math software featuring individual and group competitions (e.g., tracking each learner’s standing in his/her class and tournaments between sections). After nine months, the program led to improvements of 0.27 SDs in the national student assessment in math (it had no spillover effects on reading). However, it had mixed effects on non-academic outcomes. Specifically, the program increased learners’ willingness to use computers to learn math, but, at the same time, increased their anxiety toward math and negatively impacted learners’ willingness to collaborate with peers. Finally, given that one of the weekly sessions replaced regular math instruction and the other one represented additional math instructional time, it is not clear whether the academic effects of the program are driven by the software or the additional time devoted to learning math.

The prognosis:

How can school systems adopt interventions that match their needs.

Here are five specific and sequential guidelines for decisionmakers to realize the potential of education technology to accelerate student learning.

1. Take stock of how your current schools, educators, and learners are engaging with technology .

Carry out a short in-school survey to understand the current practices and potential barriers to adoption of technology (we have included suggested survey instruments in the Appendices); use this information in your decisionmaking process. For example, we learned from conversations with current and former ministers of education from various developing regions that a common limitation to technology use is regulations that hold school leaders accountable for damages to or losses of devices. Another common barrier is lack of access to electricity and Internet, or even the availability of sufficient outlets for charging devices in classrooms. Understanding basic infrastructure and regulatory limitations to the use of education technology is a first necessary step. But addressing these limitations will not guarantee that introducing or expanding technology use will accelerate learning. The next steps are thus necessary.

“In Africa, the biggest limit is connectivity. Fiber is expensive, and we don’t have it everywhere. The continent is creating a digital divide between cities, where there is fiber, and the rural areas.  The [Ghanaian] administration put in schools offline/online technologies with books, assessment tools, and open source materials. In deploying this, we are finding that again, teachers are unfamiliar with it. And existing policies prohibit students to bring their own tablets or cell phones. The easiest way to do it would have been to let everyone bring their own device. But policies are against it.” H.E. Matthew Prempeh, Minister of Education of Ghana, on the need to understand the local context.

2. Consider how the introduction of technology may affect the interactions among learners, educators, and content .

Our review of the evidence indicates that technology may accelerate student learning when it is used to scale up access to quality content, facilitate differentiated instruction, increase opportunities for practice, or when it increases learner engagement. For example, will adding electronic whiteboards to classrooms facilitate access to more quality content or differentiated instruction? Or will these expensive boards be used in the same way as the old chalkboards? Will providing one device (laptop or tablet) to each learner facilitate access to more and better content, or offer students more opportunities to practice and learn? Solely introducing technology in classrooms without additional changes is unlikely to lead to improved learning and may be quite costly. If you cannot clearly identify how the interactions among the three key components of the instructional core (educators, learners, and content) may change after the introduction of technology, then it is probably not a good idea to make the investment. See Appendix A for guidance on the types of questions to ask.

3. Once decisionmakers have a clear idea of how education technology can help accelerate student learning in a specific context, it is important to define clear objectives and goals and establish ways to regularly assess progress and make course corrections in a timely manner .

For instance, is the education technology expected to ensure that learners in early grades excel in foundational skills—basic literacy and numeracy—by age 10? If so, will the technology provide quality reading and math materials, ample opportunities to practice, and engaging materials such as videos or games? Will educators be empowered to use these materials in new ways? And how will progress be measured and adjusted?

4. How this kind of reform is approached can matter immensely for its success.

It is easy to nod to issues of “implementation,” but that needs to be more than rhetorical. Keep in mind that good use of education technology requires thinking about how it will affect learners, educators, and parents. After all, giving learners digital devices will make no difference if they get broken, are stolen, or go unused. Classroom technologies only matter if educators feel comfortable putting them to work. Since good technology is generally about complementing or amplifying what educators and learners already do, it is almost always a mistake to mandate programs from on high. It is vital that technology be adopted with the input of educators and families and with attention to how it will be used. If technology goes unused or if educators use it ineffectually, the results will disappoint—no matter the virtuosity of the technology. Indeed, unused education technology can be an unnecessary expenditure for cash-strapped education systems. This is why surveying context, listening to voices in the field, examining how technology is used, and planning for course correction is essential.

5. It is essential to communicate with a range of stakeholders, including educators, school leaders, parents, and learners .

Technology can feel alien in schools, confuse parents and (especially) older educators, or become an alluring distraction. Good communication can help address all of these risks. Taking care to listen to educators and families can help ensure that programs are informed by their needs and concerns. At the same time, deliberately and consistently explaining what technology is and is not supposed to do, how it can be most effectively used, and the ways in which it can make it more likely that programs work as intended. For instance, if teachers fear that technology is intended to reduce the need for educators, they will tend to be hostile; if they believe that it is intended to assist them in their work, they will be more receptive. Absent effective communication, it is easy for programs to “fail” not because of the technology but because of how it was used. In short, past experience in rolling out education programs indicates that it is as important to have a strong intervention design as it is to have a solid plan to socialize it among stakeholders.

the inclusion of technology in the learning process essay

Beyond reopening: A leapfrog moment to transform education?

On September 14, the Center for Universal Education (CUE) will host a webinar to discuss strategies, including around the effective use of education technology, for ensuring resilient schools in the long term and to launch a new education technology playbook “Realizing the promise: How can education technology improve learning for all?”

file-pdf Full Playbook – Realizing the promise: How can education technology improve learning for all? file-pdf References file-pdf Appendix A – Instruments to assess availability and use of technology file-pdf Appendix B – List of reviewed studies file-pdf Appendix C – How may technology affect interactions among students, teachers, and content?

About the Authors

Alejandro j. ganimian, emiliana vegas, frederick m. hess.

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Future teachers facing the use of technology for inclusion: A view from the digital competence

  • Published: 27 May 2022
  • Volume 28 , pages 9305–9323, ( 2023 )

Cite this article

  • Vicente Gabarda Méndez 1 ,
  • Diana Marín Suelves   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0002-5346-8665 1 ,
  • Cristina Gabarda Méndez 2 &
  • Jesús Adrian Ramon-Llin Mas 1  

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Technologies provide a differential value to the training process, allowing for the generation of new environments, methodologies and resources that make it possible to attend to students in a more appropriate way. This potential is especially relevant in matters of inclusion, where technology is sometimes an indispensable element for learning. In this paper we explore the main advantages of the use of technology for the attention to diversity, taking into consideration the level of digital competence of future teachers and their perceptions regarding its use for the implementation of inclusive strategies. The results suggest that participants have an intermediate level of digital competence, with differences according to gender, age and degree. It is also remarkable that they perceive inclusion as one of the main challenges of the education system and that technology can contribute to making teaching practice more inclusive, allowing it to be adapted to specific needs and highlighting the importance of teacher training in both digital competence and inclusion as an educational principle.

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1 Introduction

The integration of technology in the field of education has made it possible to provide training processes of a more personalised nature, allowing students with specific needs of educational support (SNES) to be catered for using different tools. However, beyond the availability (or lack thereof) of methodological alternatives, it is essential for the different agents involved in the design, implementation, and evaluation of teaching and learning processes to have the necessary technological skills to take advantage of their full potential.

In this sense, in recent years, there has been an institutional effort to promote different guidelines aimed at the digital training of teachers, based on the understanding that they are key both in the attention to diversity and in the use of digital resources. Hence, supranational bodies have designed different lines of work to serve as a starting point for policy-making in each country. Although the introduction of technology in education goes back several decades, the identification of digital competence as a key lifelong skill (European Commission, 2006 ; Council of Europe, 2018 ) was a turning point to consider technology at the societal and educational level. On the one hand, the EU guideline placed this competence at the same level as other basic skills such as communicative competence, mathematical competence, or social and civic attitudes, highlighting the need for any citizen to be able to develop digital skills throughout their lives so that they can function effectively in the new social model linked to the digital society (Marín et al., 2021a ). On the other hand, and in connection with the same social reality, the recognition of digital competence transfers the responsibility to the school environment to favour the students’ acquisition and development of technological skills at different educational stages and contexts (Gabarda et al., 2021 ).

The integration of technology in the Spanish education system takes place from different perspectives: on the one hand, the legislation explicitly transposes the EU guidelines, identifying digital competence as a transversal competence throughout the education system; on the other – and beyond incorporating proposals in the different areas of knowledge to comply with this criterion of transversality – it can structure specific curricular content in particular subjects (especially in secondary education). Finally, and as a consequence of all of the above, the need to reinforce both basic and in-service teacher training plans is recognised as necessary to provide teachers with the necessary skills to fulfil their role in a way that is more in line with social demands.

In this way, and focusing on the basic training of compulsory education teachers, the regulations governing training plans leading to teaching positions are not very explicit in defining the technological skills that any teacher must have, nor with the explicit integration of content that might contribute to their digital competence (Peirats et al., 2018 ). More specifically, the requirements established for the verification of official university degrees that enable students to practise the profession of Primary Education Teacher and the Master’s Degree in Secondary Education (Order ECI/3857/2007 and Order ECI/3858/2007 respectively) do establish that the students of these degrees should know and apply information and communication technologies in the classroom, but offer no specific descriptor to support this.

The same reflection can be extrapolated to the training of future teachers in inclusion and attention to diversity. In this case, the provisions detailed above offer few references to inclusion as a pedagogical principle (Gabarda et al., 2022 ), other than the mention of Hearing and Language or Therapeutic Pedagogy in the Degree in Primary School Education or the specialisation in Educational Guidance of the Master’s Degree in Secondary Education. This means that the development of such fundamental teaching skills in our current context of diversity is otherwise limited for the rest of future educators.

Despite the bleak outlook offered by the analysis of basic teacher training both in digital competence and for the effective application of the principle of inclusion, the scientific literature has allowed us to confirm, on the one hand, that the scientific community is indeed interested in this phenomenon (López et al., 2020 ) and, on the other hand, that some experiences and studies do value the role that technology can play in the attention to diversity. Generally speaking, it is noteworthy that they explicitly mention the need to promote continuous training in this area (Cabero-Almenara et al., 2022 ) because of the low level of knowledge of the teachers about how to use the Information and Communication Technologies to promote the inclusion (Fernández-Batanero et al., 2022 ).

Thus, making technology availabe to learners with disabilities is the first step in providing alternatives for learning (Yelland & Neal, 2013 ). In addition, technology enables the development of an inclusive learning environment characterised by the redefinition of instructional methods in both online and face-to-face models (Galliani, 2019 ). Studies such as the one by Saladino et al. ( 2020 ) indicate that teachers use digital technologies daily, which helps them improve the instruction, motivation, and inclusion process for all their students. They also help students with special educational needs (SEN) to acquire new knowledge, improve their social interaction, and obtain new communicative experiences, improving the motivation, adaptation, and inclusion of students with SEN.

Therefore, using everyday technological devices present in the classroom or at home, such as mobile phones (Ismaili & Ibrahimi, 2017 ) or digital books (Shamir et al., 2018 ), it is possible to transform texts into adapted audio or to turn contents into concept maps or images. These actions can support or reinforce learning for the entire group (Saladino et al., 2019 ), in line with the intention of the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework.

Going a step further, the implementation of e-learning ensures the effectiveness of the educational process by focusing on the development of individual potentials. It provides feedback and combines personal and collective learning paths by presenting learners with many learning spaces and educational opportunities (Andriushchenko et al., 2020 ). This model was inevitably applied during the months of Covid-19 lockdown; technology made it possible to continue providing attention to all students (Gómez et al., 2018 ).

Creative communication facilitates the exchange of knowledge, thoughts, and ideas to meet the participants’ educational need for self-expression and creativity (Shurygin et al., 2021 ), and increases communication opportunities through technology, which can impact the socialisation of students with intellectual disabilities. In the words of Tatianchykova et al. ( 2020 ), the socialisation of these students requires further technological involvement.

Just as students and schools can overcome barriers and improve the presence, participation, and learning of all children thanks to ICTs, parents have highlighted the need to extend the cooperation between educational organisations, guidance or health service professionals, and the family to design and implement personalised educational approaches for each child with a disability (Olkhina et al., 2021 ).

Based on this approach, the aim of this paper is to analyse the level of digital competence of future teachers of Primary and Secondary Education at the University of Valencia, as well as to explore their opinion on the use of technologies for the attention to diversity.

2 Methodology

This work is carried out using a mixed approach (Anguera et al., 2020 ) that integrates quantitative and qualitative methods to ensure research vigilance and epistemological coherence (Núñez-Moscoso, 2017 ). There is broad consensus on the complementary nature of integrative research for the study of phenomena from social sciences (Del Canto & Silva, 2013 ). The need to adopt this perspective is justified by the changing and polyphonic subject matter and its place in the crossroads between inclusion and technology.

2.1 Participants

To determine the sample, a pre-analysis of study potential was carried out using the G*Power 3.1 software to conduct a repeated measures MANOVA test with intra- and inter-subject interaction analysis for three different age groups (older, intermediate, younger), two genders, and with three values (pre-test DC perception, tested DC, and post-test DC perception). The effect size was f(V) = 0.25 and the power was 1-β = 0.90, which indicated a sample of 169 subjects. The final participants were 166 prospective teachers in basic teacher training. Up to 69.9% were studying a Degree in Primary School Education, while the rest (30.1%) were studying a Master’s Degree in Secondary Education. Regarding the gender of the participants, the majority were women (79.5%).

2.2 Instrumentation

The questionnaire used is based on the proposal made in the DigComp project and includes 20 questions grouped into the five competence areas, plus two questions to assess the participants’ perception of their own digital competence before and after completing the questionnaire. The responses were recorded in Lickert scale and Google Forms was used to fill in the questionnaire. In addition to these questions, an extra open-ended question was asked to identify the prospective teachers’ perdecption of the potential use of technology to improve inclusion. Informed consent was obtained to use the data for the analysis.

2.3 Procedure

This study consisted of five phase that ran from September to December 2021.

The first phase consisted in the selection and adaptation of the data collection instrument.

In the second phase, the instrument was distributed during class time, and the participants were told that completion was entirely voluntary.

All of the narratives produced were included in the analysis, because they conformed to the length and subject matter recommendations. The data was then processed. In this third phase, based on the analysis of the narratives as primary documents, the quotations were coded according to four categories related to teaching challenges. The inductive content analysis made it possible to identify the interrelation between elements.

In the fourth phase, the dependent variables (DV) (Table  1 ) and independent variables (IV) (Table  2 ) that would guide the statistical analysis of the data were established.

The fifth phase involved the analyses and the drafting of the text to disseminate the results.

2.4 Data analysis

The content analysis of the participants’ narratives (Fernández-Rouco, 2020 ) provided insight into their perception of fundamental aspects of life in the spatial and temporal context where subjectivities are created (Bolívar, 2002 ). In this case, this includes current challenges in the inclusion of students with SNES and the role of technology in this process. The categorisation of information was done by emergent coding, with an inductive-deductive analysis (Gibbs, 2012 ). The code system was constructed in this way and the information was triangulated. WordArt and Atlas.ti were used to represent the data and organise the information.

The statistical analysis was performed using SPSS 26.0 (IBM, Chicago, USA). The reliability of the questionnaire was measured using Cronbach’s alpha, which yielded highly reliable values of 0.89 (Cohen et al., 2008 ). Mean and standard deviation or median and interquartile range were calculated as descriptors, based on the sample distributions. Previously, K-S normality and Levene’s tests were performed to homogenise the variances. To compare the degree of digital competence according to gender and grade, Mann–Whitney U tests were performed. To compare digital competence between the different age groups and between the different groups in the cluster analysis, a Kruskal–Wallis test was performed with subsequent Mann–Whitney U tests to adjust the significance value according to Bonferroni. A hierarchical cluster analysis was performed, using Ward’s squared Euclidean distance grouping system, introducing as variables the Starting_PDC, Actual_DC, and Final_PDC, and labelling the cases using the variable Level of digital competence. To compare the different measures of perception and DC, a Friedman test was performed, with subsequent pairwise comparisons using the Wilcoxon test, adjusting for significance according to Bonferroni (p < .05).

3 Results and discussion

3.1 analysis of prospective teachers’ narratives.

Using critical discourse analysis, we explore the perceptions of future teachers in basic teacher training about the role of technology in education in general and, more specifically, to promote inclusion for every student.

Based on the analysis of the students’ narratives, different challenges related to society, the school, digital competence, and the training of educators are identified. These four categories are used to present the results.

Figure  1 shows the result of the content analysis based on the key categories and the relationships between the codes.

figure 1

Analysis categories and coding

As can be observed, there is a link between the challenges identified. Inclusion has a central role in school, in society, and in teacher training, so it cannot be separated from the development of digital competence.

3.2 Digital society as a framework for action

Today’s society is characterised by rapid change, in a true situation of technological revolution (Castells, 2003 ), or by the self-evident and omnipresent delocalisation of teaching-learning processes (Velázquez & López, 2021 ), which allows us to speak of a liquid society (Bauman, 2001 ) and of an era of uncertainty (Bauman, 2007 ) in which hyperconnection emerges as a characteristic of today’s society, but also as a continuous and ever-present demand (Cáceres et al., 2017 ).

In contrast, participants point out the existence of a digital divide.

I think we should not forget that, at least in the current context, not everyone has access to technology, so it can currently be exclusionary (MSE5) .

In this regard, recent studies show that digital technologies can be a source of exclusion or discrimination in an environment where digitalisation affects different contexts of everyday life, such as education (Cabero & Ruiz-Palmero, 2017 ). Despite efforts to reduce or eliminate the digital divide, which is in many cases at the root of inequality, participants in this study still perceive that further measures must be implemented to achieve inclusion for all. However, the participants do recognise that digital educational technologies, devices, and resources can be a key element in helping all learners to be included, participate, and learn, as the following quote shows:

When used the right way, technology can help ensure that all learners have equal opportunities throughout the teaching-learning process. In this way, students with SEN, or those who have some language difficulties, can feel accepted and fulfilled (DPSE15) .

In this context, the development of key competences is one of the fundamental objectives of the 21st century school. Given the characteristics of today’s society and the potential of technology, it seems clear that schools – and the community as a whole – should encourage the development of digital citizenship skills in students at different educational stages.

3.3 Teachers’ and citizens’ digital competence

Participants point to the importance of developing digital citizenship competence as one of the key challenges, in line with the findings of Marín et al. ( 2021b ). There is actually a large number of studies focused on Higher Education students, whose final results have improved some of the dimensions of digital competence (Castro et al., 2021 ).

The participants in this study express the need to acquire learning related to all the areas in digital citizenship competence stated in the DigComp 2.1 framework (INTEF, 2017 ). An example of this is how the task of creating educational resources, which involves higher-level technical and pedagogical skills, is recognised as part of the teachers’ tasks.

In addition, we can create platforms with diverse activities adapted to the needs of each student (so each one can learn at their own pace), use technological games to learn, etc. This way, we will be encouraging autonomy, interaction, motivation, the approach to the digital world, etc. (DPSE55) .

As stated by UNESCO ( 2008 ), the role of the teacher is key to ensuring that students can develop the skills necessary for life in the 21st century society. Thus, technology must also be introduced into teacher training, which is another of the major challenges identified by the participants.

3.4 Teacher training as a key to inclusion

Consistent with previous studies, such as those by González-Gil et al. ( 2019 ), one of the fundamental challenges and the key to the success of inclusion and the use of digital technologies in schools lies in teacher training, as stated in the following quote:

Teacher training in these areas must also be taken into account, because if teachers are out of date, they will not be able to correctly use the elements that they are trying to implement, which could be of help to everyone (MSE8) .

The reason is that training is the seed of change and innovation in teaching-learning processes in schools (Cargua et al., 2019 ), which must necessarily be inclusive if they aim for quality. One of the participants mentions the need to introduce changes in schools to better respond to the needs of a society that is immersed in constant technological revolution.

Without a doubt, learning how to use the technological possibilities available to us to evolve in terms of educational methodology, because, from my point of view, education is an area that has evolved very little compared to the speed at which everything is changing nowadays (DPSE60) .

In basic training (in the Degree in Primary School Education), inclusion and technology contents are clearly perceived as insufficient, and they are actually non-existent in the Master’s Degree in Secondary Education. In this line of discourse, recent findings reflect the reality of Educational Sciences curricula. More specifically, the study by Peirats et al. ( 2018 ) confirms that the number of credits devoted to the development of digital competence in teaching is limited, or only students in the ICT specialisation offered in some Spanish universities work on these contents, although in some cases, they are developed transversally throughout the teaching degrees. Gabarda et al. ( 2022 ) analyses a similar subject with regard to the attention to diversity in the curricula of universities in the Valencian Community (Spain). This idea of insufficiency is reflected in this statement by one of the students:

I believe that the challenges for a future teacher include facing a world surrounded by technology where the teacher will have to adapt to the evolution of ICTs. We will not only have to master ICTs as a means of digital support, but also learn how to integrate technology into our explanations, how to adapt the resources according to the type of students we have in the classroom, etc. It is quite a challenge (DPSE12) .

On the other hand, students mention that lifelong training programmes are essential to keep up with advances:

From my point of view, because technologies are very up-to-date nowadays and their use is very important at the academic level, I see the need for future teachers to carry out constant training on new ICTs in order to provide students with new knowledge and broaden their digital competence so that they use them independently in the future (DPSE21) .

However, the content of the subjects or the training pathway is entirely up to the individual teacher. That said, despite the wide offer and the availability of multiple opportunities and materials for lifelong learning, several studies conclude that both the educational offer related to attention to diversity and the demand for such courses are limited (Goenechea, 2008 ). The perception observed in the study about Madrid is not shared in other autonomous regions such as the Valencian Community, where a firm commitment is being made to in-service teacher training to promote both inclusion and technology in schools. Participants specify the topics and objectives they consider relevant for their future career, as in the following example:

As future teachers, it is essential to have lifelong training (what sort of platforms to use, how to use them, etc.), to incorporate more digital elements and resources into our methodology, to promote student confidence and motivation towards this type of platforms, to create a safe environment regarding the use of technology, to modify and adapt assessment, etc. (DPSE19) .

In short, training must be directed towards transformative action (Cela-Ranilla et al., 2017 ) by using technologies from a pedagogical perspective that goes beyond the technical-instrumental approach (Llorente, 2008 ) to develop citizens, who must be placed at the centre of the teaching-learning process, as already proposed from the perspective of the social construction of knowledge (Mercer, 1995 ).

3.5 The digitisation of schools

As proposed by Area et al. ( 2020 ), the integration of technologies in schools is manifested in both the organisational and the pedagogical spheres. In this sense, future teachers do recognise the value of technology in the 21st century school and of identifying their potential based on the changes they enable, introducing active methodologies and determine which digital tools can be used in schools to improve the inclusion of all students. In fact, some of the participants have a broad view of the needs of the classroom and thus perceive technology both as a tool and as a framework.

I personally see technology as the key to inclusion, because it allows us to develop solutions that make life easier for people with disabilities, slower learners, and anyone with any sort of difficulty. Technology can help adapt educational practice, and it can also help social inclusion by targeting the most disadvantaged sectors of society with specific programmes to help them enter the digital world (MSE37) .

The introduction of digital technologies in schools has a strong impact on students, and according to the participants, they allow for the development of skills such as digital, social, and civic competences, which are key to inclusion. The results include improved achievement in fundamental aspects of life, like autonomy and quality of life.

The results of the quantitative analysis are shown below, in the relationship between digital competence and the participants’ gender, education, or age, as well as in the cluster analysis.

3.6 Digital competence and gender

As can be seen in Table  3 , the gender variable had no significant influence on any type of digital competence, nor on the pre-test or post-test perception of competence. The average value for both genders remains below 2 for all types of digital competence, as does the average in actual digital competence (ranged 1 to 3), with men obtaining slightly higher average values than women (not significant). Perceived competence values were also higher for men than for women, but, again, the difference was not significant.

3.7 Digital competence and educational level

The type of degree (basic degree or Master’s degree) had no significant influence on any type of digital competence either, nor on the pre- and post-test perception of competence. However, the average digital competence was observed to be higher among degree students than among master’s degree students, although the latter perceived themselves as more competent (Table  4 ).

3.8 Digital competence and age

As shown in Table  5 , age had a significant influence on DC1_Information and DC3_Content_Creation. Thus, the intermediate age group proved to have higher digital competence in these 2 dimensions (U = 1106; Z= -2.59; p = .01 and U = 1099; Z= -2.3; p = .009) than the younger group. On the other hand, the intermediate group tended to have higher DC3_Content_Creation than the older group (U = 911; Z= -1.95; p = .05) and higher DC5_Problem_Solving (U = 1196.5; Z= -2.03; p = .04) and Actual_DC (U = 1172.5; Z= -2.14; p = .03) than the younger group.

3.9 Cluster analysis

The hierarchical clustering (Fig.  2 ) indicates 4 different groups in the sample separated approximately 5 units on the y-axis.

figure 2

Dendrogram for the cluster analysis. From left to right in the figure, an ellipse groups Cluster 2, Cluster 4, Cluster 1, and Cluster 3

The group variable in the cluster had a significant influence on the DC group (X 2 6  = 70.3;p < .001; V = 0.46). There were no significant differences in Gender, Age Group and Educational Level (Table  6 ).

The cluster had a significant effect on Starting_PDC (H3 = 118; p < .001), Final_PDC (H3 = 114.4; p < .001), and Actual_DC (H3 = 75.4; p < .001) (Table  7 ). The Bonferroni-adjusted pairwise comparisons are presented in Fig.  3 . They show that Starting_PDC was higher in Cluster 1, then Cluster 2, and finally Clusters 3 and 4, with a similar value. Final_PDC and Actual_DC were also highest in Cluster 1, followed by Clusters 2 and 4, which obtained similar results; finally, the lowest scores were found in Cluster 3. Figure  3 . Reference benchmark.

figure 3

Effect of cluster group in PDC and DC

The symbols *# † ǂ are used to denote significant differences between the pairwise comparisons with Bonferroni significance adjustment (p < .0125): * is used for differences with Cluster 1, # for differences with Cluster 2, † for differences with Cluster 3, and ǂ for differences with Cluster 4.

The effect of the measure (Table  8 ) had a significant effect on initial and final PDC, and their relation to the DC measure for Cluster 1 (X 2 2  = 30.5; p < .001), Cluster 2 (X 2 2  = 101.6; p < .001), Cluster 3 (X 2 2  = 15; p = .001), and Cluster 4 (X 2 2  = 16.6; p < .001). Thus, we observe (Tables  7 and 8 ) that in Clusters 1 and 2 there is a significant decrease between starting and final PDC, with the latter being significantly higher than Actual_DC. In Cluster 3, PDC decreased significantly from the initial moment to after the test, showing an adjustment (similar results) between Final_PDC and Actual_DC. Finally, Cluster 4 was the only one showing an increase in PDC from the initial state to the final one, intensifying the difference with respect to Actual_DC.

In summary, Cluster 1 had the highest digital competence of the 4 clusters. Its members also had the highest perception of digital competence of all. Three out of four members in this group are women, mostly in the intermediate age group, and also three quarters of them were undergraduates.

On the other hand, Cluster 3 was characterised by a significantly lower actual digital competence, but was the most realistic in terms of perceived competence and its similarity to actual competence. This group was characterised by a majority of women (4 out of 5) and of the group of younger participants studying the degree (2 out of 3).

The third and fourth groups (Clusters 2 and 4) were characterised by having an actual digital competence value between the two groups described above. However, the main differences between cluster 2 and cluster 4 groups were that cluster 4 had more realistic perceptions than cluster 3, with significantly closer perceived competence and actual competence values; cluster 4 was the only cluster that improved its PDC from the baseline to after the test. Both groups also consist mostly of undergraduate male participants from the younger age group.

4 Discussion and conclusions

The ultimate aim of education is the comprehensive development of all individuals, because education is a right, and in a fair and equitable society such as the one we are trying to achieve in the 21st century, inclusion is an unquestionable requirement in a developed society. Inclusion involves not only allowing everyone to be there, but also to participate and learn, and the views of educators in training are key to a better understanding of the state of play and be able to facilitate opportunities from a universal perspective (Andriushchenko et al., 2020 ).

From a mixed approach, the current analysis gives a voice to the professionals of tomorrow so that they can identify needs, problems, and proposals for a positive, responsible, and critical use of technologies for the inclusion of every student.

This work identifies shared concepts, but also singularities in the perception of a complex reality in a society where the technologies play a key role (Marín et al., 2021a ).

The results show that the participants consider different concepts that are key to inclusion (Fig.  4 ).

figure 4

Most frequent keywords

In any case, the challenges identified remain to be studied in the near future, based on the analysis of the participants’ responses and consistently with previous work (Marín & Castro, 2021 ). In order to address them, four major issues need to be tackled in a profound and systematic way, with the involvement of the entire educational community.

Concerning the results on digital competence, there is a noticeable idealisation of one’s own competence, also evidenced in previous studies such as Cabero et al. ( 2020 ). There are also differences depending on the areas of development of the different competences, and the need to promote lifelong training plans aimed at developing strategies for attention to diversity and inclusion mediated by ICTs is made explicit (Cabero-Almenara et al., 2022 ). In this way, it will be possible to promote greater knowledge of how to implement technology for inclusion and overcome the low skills that teachers currently have in this area (Fernández-Batanero et al., 2022 ).

As for the study limitations, the results of the qualitative analysis cannot be extrapolated to the rest of the population, but this is one of the characteristics of studies carried out using this methodological approach, and the proposed solution is to combine them with the results from the quantitative analysis. The second limitation lies in the gender mismatch in the sample, especially in the case of the Degree in Primary Education, which is explained by the tendency of women to choose studies linked to the stereotypically female social roles, such as childcare. This has been the case for a long time, at least in Spain (Marín et al., 2021c ).

Finally, in terms of future lines of research, the analysis might focus on comparing these results with others obtained from educators in non-compulsory educational stages such as Early Childhood Education or Higher Education, as well as comparing teachers in basic training with the actual use that working teachers make of technology for the inclusion of all students. Another potentially interesting analysis might focus on competence areas, to reconsider the design of training actions for inclusion at school.

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Méndez, V.G., Suelves, D.M., Méndez, C.G. et al. Future teachers facing the use of technology for inclusion: A view from the digital competence. Educ Inf Technol 28 , 9305–9323 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10639-022-11105-5

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Information and communication technology (ICT) in education

Information and communications technology (ict) can impact student learning when teachers are digitally literate and understand how to integrate it into curriculum..

Schools use a diverse set of ICT tools to communicate, create, disseminate, store, and manage information.(6) In some contexts, ICT has also become integral to the teaching-learning interaction, through such approaches as replacing chalkboards with interactive digital whiteboards, using students’ own smartphones or other devices for learning during class time, and the “flipped classroom” model where students watch lectures at home on the computer and use classroom time for more interactive exercises.

When teachers are digitally literate and trained to use ICT, these approaches can lead to higher order thinking skills, provide creative and individualized options for students to express their understandings, and leave students better prepared to deal with ongoing technological change in society and the workplace.(18)

ICT issues planners must consider include: considering the total cost-benefit equation, supplying and maintaining the requisite infrastructure, and ensuring investments are matched with teacher support and other policies aimed at effective ICT use.(16)

Issues and Discussion

Digital culture and digital literacy: Computer technologies and other aspects of digital culture have changed the ways people live, work, play, and learn, impacting the construction and distribution of knowledge and power around the world.(14) Graduates who are less familiar with digital culture are increasingly at a disadvantage in the national and global economy. Digital literacy—the skills of searching for, discerning, and producing information, as well as the critical use of new media for full participation in society—has thus become an important consideration for curriculum frameworks.(8)

In many countries, digital literacy is being built through the incorporation of information and communication technology (ICT) into schools. Some common educational applications of ICT include:

  • One laptop per child: Less expensive laptops have been designed for use in school on a 1:1 basis with features like lower power consumption, a low cost operating system, and special re-programming and mesh network functions.(42) Despite efforts to reduce costs, however, providing one laptop per child may be too costly for some developing countries.(41)
  • Tablets: Tablets are small personal computers with a touch screen, allowing input without a keyboard or mouse. Inexpensive learning software (“apps”) can be downloaded onto tablets, making them a versatile tool for learning.(7)(25) The most effective apps develop higher order thinking skills and provide creative and individualized options for students to express their understandings.(18)
  • Interactive White Boards or Smart Boards : Interactive white boards allow projected computer images to be displayed, manipulated, dragged, clicked, or copied.(3) Simultaneously, handwritten notes can be taken on the board and saved for later use. Interactive white boards are associated with whole-class instruction rather than student-centred activities.(38) Student engagement is generally higher when ICT is available for student use throughout the classroom.(4)
  • E-readers : E-readers are electronic devices that can hold hundreds of books in digital form, and they are increasingly utilized in the delivery of reading material.(19) Students—both skilled readers and reluctant readers—have had positive responses to the use of e-readers for independent reading.(22) Features of e-readers that can contribute to positive use include their portability and long battery life, response to text, and the ability to define unknown words.(22) Additionally, many classic book titles are available for free in e-book form.
  • Flipped Classrooms: The flipped classroom model, involving lecture and practice at home via computer-guided instruction and interactive learning activities in class, can allow for an expanded curriculum. There is little investigation on the student learning outcomes of flipped classrooms.(5) Student perceptions about flipped classrooms are mixed, but generally positive, as they prefer the cooperative learning activities in class over lecture.(5)(35)

ICT and Teacher Professional Development: Teachers need specific professional development opportunities in order to increase their ability to use ICT for formative learning assessments, individualized instruction, accessing online resources, and for fostering student interaction and collaboration.(15) Such training in ICT should positively impact teachers’ general attitudes towards ICT in the classroom, but it should also provide specific guidance on ICT teaching and learning within each discipline. Without this support, teachers tend to use ICT for skill-based applications, limiting student academic thinking.(32) To sup­port teachers as they change their teaching, it is also essential for education managers, supervisors, teacher educators, and decision makers to be trained in ICT use.(11)

Ensuring benefits of ICT investments: To ensure the investments made in ICT benefit students, additional conditions must be met. School policies need to provide schools with the minimum acceptable infrastructure for ICT, including stable and affordable internet connectivity and security measures such as filters and site blockers. Teacher policies need to target basic ICT literacy skills, ICT use in pedagogical settings, and discipline-specific uses. (21) Successful imple­mentation of ICT requires integration of ICT in the curriculum. Finally, digital content needs to be developed in local languages and reflect local culture. (40) Ongoing technical, human, and organizational supports on all of these issues are needed to ensure access and effective use of ICT. (21)

Resource Constrained Contexts: The total cost of ICT ownership is considerable: training of teachers and administrators, connectivity, technical support, and software, amongst others. (42) When bringing ICT into classrooms, policies should use an incremental pathway, establishing infrastructure and bringing in sustainable and easily upgradable ICT. (16) Schools in some countries have begun allowing students to bring their own mobile technology (such as laptop, tablet, or smartphone) into class rather than providing such tools to all students—an approach called Bring Your Own Device. (1)(27)(34) However, not all families can afford devices or service plans for their children. (30) Schools must ensure all students have equitable access to ICT devices for learning.

Inclusiveness Considerations

Digital Divide: The digital divide refers to disparities of digital media and internet access both within and across countries, as well as the gap between people with and without the digital literacy and skills to utilize media and internet.(23)(26)(31) The digital divide both creates and reinforces socio-economic inequalities of the world’s poorest people. Policies need to intentionally bridge this divide to bring media, internet, and digital literacy to all students, not just those who are easiest to reach.

Minority language groups: Students whose mother tongue is different from the official language of instruction are less likely to have computers and internet connections at home than students from the majority. There is also less material available to them online in their own language, putting them at a disadvantage in comparison to their majority peers who gather information, prepare talks and papers, and communicate more using ICT. (39) Yet ICT tools can also help improve the skills of minority language students—especially in learning the official language of instruction—through features such as automatic speech recognition, the availability of authentic audio-visual materials, and chat functions. (2)(17)

Students with different styles of learning: ICT can provide diverse options for taking in and processing information, making sense of ideas, and expressing learning. Over 87% of students learn best through visual and tactile modalities, and ICT can help these students ‘experience’ the information instead of just reading and hearing it. (20)(37) Mobile devices can also offer programmes (“apps”) that provide extra support to students with special needs, with features such as simplified screens and instructions, consistent placement of menus and control features, graphics combined with text, audio feedback, ability to set pace and level of difficulty, appropriate and unambiguous feedback, and easy error correction. (24)(29)

Plans and policies

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Impacts of digital technologies on education and factors influencing schools' digital capacity and transformation: A literature review

Stella timotheou.

1 CYENS Center of Excellence & Cyprus University of Technology (Cyprus Interaction Lab), Cyprus, CYENS Center of Excellence & Cyprus University of Technology, Nicosia-Limassol, Cyprus

Ourania Miliou

Yiannis dimitriadis.

2 Universidad de Valladolid (UVA), Spain, Valladolid, Spain

Sara Villagrá Sobrino

Nikoleta giannoutsou, romina cachia.

3 JRC - Joint Research Centre of the European Commission, Seville, Spain

Alejandra Martínez Monés

Andri ioannou, associated data.

Data sharing not applicable to this article as no datasets were generated or analysed during the current study.

Digital technologies have brought changes to the nature and scope of education and led education systems worldwide to adopt strategies and policies for ICT integration. The latter brought about issues regarding the quality of teaching and learning with ICTs, especially concerning the understanding, adaptation, and design of the education systems in accordance with current technological trends. These issues were emphasized during the recent COVID-19 pandemic that accelerated the use of digital technologies in education, generating questions regarding digitalization in schools. Specifically, many schools demonstrated a lack of experience and low digital capacity, which resulted in widening gaps, inequalities, and learning losses. Such results have engendered the need for schools to learn and build upon the experience to enhance their digital capacity and preparedness, increase their digitalization levels, and achieve a successful digital transformation. Given that the integration of digital technologies is a complex and continuous process that impacts different actors within the school ecosystem, there is a need to show how these impacts are interconnected and identify the factors that can encourage an effective and efficient change in the school environments. For this purpose, we conducted a non-systematic literature review. The results of the literature review were organized thematically based on the evidence presented about the impact of digital technology on education and the factors that affect the schools’ digital capacity and digital transformation. The findings suggest that ICT integration in schools impacts more than just students’ performance; it affects several other school-related aspects and stakeholders, too. Furthermore, various factors affect the impact of digital technologies on education. These factors are interconnected and play a vital role in the digital transformation process. The study results shed light on how ICTs can positively contribute to the digital transformation of schools and which factors should be considered for schools to achieve effective and efficient change.

Introduction

Digital technologies have brought changes to the nature and scope of education. Versatile and disruptive technological innovations, such as smart devices, the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), blockchain, and software applications have opened up new opportunities for advancing teaching and learning (Gaol & Prasolova-Førland, 2021 ; OECD, 2021 ). Hence, in recent years, education systems worldwide have increased their investment in the integration of information and communication technology (ICT) (Fernández-Gutiérrez et al., 2020 ; Lawrence & Tar, 2018 ) and prioritized their educational agendas to adapt strategies or policies around ICT integration (European Commission, 2019 ). The latter brought about issues regarding the quality of teaching and learning with ICTs (Bates, 2015 ), especially concerning the understanding, adaptation, and design of education systems in accordance with current technological trends (Balyer & Öz, 2018 ). Studies have shown that despite the investment made in the integration of technology in schools, the results have not been promising, and the intended outcomes have not yet been achieved (Delgado et al., 2015 ; Lawrence & Tar, 2018 ). These issues were exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced teaching across education levels to move online (Daniel, 2020 ). Online teaching accelerated the use of digital technologies generating questions regarding the process, the nature, the extent, and the effectiveness of digitalization in schools (Cachia et al., 2021 ; König et al., 2020 ). Specifically, many schools demonstrated a lack of experience and low digital capacity, which resulted in widening gaps, inequalities, and learning losses (Blaskó et al., 2021 ; Di Pietro et al, 2020 ). Such results have engendered the need for schools to learn and build upon the experience in order to enhance their digital capacity (European Commission, 2020 ) and increase their digitalization levels (Costa et al., 2021 ). Digitalization offers possibilities for fundamental improvement in schools (OECD, 2021 ; Rott & Marouane, 2018 ) and touches many aspects of a school’s development (Delcker & Ifenthaler, 2021 ) . However, it is a complex process that requires large-scale transformative changes beyond the technical aspects of technology and infrastructure (Pettersson, 2021 ). Namely, digitalization refers to “ a series of deep and coordinated culture, workforce, and technology shifts and operating models ” (Brooks & McCormack, 2020 , p. 3) that brings cultural, organizational, and operational change through the integration of digital technologies (JISC, 2020 ). A successful digital transformation requires that schools increase their digital capacity levels, establishing the necessary “ culture, policies, infrastructure as well as digital competence of students and staff to support the effective integration of technology in teaching and learning practices ” (Costa et al, 2021 , p.163).

Given that the integration of digital technologies is a complex and continuous process that impacts different actors within the school ecosystem (Eng, 2005 ), there is a need to show how the different elements of the impact are interconnected and to identify the factors that can encourage an effective and efficient change in the school environment. To address the issues outlined above, we formulated the following research questions:

a) What is the impact of digital technologies on education?

b) Which factors might affect a school’s digital capacity and transformation?

In the present investigation, we conducted a non-systematic literature review of publications pertaining to the impact of digital technologies on education and the factors that affect a school’s digital capacity and transformation. The results of the literature review were organized thematically based on the evidence presented about the impact of digital technology on education and the factors which affect the schools’ digital capacity and digital transformation.

Methodology

The non-systematic literature review presented herein covers the main theories and research published over the past 17 years on the topic. It is based on meta-analyses and review papers found in scholarly, peer-reviewed content databases and other key studies and reports related to the concepts studied (e.g., digitalization, digital capacity) from professional and international bodies (e.g., the OECD). We searched the Scopus database, which indexes various online journals in the education sector with an international scope, to collect peer-reviewed academic papers. Furthermore, we used an all-inclusive Google Scholar search to include relevant key terms or to include studies found in the reference list of the peer-reviewed papers, and other key studies and reports related to the concepts studied by professional and international bodies. Lastly, we gathered sources from the Publications Office of the European Union ( https://op.europa.eu/en/home ); namely, documents that refer to policies related to digital transformation in education.

Regarding search terms, we first searched resources on the impact of digital technologies on education by performing the following search queries: “impact” OR “effects” AND “digital technologies” AND “education”, “impact” OR “effects” AND “ICT” AND “education”. We further refined our results by adding the terms “meta-analysis” and “review” or by adjusting the search options based on the features of each database to avoid collecting individual studies that would provide limited contributions to a particular domain. We relied on meta-analyses and review studies as these consider the findings of multiple studies to offer a more comprehensive view of the research in a given area (Schuele & Justice, 2006 ). Specifically, meta-analysis studies provided quantitative evidence based on statistically verifiable results regarding the impact of educational interventions that integrate digital technologies in school classrooms (Higgins et al., 2012 ; Tolani-Brown et al., 2011 ).

However, quantitative data does not offer explanations for the challenges or difficulties experienced during ICT integration in learning and teaching (Tolani-Brown et al., 2011 ). To fill this gap, we analyzed literature reviews and gathered in-depth qualitative evidence of the benefits and implications of technology integration in schools. In the analysis presented herein, we also included policy documents and reports from professional and international bodies and governmental reports, which offered useful explanations of the key concepts of this study and provided recent evidence on digital capacity and transformation in education along with policy recommendations. The inclusion and exclusion criteria that were considered in this study are presented in Table ​ Table1 1 .

Inclusion and exclusion criteria for the selection of resources on the impact of digital technologies on education

To ensure a reliable extraction of information from each study and assist the research synthesis we selected the study characteristics of interest (impact) and constructed coding forms. First, an overview of the synthesis was provided by the principal investigator who described the processes of coding, data entry, and data management. The coders followed the same set of instructions but worked independently. To ensure a common understanding of the process between coders, a sample of ten studies was tested. The results were compared, and the discrepancies were identified and resolved. Additionally, to ensure an efficient coding process, all coders participated in group meetings to discuss additions, deletions, and modifications (Stock, 1994 ). Due to the methodological diversity of the studied documents we began to synthesize the literature review findings based on similar study designs. Specifically, most of the meta-analysis studies were grouped in one category due to the quantitative nature of the measured impact. These studies tended to refer to student achievement (Hattie et al., 2014 ). Then, we organized the themes of the qualitative studies in several impact categories. Lastly, we synthesized both review and meta-analysis data across the categories. In order to establish a collective understanding of the concept of impact, we referred to a previous impact study by Balanskat ( 2009 ) which investigated the impact of technology in primary schools. In this context, the impact had a more specific ICT-related meaning and was described as “ a significant influence or effect of ICT on the measured or perceived quality of (parts of) education ” (Balanskat, 2009 , p. 9). In the study presented herein, the main impacts are in relation to learning and learners, teaching, and teachers, as well as other key stakeholders who are directly or indirectly connected to the school unit.

The study’s results identified multiple dimensions of the impact of digital technologies on students’ knowledge, skills, and attitudes; on equality, inclusion, and social integration; on teachers’ professional and teaching practices; and on other school-related aspects and stakeholders. The data analysis indicated various factors that might affect the schools’ digital capacity and transformation, such as digital competencies, the teachers’ personal characteristics and professional development, as well as the school’s leadership and management, administration, infrastructure, etc. The impacts and factors found in the literature review are presented below.

Impacts of digital technologies on students’ knowledge, skills, attitudes, and emotions

The impact of ICT use on students’ knowledge, skills, and attitudes has been investigated early in the literature. Eng ( 2005 ) found a small positive effect between ICT use and students' learning. Specifically, the author reported that access to computer-assisted instruction (CAI) programs in simulation or tutorial modes—used to supplement rather than substitute instruction – could enhance student learning. The author reported studies showing that teachers acknowledged the benefits of ICT on pupils with special educational needs; however, the impact of ICT on students' attainment was unclear. Balanskat et al. ( 2006 ) found a statistically significant positive association between ICT use and higher student achievement in primary and secondary education. The authors also reported improvements in the performance of low-achieving pupils. The use of ICT resulted in further positive gains for students, namely increased attention, engagement, motivation, communication and process skills, teamwork, and gains related to their behaviour towards learning. Evidence from qualitative studies showed that teachers, students, and parents recognized the positive impact of ICT on students' learning regardless of their competence level (strong/weak students). Punie et al. ( 2006 ) documented studies that showed positive results of ICT-based learning for supporting low-achieving pupils and young people with complex lives outside the education system. Liao et al. ( 2007 ) reported moderate positive effects of computer application instruction (CAI, computer simulations, and web-based learning) over traditional instruction on primary school student's achievement. Similarly, Tamim et al. ( 2011 ) reported small to moderate positive effects between the use of computer technology (CAI, ICT, simulations, computer-based instruction, digital and hypermedia) and student achievement in formal face-to-face classrooms compared to classrooms that did not use technology. Jewitt et al., ( 2011 ) found that the use of learning platforms (LPs) (virtual learning environments, management information systems, communication technologies, and information- and resource-sharing technologies) in schools allowed primary and secondary students to access a wider variety of quality learning resources, engage in independent and personalized learning, and conduct self- and peer-review; LPs also provide opportunities for teacher assessment and feedback. Similar findings were reported by Fu ( 2013 ), who documented a list of benefits and opportunities of ICT use. According to the author, the use of ICTs helps students access digital information and course content effectively and efficiently, supports student-centered and self-directed learning, as well as the development of a creative learning environment where more opportunities for critical thinking skills are offered, and promotes collaborative learning in a distance-learning environment. Higgins et al. ( 2012 ) found consistent but small positive associations between the use of technology and learning outcomes of school-age learners (5–18-year-olds) in studies linking the provision and use of technology with attainment. Additionally, Chauhan ( 2017 ) reported a medium positive effect of technology on the learning effectiveness of primary school students compared to students who followed traditional learning instruction.

The rise of mobile technologies and hardware devices instigated investigations into their impact on teaching and learning. Sung et al. ( 2016 ) reported a moderate effect on students' performance from the use of mobile devices in the classroom compared to the use of desktop computers or the non-use of mobile devices. Schmid et al. ( 2014 ) reported medium–low to low positive effects of technology integration (e.g., CAI, ICTs) in the classroom on students' achievement and attitude compared to not using technology or using technology to varying degrees. Tamim et al. ( 2015 ) found a low statistically significant effect of the use of tablets and other smart devices in educational contexts on students' achievement outcomes. The authors suggested that tablets offered additional advantages to students; namely, they reported improvements in students’ notetaking, organizational and communication skills, and creativity. Zheng et al. ( 2016 ) reported a small positive effect of one-to-one laptop programs on students’ academic achievement across subject areas. Additional reported benefits included student-centered, individualized, and project-based learning enhanced learner engagement and enthusiasm. Additionally, the authors found that students using one-to-one laptop programs tended to use technology more frequently than in non-laptop classrooms, and as a result, they developed a range of skills (e.g., information skills, media skills, technology skills, organizational skills). Haßler et al. ( 2016 ) found that most interventions that included the use of tablets across the curriculum reported positive learning outcomes. However, from 23 studies, five reported no differences, and two reported a negative effect on students' learning outcomes. Similar results were indicated by Kalati and Kim ( 2022 ) who investigated the effect of touchscreen technologies on young students’ learning. Specifically, from 53 studies, 34 advocated positive effects of touchscreen devices on children’s learning, 17 obtained mixed findings and two studies reported negative effects.

More recently, approaches that refer to the impact of gamification with the use of digital technologies on teaching and learning were also explored. A review by Pan et al. ( 2022 ) that examined the role of learning games in fostering mathematics education in K-12 settings, reported that gameplay improved students’ performance. Integration of digital games in teaching was also found as a promising pedagogical practice in STEM education that could lead to increased learning gains (Martinez et al., 2022 ; Wang et al., 2022 ). However, although Talan et al. ( 2020 ) reported a medium effect of the use of educational games (both digital and non-digital) on academic achievement, the effect of non-digital games was higher.

Over the last two years, the effects of more advanced technologies on teaching and learning were also investigated. Garzón and Acevedo ( 2019 ) found that AR applications had a medium effect on students' learning outcomes compared to traditional lectures. Similarly, Garzón et al. ( 2020 ) showed that AR had a medium impact on students' learning gains. VR applications integrated into various subjects were also found to have a moderate effect on students’ learning compared to control conditions (traditional classes, e.g., lectures, textbooks, and multimedia use, e.g., images, videos, animation, CAI) (Chen et al., 2022b ). Villena-Taranilla et al. ( 2022 ) noted the moderate effect of VR technologies on students’ learning when these were applied in STEM disciplines. In the same meta-analysis, Villena-Taranilla et al. ( 2022 ) highlighted the role of immersive VR, since its effect on students’ learning was greater (at a high level) across educational levels (K-6) compared to semi-immersive and non-immersive integrations. In another meta-analysis study, the effect size of the immersive VR was small and significantly differentiated across educational levels (Coban et al., 2022 ). The impact of AI on education was investigated by Su and Yang ( 2022 ) and Su et al. ( 2022 ), who showed that this technology significantly improved students’ understanding of AI computer science and machine learning concepts.

It is worth noting that the vast majority of studies referred to learning gains in specific subjects. Specifically, several studies examined the impact of digital technologies on students’ literacy skills and reported positive effects on language learning (Balanskat et al., 2006 ; Grgurović et al., 2013 ; Friedel et al., 2013 ; Zheng et al., 2016 ; Chen et al., 2022b ; Savva et al., 2022 ). Also, several studies documented positive effects on specific language learning areas, namely foreign language learning (Kao, 2014 ), writing (Higgins et al., 2012 ; Wen & Walters, 2022 ; Zheng et al., 2016 ), as well as reading and comprehension (Cheung & Slavin, 2011 ; Liao et al., 2007 ; Schwabe et al., 2022 ). ICTs were also found to have a positive impact on students' performance in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) disciplines (Arztmann et al., 2022 ; Bado, 2022 ; Villena-Taranilla et al., 2022 ; Wang et al., 2022 ). Specifically, a number of studies reported positive impacts on students’ achievement in mathematics (Balanskat et al., 2006 ; Hillmayr et al., 2020 ; Li & Ma, 2010 ; Pan et al., 2022 ; Ran et al., 2022 ; Verschaffel et al., 2019 ; Zheng et al., 2016 ). Furthermore, studies documented positive effects of ICTs on science learning (Balanskat et al., 2006 ; Liao et al., 2007 ; Zheng et al., 2016 ; Hillmayr et al., 2020 ; Kalemkuş & Kalemkuş, 2022 ; Lei et al., 2022a ). Çelik ( 2022 ) also noted that computer simulations can help students understand learning concepts related to science. Furthermore, some studies documented that the use of ICTs had a positive impact on students’ achievement in other subjects, such as geography, history, music, and arts (Chauhan, 2017 ; Condie & Munro, 2007 ), and design and technology (Balanskat et al., 2006 ).

More specific positive learning gains were reported in a number of skills, e.g., problem-solving skills and pattern exploration skills (Higgins et al., 2012 ), metacognitive learning outcomes (Verschaffel et al., 2019 ), literacy skills, computational thinking skills, emotion control skills, and collaborative inquiry skills (Lu et al., 2022 ; Su & Yang, 2022 ; Su et al., 2022 ). Additionally, several investigations have reported benefits from the use of ICT on students’ creativity (Fielding & Murcia, 2022 ; Liu et al., 2022 ; Quah & Ng, 2022 ). Lastly, digital technologies were also found to be beneficial for enhancing students’ lifelong learning skills (Haleem et al., 2022 ).

Apart from gaining knowledge and skills, studies also reported improvement in motivation and interest in mathematics (Higgins et. al., 2019 ; Fadda et al., 2022 ) and increased positive achievement emotions towards several subjects during interventions using educational games (Lei et al., 2022a ). Chen et al. ( 2022a ) also reported a small but positive effect of digital health approaches in bullying and cyberbullying interventions with K-12 students, demonstrating that technology-based approaches can help reduce bullying and related consequences by providing emotional support, empowerment, and change of attitude. In their meta-review study, Su et al. ( 2022 ) also documented that AI technologies effectively strengthened students’ attitudes towards learning. In another meta-analysis, Arztmann et al. ( 2022 ) reported positive effects of digital games on motivation and behaviour towards STEM subjects.

Impacts of digital technologies on equality, inclusion and social integration

Although most of the reviewed studies focused on the impact of ICTs on students’ knowledge, skills, and attitudes, reports were also made on other aspects in the school context, such as equality, inclusion, and social integration. Condie and Munro ( 2007 ) documented research interventions investigating how ICT can support pupils with additional or special educational needs. While those interventions were relatively small scale and mostly based on qualitative data, their findings indicated that the use of ICTs enabled the development of communication, participation, and self-esteem. A recent meta-analysis (Baragash et al., 2022 ) with 119 participants with different disabilities, reported a significant overall effect size of AR on their functional skills acquisition. Koh’s meta-analysis ( 2022 ) also revealed that students with intellectual and developmental disabilities improved their competence and performance when they used digital games in the lessons.

Istenic Starcic and Bagon ( 2014 ) found that the role of ICT in inclusion and the design of pedagogical and technological interventions was not sufficiently explored in educational interventions with people with special needs; however, some benefits of ICT use were found in students’ social integration. The issue of gender and technology use was mentioned in a small number of studies. Zheng et al. ( 2016 ) reported a statistically significant positive interaction between one-to-one laptop programs and gender. Specifically, the results showed that girls and boys alike benefitted from the laptop program, but the effect on girls’ achievement was smaller than that on boys’. Along the same lines, Arztmann et al. ( 2022 ) reported no difference in the impact of game-based learning between boys and girls, arguing that boys and girls equally benefited from game-based interventions in STEM domains. However, results from a systematic review by Cussó-Calabuig et al. ( 2018 ) found limited and low-quality evidence on the effects of intensive use of computers on gender differences in computer anxiety, self-efficacy, and self-confidence. Based on their view, intensive use of computers can reduce gender differences in some areas and not in others, depending on contextual and implementation factors.

Impacts of digital technologies on teachers’ professional and teaching practices

Various research studies have explored the impact of ICT on teachers’ instructional practices and student assessment. Friedel et al. ( 2013 ) found that the use of mobile devices by students enabled teachers to successfully deliver content (e.g., mobile serious games), provide scaffolding, and facilitate synchronous collaborative learning. The integration of digital games in teaching and learning activities also gave teachers the opportunity to study and apply various pedagogical practices (Bado, 2022 ). Specifically, Bado ( 2022 ) found that teachers who implemented instructional activities in three stages (pre-game, game, and post-game) maximized students’ learning outcomes and engagement. For instance, during the pre-game stage, teachers focused on lectures and gameplay training, at the game stage teachers provided scaffolding on content, addressed technical issues, and managed the classroom activities. During the post-game stage, teachers organized activities for debriefing to ensure that the gameplay had indeed enhanced students’ learning outcomes.

Furthermore, ICT can increase efficiency in lesson planning and preparation by offering possibilities for a more collaborative approach among teachers. The sharing of curriculum plans and the analysis of students’ data led to clearer target settings and improvements in reporting to parents (Balanskat et al., 2006 ).

Additionally, the use and application of digital technologies in teaching and learning were found to enhance teachers’ digital competence. Balanskat et al. ( 2006 ) documented studies that revealed that the use of digital technologies in education had a positive effect on teachers’ basic ICT skills. The greatest impact was found on teachers with enough experience in integrating ICTs in their teaching and/or who had recently participated in development courses for the pedagogical use of technologies in teaching. Punie et al. ( 2006 ) reported that the provision of fully equipped multimedia portable computers and the development of online teacher communities had positive impacts on teachers’ confidence and competence in the use of ICTs.

Moreover, online assessment via ICTs benefits instruction. In particular, online assessments support the digitalization of students’ work and related logistics, allow teachers to gather immediate feedback and readjust to new objectives, and support the improvement of the technical quality of tests by providing more accurate results. Additionally, the capabilities of ICTs (e.g., interactive media, simulations) create new potential methods of testing specific skills, such as problem-solving and problem-processing skills, meta-cognitive skills, creativity and communication skills, and the ability to work productively in groups (Punie et al., 2006 ).

Impacts of digital technologies on other school-related aspects and stakeholders

There is evidence that the effective use of ICTs and the data transmission offered by broadband connections help improve administration (Balanskat et al., 2006 ). Specifically, ICTs have been found to provide better management systems to schools that have data gathering procedures in place. Condie and Munro ( 2007 ) reported impacts from the use of ICTs in schools in the following areas: attendance monitoring, assessment records, reporting to parents, financial management, creation of repositories for learning resources, and sharing of information amongst staff. Such data can be used strategically for self-evaluation and monitoring purposes which in turn can result in school improvements. Additionally, they reported that online access to other people with similar roles helped to reduce headteachers’ isolation by offering them opportunities to share insights into the use of ICT in learning and teaching and how it could be used to support school improvement. Furthermore, ICTs provided more efficient and successful examination management procedures, namely less time-consuming reporting processes compared to paper-based examinations and smooth communications between schools and examination authorities through electronic data exchange (Punie et al., 2006 ).

Zheng et al. ( 2016 ) reported that the use of ICTs improved home-school relationships. Additionally, Escueta et al. ( 2017 ) reported several ICT programs that had improved the flow of information from the school to parents. Particularly, they documented that the use of ICTs (learning management systems, emails, dedicated websites, mobile phones) allowed for personalized and customized information exchange between schools and parents, such as attendance records, upcoming class assignments, school events, and students’ grades, which generated positive results on students’ learning outcomes and attainment. Such information exchange between schools and families prompted parents to encourage their children to put more effort into their schoolwork.

The above findings suggest that the impact of ICT integration in schools goes beyond students’ performance in school subjects. Specifically, it affects a number of school-related aspects, such as equality and social integration, professional and teaching practices, and diverse stakeholders. In Table ​ Table2, 2 , we summarize the different impacts of digital technologies on school stakeholders based on the literature review, while in Table ​ Table3 3 we organized the tools/platforms and practices/policies addressed in the meta-analyses, literature reviews, EU reports, and international bodies included in the manuscript.

The impact of digital technologies on schools’ stakeholders based on the literature review

Tools/platforms and practices/policies addressed in the meta-analyses, literature reviews, EU reports, and international bodies included in the manuscript

Additionally, based on the results of the literature review, there are many types of digital technologies with different affordances (see, for example, studies on VR vs Immersive VR), which evolve over time (e.g. starting from CAIs in 2005 to Augmented and Virtual reality 2020). Furthermore, these technologies are linked to different pedagogies and policy initiatives, which are critical factors in the study of impact. Table ​ Table3 3 summarizes the different tools and practices that have been used to examine the impact of digital technologies on education since 2005 based on the review results.

Factors that affect the integration of digital technologies

Although the analysis of the literature review demonstrated different impacts of the use of digital technology on education, several authors highlighted the importance of various factors, besides the technology itself, that affect this impact. For example, Liao et al. ( 2007 ) suggested that future studies should carefully investigate which factors contribute to positive outcomes by clarifying the exact relationship between computer applications and learning. Additionally, Haßler et al., ( 2016 ) suggested that the neutral findings regarding the impact of tablets on students learning outcomes in some of the studies included in their review should encourage educators, school leaders, and school officials to further investigate the potential of such devices in teaching and learning. Several other researchers suggested that a number of variables play a significant role in the impact of ICTs on students’ learning that could be attributed to the school context, teaching practices and professional development, the curriculum, and learners’ characteristics (Underwood, 2009 ; Tamim et al., 2011 ; Higgins et al., 2012 ; Archer et al., 2014 ; Sung et al., 2016 ; Haßler et al., 2016 ; Chauhan, 2017 ; Lee et al., 2020 ; Tang et al., 2022 ).

Digital competencies

One of the most common challenges reported in studies that utilized digital tools in the classroom was the lack of students’ skills on how to use them. Fu ( 2013 ) found that students’ lack of technical skills is a barrier to the effective use of ICT in the classroom. Tamim et al. ( 2015 ) reported that students faced challenges when using tablets and smart mobile devices, associated with the technical issues or expertise needed for their use and the distracting nature of the devices and highlighted the need for teachers’ professional development. Higgins et al. ( 2012 ) reported that skills training about the use of digital technologies is essential for learners to fully exploit the benefits of instruction.

Delgado et al. ( 2015 ), meanwhile, reported studies that showed a strong positive association between teachers’ computer skills and students’ use of computers. Teachers’ lack of ICT skills and familiarization with technologies can become a constraint to the effective use of technology in the classroom (Balanskat et al., 2006 ; Delgado et al., 2015 ).

It is worth noting that the way teachers are introduced to ICTs affects the impact of digital technologies on education. Previous studies have shown that teachers may avoid using digital technologies due to limited digital skills (Balanskat, 2006 ), or they prefer applying “safe” technologies, namely technologies that their own teachers used and with which they are familiar (Condie & Munro, 2007 ). In this regard, the provision of digital skills training and exposure to new digital tools might encourage teachers to apply various technologies in their lessons (Condie & Munro, 2007 ). Apart from digital competence, technical support in the school setting has also been shown to affect teachers’ use of technology in their classrooms (Delgado et al., 2015 ). Ferrari et al. ( 2011 ) found that while teachers’ use of ICT is high, 75% stated that they needed more institutional support and a shift in the mindset of educational actors to achieve more innovative teaching practices. The provision of support can reduce time and effort as well as cognitive constraints, which could cause limited ICT integration in the school lessons by teachers (Escueta et al., 2017 ).

Teachers’ personal characteristics, training approaches, and professional development

Teachers’ personal characteristics and professional development affect the impact of digital technologies on education. Specifically, Cheok and Wong ( 2015 ) found that teachers’ personal characteristics (e.g., anxiety, self-efficacy) are associated with their satisfaction and engagement with technology. Bingimlas ( 2009 ) reported that lack of confidence, resistance to change, and negative attitudes in using new technologies in teaching are significant determinants of teachers’ levels of engagement in ICT. The same author reported that the provision of technical support, motivation support (e.g., awards, sufficient time for planning), and training on how technologies can benefit teaching and learning can eliminate the above barriers to ICT integration. Archer et al. ( 2014 ) found that comfort levels in using technology are an important predictor of technology integration and argued that it is essential to provide teachers with appropriate training and ongoing support until they are comfortable with using ICTs in the classroom. Hillmayr et al. ( 2020 ) documented that training teachers on ICT had an important effecton students’ learning.

According to Balanskat et al. ( 2006 ), the impact of ICTs on students’ learning is highly dependent on the teachers’ capacity to efficiently exploit their application for pedagogical purposes. Results obtained from the Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) (OECD, 2021 ) revealed that although schools are open to innovative practices and have the capacity to adopt them, only 39% of teachers in the European Union reported that they are well or very well prepared to use digital technologies for teaching. Li and Ma ( 2010 ) and Hardman ( 2019 ) showed that the positive effect of technology on students’ achievement depends on the pedagogical practices used by teachers. Schmid et al. ( 2014 ) reported that learning was best supported when students were engaged in active, meaningful activities with the use of technological tools that provided cognitive support. Tamim et al. ( 2015 ) compared two different pedagogical uses of tablets and found a significant moderate effect when the devices were used in a student-centered context and approach rather than within teacher-led environments. Similarly, Garzón and Acevedo ( 2019 ) and Garzón et al. ( 2020 ) reported that the positive results from the integration of AR applications could be attributed to the existence of different variables which could influence AR interventions (e.g., pedagogical approach, learning environment, and duration of the intervention). Additionally, Garzón et al. ( 2020 ) suggested that the pedagogical resources that teachers used to complement their lectures and the pedagogical approaches they applied were crucial to the effective integration of AR on students’ learning gains. Garzón and Acevedo ( 2019 ) also emphasized that the success of a technology-enhanced intervention is based on both the technology per se and its characteristics and on the pedagogical strategies teachers choose to implement. For instance, their results indicated that the collaborative learning approach had the highest impact on students’ learning gains among other approaches (e.g., inquiry-based learning, situated learning, or project-based learning). Ran et al. ( 2022 ) also found that the use of technology to design collaborative and communicative environments showed the largest moderator effects among the other approaches.

Hattie ( 2008 ) reported that the effective use of computers is associated with training teachers in using computers as a teaching and learning tool. Zheng et al. ( 2016 ) noted that in addition to the strategies teachers adopt in teaching, ongoing professional development is also vital in ensuring the success of technology implementation programs. Sung et al. ( 2016 ) found that research on the use of mobile devices to support learning tends to report that the insufficient preparation of teachers is a major obstacle in implementing effective mobile learning programs in schools. Friedel et al. ( 2013 ) found that providing training and support to teachers increased the positive impact of the interventions on students’ learning gains. Trucano ( 2005 ) argued that positive impacts occur when digital technologies are used to enhance teachers’ existing pedagogical philosophies. Higgins et al. ( 2012 ) found that the types of technologies used and how they are used could also affect students’ learning. The authors suggested that training and professional development of teachers that focuses on the effective pedagogical use of technology to support teaching and learning is an important component of successful instructional approaches (Higgins et al., 2012 ). Archer et al. ( 2014 ) found that studies that reported ICT interventions during which teachers received training and support had moderate positive effects on students’ learning outcomes, which were significantly higher than studies where little or no detail about training and support was mentioned. Fu ( 2013 ) reported that the lack of teachers’ knowledge and skills on the technical and instructional aspects of ICT use in the classroom, in-service training, pedagogy support, technical and financial support, as well as the lack of teachers’ motivation and encouragement to integrate ICT on their teaching were significant barriers to the integration of ICT in education.

School leadership and management

Management and leadership are important cornerstones in the digital transformation process (Pihir et al., 2018 ). Zheng et al. ( 2016 ) documented leadership among the factors positively affecting the successful implementation of technology integration in schools. Strong leadership, strategic planning, and systematic integration of digital technologies are prerequisites for the digital transformation of education systems (Ređep, 2021 ). Management and leadership play a significant role in formulating policies that are translated into practice and ensure that developments in ICT become embedded into the life of the school and in the experiences of staff and pupils (Condie & Munro, 2007 ). Policy support and leadership must include the provision of an overall vision for the use of digital technologies in education, guidance for students and parents, logistical support, as well as teacher training (Conrads et al., 2017 ). Unless there is a commitment throughout the school, with accountability for progress at key points, it is unlikely for ICT integration to be sustained or become part of the culture (Condie & Munro, 2007 ). To achieve this, principals need to adopt and promote a whole-institution strategy and build a strong mutual support system that enables the school’s technological maturity (European Commission, 2019 ). In this context, school culture plays an essential role in shaping the mindsets and beliefs of school actors towards successful technology integration. Condie and Munro ( 2007 ) emphasized the importance of the principal’s enthusiasm and work as a source of inspiration for the school staff and the students to cultivate a culture of innovation and establish sustainable digital change. Specifically, school leaders need to create conditions in which the school staff is empowered to experiment and take risks with technology (Elkordy & Lovinelli, 2020 ).

In order for leaders to achieve the above, it is important to develop capacities for learning and leading, advocating professional learning, and creating support systems and structures (European Commission, 2019 ). Digital technology integration in education systems can be challenging and leadership needs guidance to achieve it. Such guidance can be introduced through the adoption of new methods and techniques in strategic planning for the integration of digital technologies (Ređep, 2021 ). Even though the role of leaders is vital, the relevant training offered to them has so far been inadequate. Specifically, only a third of the education systems in Europe have put in place national strategies that explicitly refer to the training of school principals (European Commission, 2019 , p. 16).

Connectivity, infrastructure, and government and other support

The effective integration of digital technologies across levels of education presupposes the development of infrastructure, the provision of digital content, and the selection of proper resources (Voogt et al., 2013 ). Particularly, a high-quality broadband connection in the school increases the quality and quantity of educational activities. There is evidence that ICT increases and formalizes cooperative planning between teachers and cooperation with managers, which in turn has a positive impact on teaching practices (Balanskat et al., 2006 ). Additionally, ICT resources, including software and hardware, increase the likelihood of teachers integrating technology into the curriculum to enhance their teaching practices (Delgado et al., 2015 ). For example, Zheng et al. ( 2016 ) found that the use of one-on-one laptop programs resulted in positive changes in teaching and learning, which would not have been accomplished without the infrastructure and technical support provided to teachers. Delgado et al. ( 2015 ) reported that limited access to technology (insufficient computers, peripherals, and software) and lack of technical support are important barriers to ICT integration. Access to infrastructure refers not only to the availability of technology in a school but also to the provision of a proper amount and the right types of technology in locations where teachers and students can use them. Effective technical support is a central element of the whole-school strategy for ICT (Underwood, 2009 ). Bingimlas ( 2009 ) reported that lack of technical support in the classroom and whole-school resources (e.g., failing to connect to the Internet, printers not printing, malfunctioning computers, and working on old computers) are significant barriers that discourage the use of ICT by teachers. Moreover, poor quality and inadequate hardware maintenance, and unsuitable educational software may discourage teachers from using ICTs (Balanskat et al., 2006 ; Bingimlas, 2009 ).

Government support can also impact the integration of ICTs in teaching. Specifically, Balanskat et al. ( 2006 ) reported that government interventions and training programs increased teachers’ enthusiasm and positive attitudes towards ICT and led to the routine use of embedded ICT.

Lastly, another important factor affecting digital transformation is the development and quality assurance of digital learning resources. Such resources can be support textbooks and related materials or resources that focus on specific subjects or parts of the curriculum. Policies on the provision of digital learning resources are essential for schools and can be achieved through various actions. For example, some countries are financing web portals that become repositories, enabling teachers to share resources or create their own. Additionally, they may offer e-learning opportunities or other services linked to digital education. In other cases, specific agencies of projects have also been set up to develop digital resources (Eurydice, 2019 ).

Administration and digital data management

The digital transformation of schools involves organizational improvements at the level of internal workflows, communication between the different stakeholders, and potential for collaboration. Vuorikari et al. ( 2020 ) presented evidence that digital technologies supported the automation of administrative practices in schools and reduced the administration’s workload. There is evidence that digital data affects the production of knowledge about schools and has the power to transform how schooling takes place. Specifically, Sellar ( 2015 ) reported that data infrastructure in education is developing due to the demand for “ information about student outcomes, teacher quality, school performance, and adult skills, associated with policy efforts to increase human capital and productivity practices ” (p. 771). In this regard, practices, such as datafication which refers to the “ translation of information about all kinds of things and processes into quantified formats” have become essential for decision-making based on accountability reports about the school’s quality. The data could be turned into deep insights about education or training incorporating ICTs. For example, measuring students’ online engagement with the learning material and drawing meaningful conclusions can allow teachers to improve their educational interventions (Vuorikari et al., 2020 ).

Students’ socioeconomic background and family support

Research show that the active engagement of parents in the school and their support for the school’s work can make a difference to their children’s attitudes towards learning and, as a result, their achievement (Hattie, 2008 ). In recent years, digital technologies have been used for more effective communication between school and family (Escueta et al., 2017 ). The European Commission ( 2020 ) presented data from a Eurostat survey regarding the use of computers by students during the pandemic. The data showed that younger pupils needed additional support and guidance from parents and the challenges were greater for families in which parents had lower levels of education and little to no digital skills.

In this regard, the socio-economic background of the learners and their socio-cultural environment also affect educational achievements (Punie et al., 2006 ). Trucano documented that the use of computers at home positively influenced students’ confidence and resulted in more frequent use at school, compared to students who had no home access (Trucano, 2005 ). In this sense, the socio-economic background affects the access to computers at home (OECD, 2015 ) which in turn influences the experience of ICT, an important factor for school achievement (Punie et al., 2006 ; Underwood, 2009 ). Furthermore, parents from different socio-economic backgrounds may have different abilities and availability to support their children in their learning process (Di Pietro et al., 2020 ).

Schools’ socioeconomic context and emergency situations

The socio-economic context of the school is closely related to a school’s digital transformation. For example, schools in disadvantaged, rural, or deprived areas are likely to lack the digital capacity and infrastructure required to adapt to the use of digital technologies during emergency periods, such as the COVID-19 pandemic (Di Pietro et al., 2020 ). Data collected from school principals confirmed that in several countries, there is a rural/urban divide in connectivity (OECD, 2015 ).

Emergency periods also affect the digitalization of schools. The COVID-19 pandemic led to the closure of schools and forced them to seek appropriate and connective ways to keep working on the curriculum (Di Pietro et al., 2020 ). The sudden large-scale shift to distance and online teaching and learning also presented challenges around quality and equity in education, such as the risk of increased inequalities in learning, digital, and social, as well as teachers facing difficulties coping with this demanding situation (European Commission, 2020 ).

Looking at the findings of the above studies, we can conclude that the impact of digital technologies on education is influenced by various actors and touches many aspects of the school ecosystem. Figure  1 summarizes the factors affecting the digital technologies’ impact on school stakeholders based on the findings from the literature review.

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Factors that affect the impact of ICTs on education

The findings revealed that the use of digital technologies in education affects a variety of actors within a school’s ecosystem. First, we observed that as technologies evolve, so does the interest of the research community to apply them to school settings. Figure  2 summarizes the trends identified in current research around the impact of digital technologies on schools’ digital capacity and transformation as found in the present study. Starting as early as 2005, when computers, simulations, and interactive boards were the most commonly applied tools in school interventions (e.g., Eng, 2005 ; Liao et al., 2007 ; Moran et al., 2008 ; Tamim et al., 2011 ), moving towards the use of learning platforms (Jewitt et al., 2011 ), then to the use of mobile devices and digital games (e.g., Tamim et al., 2015 ; Sung et al., 2016 ; Talan et al., 2020 ), as well as e-books (e.g., Savva et al., 2022 ), to the more recent advanced technologies, such as AR and VR applications (e.g., Garzón & Acevedo, 2019 ; Garzón et al., 2020 ; Kalemkuş & Kalemkuş, 2022 ), or robotics and AI (e.g., Su & Yang, 2022 ; Su et al., 2022 ). As this evolution shows, digital technologies are a concept in flux with different affordances and characteristics. Additionally, from an instructional perspective, there has been a growing interest in different modes and models of content delivery such as online, blended, and hybrid modes (e.g., Cheok & Wong, 2015 ; Kazu & Yalçin, 2022 ; Ulum, 2022 ). This is an indication that the value of technologies to support teaching and learning as well as other school-related practices is increasingly recognized by the research and school community. The impact results from the literature review indicate that ICT integration on students’ learning outcomes has effects that are small (Coban et al., 2022 ; Eng, 2005 ; Higgins et al., 2012 ; Schmid et al., 2014 ; Tamim et al., 2015 ; Zheng et al., 2016 ) to moderate (Garzón & Acevedo, 2019 ; Garzón et al., 2020 ; Liao et al., 2007 ; Sung et al., 2016 ; Talan et al., 2020 ; Wen & Walters, 2022 ). That said, a number of recent studies have reported high effect sizes (e.g., Kazu & Yalçin, 2022 ).

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Current work and trends in the study of the impact of digital technologies on schools’ digital capacity

Based on these findings, several authors have suggested that the impact of technology on education depends on several variables and not on the technology per se (Tamim et al., 2011 ; Higgins et al., 2012 ; Archer et al., 2014 ; Sung et al., 2016 ; Haßler et al., 2016 ; Chauhan, 2017 ; Lee et al., 2020 ; Lei et al., 2022a ). While the impact of ICTs on student achievement has been thoroughly investigated by researchers, other aspects related to school life that are also affected by ICTs, such as equality, inclusion, and social integration have received less attention. Further analysis of the literature review has revealed a greater investment in ICT interventions to support learning and teaching in the core subjects of literacy and STEM disciplines, especially mathematics, and science. These were the most common subjects studied in the reviewed papers often drawing on national testing results, while studies that investigated other subject areas, such as social studies, were limited (Chauhan, 2017 ; Condie & Munro, 2007 ). As such, research is still lacking impact studies that focus on the effects of ICTs on a range of curriculum subjects.

The qualitative research provided additional information about the impact of digital technologies on education, documenting positive effects and giving more details about implications, recommendations, and future research directions. Specifically, the findings regarding the role of ICTs in supporting learning highlight the importance of teachers’ instructional practice and the learning context in the use of technologies and consequently their impact on instruction (Çelik, 2022 ; Schmid et al., 2014 ; Tamim et al., 2015 ). The review also provided useful insights regarding the various factors that affect the impact of digital technologies on education. These factors are interconnected and play a vital role in the transformation process. Specifically, these factors include a) digital competencies; b) teachers’ personal characteristics and professional development; c) school leadership and management; d) connectivity, infrastructure, and government support; e) administration and data management practices; f) students’ socio-economic background and family support and g) the socioeconomic context of the school and emergency situations. It is worth noting that we observed factors that affect the integration of ICTs in education but may also be affected by it. For example, the frequent use of ICTs and the use of laptops by students for instructional purposes positively affect the development of digital competencies (Zheng et al., 2016 ) and at the same time, the digital competencies affect the use of ICTs (Fu, 2013 ; Higgins et al., 2012 ). As a result, the impact of digital technologies should be explored more as an enabler of desirable and new practices and not merely as a catalyst that improves the output of the education process i.e. namely student attainment.

Conclusions

Digital technologies offer immense potential for fundamental improvement in schools. However, investment in ICT infrastructure and professional development to improve school education are yet to provide fruitful results. Digital transformation is a complex process that requires large-scale transformative changes that presuppose digital capacity and preparedness. To achieve such changes, all actors within the school’s ecosystem need to share a common vision regarding the integration of ICTs in education and work towards achieving this goal. Our literature review, which synthesized quantitative and qualitative data from a list of meta-analyses and review studies, provided useful insights into the impact of ICTs on different school stakeholders and showed that the impact of digital technologies touches upon many different aspects of school life, which are often overlooked when the focus is on student achievement as the final output of education. Furthermore, the concept of digital technologies is a concept in flux as technologies are not only different among them calling for different uses in the educational practice but they also change through time. Additionally, we opened a forum for discussion regarding the factors that affect a school’s digital capacity and transformation. We hope that our study will inform policy, practice, and research and result in a paradigm shift towards more holistic approaches in impact and assessment studies.

Study limitations and future directions

We presented a review of the study of digital technologies' impact on education and factors influencing schools’ digital capacity and transformation. The study results were based on a non-systematic literature review grounded on the acquisition of documentation in specific databases. Future studies should investigate more databases to corroborate and enhance our results. Moreover, search queries could be enhanced with key terms that could provide additional insights about the integration of ICTs in education, such as “policies and strategies for ICT integration in education”. Also, the study drew information from meta-analyses and literature reviews to acquire evidence about the effects of ICT integration in schools. Such evidence was mostly based on the general conclusions of the studies. It is worth mentioning that, we located individual studies which showed different, such as negative or neutral results. Thus, further insights are needed about the impact of ICTs on education and the factors influencing the impact. Furthermore, the nature of the studies included in meta-analyses and reviews is different as they are based on different research methodologies and data gathering processes. For instance, in a meta-analysis, the impact among the studies investigated is measured in a particular way, depending on policy or research targets (e.g., results from national examinations, pre-/post-tests). Meanwhile, in literature reviews, qualitative studies offer additional insights and detail based on self-reports and research opinions on several different aspects and stakeholders who could affect and be affected by ICT integration. As a result, it was challenging to draw causal relationships between so many interrelating variables.

Despite the challenges mentioned above, this study envisaged examining school units as ecosystems that consist of several actors by bringing together several variables from different research epistemologies to provide an understanding of the integration of ICTs. However, the use of other tools and methodologies and models for evaluation of the impact of digital technologies on education could give more detailed data and more accurate results. For instance, self-reflection tools, like SELFIE—developed on the DigCompOrg framework- (Kampylis et al., 2015 ; Bocconi & Lightfoot, 2021 ) can help capture a school’s digital capacity and better assess the impact of ICTs on education. Furthermore, the development of a theory of change could be a good approach for documenting the impact of digital technologies on education. Specifically, theories of change are models used for the evaluation of interventions and their impact; they are developed to describe how interventions will work and give the desired outcomes (Mayne, 2015 ). Theory of change as a methodological approach has also been used by researchers to develop models for evaluation in the field of education (e.g., Aromatario et al., 2019 ; Chapman & Sammons, 2013 ; De Silva et al., 2014 ).

We also propose that future studies aim at similar investigations by applying more holistic approaches for impact assessment that can provide in-depth data about the impact of digital technologies on education. For instance, future studies could focus on different research questions about the technologies that are used during the interventions or the way the implementation takes place (e.g., What methodologies are used for documenting impact? How are experimental studies implemented? How can teachers be taken into account and trained on the technology and its functions? What are the elements of an appropriate and successful implementation? How is the whole intervention designed? On which learning theories is the technology implementation based?).

Future research could also focus on assessing the impact of digital technologies on various other subjects since there is a scarcity of research related to particular subjects, such as geography, history, arts, music, and design and technology. More research should also be done about the impact of ICTs on skills, emotions, and attitudes, and on equality, inclusion, social interaction, and special needs education. There is also a need for more research about the impact of ICTs on administration, management, digitalization, and home-school relationships. Additionally, although new forms of teaching and learning with the use of ICTs (e.g., blended, hybrid, and online learning) have initiated several investigations in mainstream classrooms, only a few studies have measured their impact on students’ learning. Additionally, our review did not document any study about the impact of flipped classrooms on K-12 education. Regarding teaching and learning approaches, it is worth noting that studies referred to STEM or STEAM did not investigate the impact of STEM/STEAM as an interdisciplinary approach to learning but only investigated the impact of ICTs on learning in each domain as a separate subject (science, technology, engineering, arts, mathematics). Hence, we propose future research to also investigate the impact of the STEM/STEAM approach on education. The impact of emerging technologies on education, such as AR, VR, robotics, and AI has also been investigated recently, but more work needs to be done.

Finally, we propose that future studies could focus on the way in which specific factors, e.g., infrastructure and government support, school leadership and management, students’ and teachers’ digital competencies, approaches teachers utilize in the teaching and learning (e.g., blended, online and hybrid learning, flipped classrooms, STEM/STEAM approach, project-based learning, inquiry-based learning), affect the impact of digital technologies on education. We hope that future studies will give detailed insights into the concept of schools’ digital transformation through further investigation of impacts and factors which influence digital capacity and transformation based on the results and the recommendations of the present study.

Acknowledgements

This project has received funding under Grant Agreement No Ref Ares (2021) 339036 7483039 as well as funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Program under Grant Agreement No 739578 and the Government of the Republic of Cyprus through the Deputy Ministry of Research, Innovation and Digital Policy. The UVa co-authors would like also to acknowledge funding from the European Regional Development Fund and the National Research Agency of the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation, under project grant PID2020-112584RB-C32.

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Teaching Resources

Strategies for Inclusive Teaching and Learning

Resource overview.

Strategies for inclusive teaching and learning at WashU and beyond.

Inclusive teaching and learning refers to modes of teaching and learning that are designed to actively engage, include, and challenge all students. The practice of inclusive teaching can also help instructors broaden and expand their understanding of their own disciplines and of what they hope to accomplish in teaching and in research. The Teaching Center’s strategies for inclusive teaching and learning are developed in collaboration with the Washington University Standing Committee on Facilitating Inclusive Classrooms, and with campus partners such as the Center for Diversity and Inclusion, the College of Arts & Sciences, Cornerstone, the Office of the Provost.

Include Diverse Content, Materials, and Ideas

  • When you are preparing lectures, questions for discussions, scenarios, case studies, assignments, and exams include language, examples, socio-cultural contexts, and images that reflect human diversity. Whenever possible, select topics and materials that reflect contributions and perspectives from groups that have been historically underrepresented in the field.
  • Model openness to the new ideas and questions your students bring into the course, which can broaden and deepen your own knowledge of your discipline and its relevance. Help students understand that knowledge is often produced through conversation and collaboration among disparate points of view.
  • Be aware of how your professional training and background may have shaped the selection of content and materials in your course. If relevant to your course, encourage students to think critically about how historical, literary, and art-historical canons–as well as the criteria for defining these canons–are defined and have evolved over time.

Create an Inclusive Environment

  • When talking with students during class, communicate clearly—starting on the first day of the semester—about what you expect to happen in the classroom, including your expectations for respectful and inclusive interactions.
  • Set and enforce ground rules for respectful interaction in the classroom, such as guidelines for contributing ideas and questions and for responding respectfully to the ideas and questions of others. If a student’s conduct could be silencing or denigrating others (intentionally or not), remind the entire class of the ground rules, then talk with the student individually outside of class about the potential effects of their conduct. Remember that your silence is often read as endorsement. Therefore, it is important to take action to try to improve the learning environment for all.
  • To the extent that is possible (depending on the size of your class), get to know your students and the individual perspectives, skills, experiences, and ideas that they bring into your course. Consult the electronic roster for your course or ask students directly to learn about any preferred names that students would like to be called (please see the  University’s Preferred Name Policy ).
  • Communicate high standards for student learning and achievement in your course and express confidence that every student can achieve these standards. In addition, include structured support within your course that is designed to help students achieve those standards. For example, connect students to course-specific resources such as supplemental help sessions, peer mentors, and study guides, and to resources like  Disability Resources  and  The Writing Center .
  • Show respect for all questions and comments. Use verbal and non-verbal cues to encourage participation and to challenge students to think deeply and critically.
  • Encourage students to “think out loud,” to ask questions, and to actively consider perspectives that are different from their own.
  • If you are teaching about topics that are likely to generate disagreement or controversy, identify clear objectives and design a class structure informed by those objectives. In addition, communicate the objectives and the structure to the students, so that they know what to expect. If a tense interaction occurs, it is important to address the issue in the moment. In some cases, pausing for a short time to ask students to discuss in small groups or to reflect in writing individually can allow them to discover what they might learn from the interaction. In other cases, conversations with individual students outside of class (but before the next class session) will be more appropriate.
  • If you realize after the class session is over that a tense exchange has occurred that you did not acknowledge, or if one or more of your students tells you of an exchange that you did not notice in the moment, you can devote time at the start of the next class session to discussing the exchange and what you may all learn from it. By addressing your mistakes during the next class you are modeling behavior that you would like your students to exhibit during these exchanges.

Encourage a Growth Mindset

  • Foster a “growth mindset” by conveying the idea that intelligence is not a reflection of fixed, natural abilities, but can change and grow over time (Dweck, 2006). When talking with students about their performance in class or on exams or assignments, avoid describing such performance as a sign of natural ability (or lack of ability). Doing so may activate stereotype threat, a phenomenon in which students’ awareness of negative stereotypes that link identity and ability can lead to depressed academic performance (Steele, 2010;  reducingstereotypethreat.org ).
  • Help students develop a growth mindset by speaking with them about the extent to which experiences of academic faltering can provide opportunities to grow and improve. For example, if a student comes to your office hours to discuss a disappointing grade on an exam or an assignment, work with the student to identify specific areas where the student is struggling, and to identify 2-3 new strategies the student can use to improve in those areas.
  • Create an environment in the classroom or laboratory in which it is okay to make mistakes and where faltering can lead to deeper learning. If a student contributes an answer that is incorrect, for example, ask questions to help the student identify how he or she arrived at that answer and to help the entire class to understand at least one method to derive the correct answer. At the same time, be open to the possibility that what seems to be an incorrect answer initially may lead to shared understanding of an alternative way to answer the question.

Strive for Equality of Access to Instruction and Assistance

  • Help your students learn about academic and non-academic assistance and resources that are available at the University. Keep in mind that all students will not be equally aware of—or equally comfortable in seeking out—academic help and resources provided by academic advisors,  Disability Resources , the Dean’s offices,  Student Health Services , etc. Therefore, provide access to this information in your course page, set aside time in class to talk about these resources during the first week of class, and—when needed—in individual conversations with students.
  • Promote fairness and transparency by sharing the criteria you will use to evaluate their work with students. When appropriate, grade with rubrics or answer keys.
  • Ensure that assistance provided outside of class is equally available and accessible to everyone (e.g., if you share information with one or a few students regarding how best to approach an assignment, repeat this information to the entire class).
  • When students approach you to let you know that they are in need of a disability-related accommodation, help the student get in touch with the  Disabilities Resources Office at Cornerstone . The Disabilities Resources staff will then communicate with you regarding any required accommodations.

Gather and Use Feedback to Refine and Improve your Strategies

  • Ask a colleague or Center for Teaching and Learning staff member to observe your teaching. Consider suggestions about how to encourage increased participation and inclusion of diverse contributions, and what factors might be perceived as barriers to participation and inclusion. Identify adjustments you can make to minimize the latter.
  • Provide opportunities for students to reflect on the course and to give you feedback on the methods and strategies you are using. For example, ask students to complete brief, anonymous course evaluations at midterm. Afterward, take time in class to explain how you are integrating feedback as you make adjustments during the remainder of the semester.  
  • As you build your teaching expertise, practice a “growth mindset”–be open to the possibility of learning from mistakes and welcome the opportunity to learn as much as you can from your diverse students.

Banaji, M. R., & Greenwald, A. G. (2013).  Blindspot: Hidden biases of good people . Delacorte Press.

Chesler, M. A. Perceptions of faculty behavior by students of color. University of Michigan. Center for Research on Learning and Teaching.  Occasional Papers , 7.  www.crlt.umich.edu/sites/default/files/resource_files/CRLT_no7.pdf

Dweck. C. (2006).  Mindset: The New Psychology of Success . NY: Ballantine.

Good, C., Aronson, J., & Inzlicht, M. (2003). Improving adolescents’ standardized test performance: An intervention to reduce the effects of stereotype threat.  Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology , 24(6), 645-662.

Kardia, D. and M. Wright. Instructor identity: The impact of gender and race on faculty experiences with teaching. University of Michigan. Center for Research on Learning and Teaching.  Occasional Papers , 19.  www.crlt.umich.edu/sites/default/files/resource_files/CRLT_no19.pdf 

Lin, S. Y., & Day Scherz, S. (2014). Challenges facing Asian international graduate students in the US: Pedagogical considerations in higher education . Journal of International Students , 4(1).

A new guide on increasing inclusivity in the classroom. Vanderbilt University. Center for Teaching.  cft.vanderbilt.edu/2014/11/a-new-guide-on-increasing-inclusivity-in-the-classroom/

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Integrating Technology in the Curriculum Essay

Introduction, legal implications of technology in education, parental and educators’ views, ethical decision-making.

The application of technology in classrooms is a contentious issue. Policymakers advocated for the inclusion of information technology devices in classrooms in the hope that they will facilitate instructional use, which would result in the achievement of critical goals (Teräs et al., 2020). It is vital to note that legal concerns have arisen as a result of the decision to update classrooms. For instance, the argument that student participation in the academic process has suffered following the inclusion of digital platforms is prevalent. In addition, the belief that the learners’ ability to engage in critical thinking has declined is on the rise. Despite these challenges, a different school of thought contends that the teaching process has improved following the inclusion of technological advancements in learning (Hero, 2020). It is vital to evaluate the legal implications, parental views, and ethical pitfalls associated with the inclusion of technology in the curriculum to understand its impact on children in schools.

Technology has revolutionized education across the globe. Its use in the sector has grown immensely in the last few years. In the U.S., approximately 88% and 83% of eighth-grade and fourth-grade students respectively reported using computers at home (Alhumaid, 2019). Despite technology’s increasing popularity, there are some legal implications to consider. For instance, digital technology poses a significant risk to children’s well-being and safety by compounding the threats they encounter offline. It is vital to note that in the absence of a legal framework designed to protect children’s rights online, innocent individuals could be prone to abuse. Another legal concern is the fact that technology serves to deepen the rift between rich and poor students. Individuals incapable of accessing the latest technology are disadvantaged. In essence, the playing field is seldom level when factors such as access to the internet and efficient hardware are contextualized. It is a legal challenge to guarantee equity and equality to all learners in scenarios where variations in socio-economic status result in differences in the quality of education provided.

The application of modern and advanced equipment in education has been somewhat controversial. On the one hand, arguments against the use of technology include the belief that it is incapable of preparing young children for the challenges in school (Dong et al., 2020). On the other hand, supporters believe that specific gadgets can help learners understand abstract concepts as well as help them develop collaborative learning skills (Dong et al., 2020). Parents and educators have often held varying views on the legal implications of including technology in the school curriculum. A study by Dong et al. (2020) demonstrated that while parents agreed that children are exposed to several threats, the benefits outweighed the risks. Vaiopoulou et al. (2021) posit that parents are willing to expose their children to technology because they believe it offers value and helps make education pleasurable. Educators have demonstrated some reservations about technology due to the variety of safety issues involved. However, when allowed to assess and evaluate the benefits associated with a set of devices, most teachers support the inclusion of designed programs and tools in the classroom.

The utilitarian approach to ethics in the U.S. is largely based on interests. Therefore, regulatory policies on issues such as privacy and data protection in classrooms are influenced by multinational corporations that are keen on protecting their businesses (Parsons, 2021). Educational leaders often face ethical challenges when making decisions regarding the extent to which technology should influence learners. For instance, if a student fails to complete an assignment because they were deeply immersed in an audio-visual task that required visiting a museum and taking pictures, should they be punished? In addition, to what degree should technology be allowed to influence a student’s autonomy? Devices such as smartphones are becoming an integral part of the learning experience. Should the extended use of learning aids be considered undue influence?

The interpretation of the ethical issues arising from the use of technology is largely context-based. There are several factors to consider when making decisions. For instance, does the use of technology amount to cheating? It is becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish between a student’s abilities and technological input (Raja & Nagasubramani, 2018). While technology offers numerous advantages to learners, educational leaders are often faced with difficult ethical challenges when making decisions in the classroom.

The inclusion of technology in education is a matter of intense debate. One of the reasons is the fact that there are various legal implications to consider. These include the increased risk of threats and the lack of equity in learning. While parents and educators are concerned about the potential risks, they are willing to allow students to benefit from effective learning strategies. It is also worth noting that the inclusion of technology in classrooms presents significant ethical challenges concerning decision-making. Even though the application of technological advances in education faces challenges, there are numerous benefits associated with the practice.

Alhumaid, K. (2019). Four ways technology has negatively changed education . Journal of Educational and Social Research, 9 (4), 10–20. Web.

Dong, C., Cao, S., & Li, H. (2020). Y oung children’s online learning during COVID-19 pandemic: Chinese parents’ beliefs and attitudes . Children and Youth Services Review, 118, 1–9.

Hero, J. (2020). The impact of technology integration in teaching performance. International Journal of Sciences: Basic and Applied Research, 48 (1), 101–114. Web.

Parsons, T. D. (2021). Ethics and educational technologies . Educational Technology Research and Development, 69 (1), 335–338.

Raja, R., & Nagasubramani, P. C. (2018). Impact of modern technology in education . Journal of Applied and Advanced Research, 3 (1), S33–S35.

Teräs, M., Suoranta, J., Teräs, H., & Curcher, M. (2020). Post-Covid-19 education and education technology ‘solutionism’: A seller’s market. Postdigital Science and Education, 2 (3), 863–878.

Vaiopoulou, J., Papadakis, S., Sifaki, E., Stamovlasis, D., & Kalogiannakis, M. (2021). Parents’ perceptions of educational apps use for kindergarten children: Development and validation of a new instrument (peau-p) and exploration of parents’ profiles . Behavioral Sciences, 11 (6), 1–17.

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