A New Model for Evaluating Educational Technology: Connecting What We Do with What We Know

July 1, 2001

This article describes some of the roles evaluation research is playing in advancing the effective use of educational technologies in the US. As we look towards a future of sharing our experience with colleagues around the world, this article is an opportunity to reflect on the rich history of the Center for Children and Technology (CCT) and to think about what we have learned about how to conduct effective research, and to consider how we might improve what we do and how we work. Our comments in this paper build on our collective experiences as researchers during twenty-one years of investigating how technology can best be integrated into high-quality educational environments. Our discussion emphasizes the importance of locally valid and locally useful research designs and attempts to define our approach to conducting evaluations.

The challenge of combining validity and utility is increasingly at the center of our work at the CCT. Specifically, we are seeking to conduct research that will help both the research community and educators to understand how complex organizations, like schools, school districts, state and national educational authorities, finance and implement educational technologies, and how those practices might best be improved. In this paper we argue that effective evaluation must produce both research-based knowledge of what technological applications can work best in various educational environments, and practice-based knowledge of how the technology integration process can best be designed to meet locally defined learning goals in schools.

The first section of this paper is a brief review of the recent history of U.S. research related to educational technologies and some of the lessons we have learned from this work. This review points to some of the promising future directions for educational research. In the second section we specifically discuss a role evaluation could play in meeting the challenges of helping educators successfully integrate meaningful uses of technology. The third section discusses an evaluation model that stresses collaborative work between research groups, like CCT, and local educators. The final section touches on the challenges we see to creating authentic and meaningful international collaboration around educational technology and its effective implementation.