Summary of RCET research findings in AT&T Classroom
Each year for the past nine years, the Research Center for Educational Technology (RCET) has brought K-12 teachers and their classes from local urban, rural, and suburban districts to spend half a day every day for six weeks in the AT&T Classroom. Since its inception, the classroom has hosted over 90 local teachers and 2,500 students who have learned about the use of technology for teaching and learning through their experiences in this technology-rich environment, and who have brought their new understandings back to their schools. Longitudinal research conducted in the AT&T Classroom along with our district-based research continues to inform the knowledge base regarding the impact of technology on teaching and learning and assist school districts in determining best practices with regard to technology integration. Additionally, RCET has Research findings to date have revealed the following themes regarding the impact of technology on teaching and learning:
- Capacity for building-level and district-level reform: Teachers and their administrators have consistently reported that participation in the AT&T Classroom has had significant impact on technology integration efforts within their own building and district. Teachers who bring their students to the AT&T Classroom return to their districts and serve as mentors in their buildings, providing situated professional development and support to their colleagues and assuming leadership roles on building and district-level technology initiatives.
- Increases in conceptual understanding: The evidence suggests that students in the AT&T Classroom learn to use a variety of digital technologies as thinking and learning tools, and that such usage supports their subject area and conceptual learning at high levels. For example, we examined work samples from high, medium and low achieving and special needs students in all classes. In most of these, there was good evidence that students had developed a deep understanding of key concepts, as they were able to elaborate on specific concepts and make connections between concepts. In addition, the majority of the work samples encompassed details and examples that demonstrated students’ ability to communicate their learning. More importantly, perhaps, we found that special needs students were working at the same high levels as students identified as average achievers.
- Leveling effect: Teachers have consistently reported that the technology seems to “level the playing field” for students of varying backgrounds and abilities. In the AT&T Classroom, we have found that students with special needs and lower abilities are achieving at high levels while using the same digital tools as their peers as evidenced by work sample analysis.
- Increased engagement and motivation: Teachers in the AT&T Classroom universally note very high levels of motivation among all their students. They tell us increased motivation and engagement results in higher quality student work and more complex student thinking. Further, teachers are consistently surprised at the way in which they can work with individual students or small groups. Because learning is more individualized and students can make choices, they tend to be more engaged and more responsible for their own learning.
- Individualization of learning: Quasi-clinical student interviews and teacher interviews have revealed that access to technology allows students who are less facile in traditional ways of knowing to learn in other ways and to find their own voices. Technology allows for the inclusion of a variety of understandings.
- Improvements in the quality of student work: Teachers uniformly tell us that ubiquitous access to digital technologies positively affects the quality of their students’ work. They attribute at least some of this increase to the kinds of supports differing technologies give to particular kinds of learning, but think it also develops from the authentic contexts for learning such technologies afford.
- Increased collaboration: Teachers have also told us that their students of differing genders and backgrounds interacted and collaborated more in the AT&T Classroom. Comparisons of teacher and student behaviors in the AT&T Classroom with behaviors in their regular classroom settings reveal that teaching and learning is four times more project-based in the technology-rich classroom and twice as likely to involve in group work.
- Changes in classroom culture: Teachers reported that the technology-rich environment seems to move classroom cultures away from a traditional instructional model of teaching and learning and closer to a “learning community” model. Classroom cultures grow more collaborative, inclusive, and supportive of all learners in the technology-rich environment. Students become “experts” and teachers join in learning experiences.