Digital Tools in Education: On Usage, Effects, and the Role of the Teacher

digital-tools-in-education.pdf 679.8 KB PDF

The report aims to contribute to the debate on which types of information and communications technology (ICT) in education have proven to be effective for student performance. ICT includes devices such as computers, tablets and smartphones, as well as software, including educational games, digital learning tools and educational applications.

The report summarizes the findings from earlier research on digital tools in education. It also includes eight studies about experiments at secondary schools in the Netherlands.

The report shows that the use of digital tools contributes to improved school results in mathematics and in some aspects of language. Low-achieving students benefit most from the use of digital tools. The results indicate that digital practice tools are especially effective in individualized learning exercises.

At the same time, the results show that the positive effects of ICT in education are dependent on teachers.

“My studies show that it is important for teachers to understand the purpose of introducing digital tools in education, and that they know how to use them. Therefore, continuous training for professional development for teachers is an important aspect if we want ICT to be effective in education,” says Carla Haelermans.

The experiments in the Netherlands also show that:

  • Digital learning tools are effective for exercises that are easy to automate, such as addition and multiplication in mathematics and spelling in language.
  • Digital tests as a learning tool have positive effects. That is because students are more exposed to the material, and it reactivates the mind through repetition.
  • Digital feedback is effective. The results improved more for students who, regardless of the level of performance, received extensive personalized feedback on digital tests than for students who received little or no feedback.
  • Author

    Carla Haelermans, Assistant Professor in Education Economics at Top Institute for Evidence Based Education Research, Maastricht University.