Seeing RED at ISTE: The Latest Ed-Tech Findings

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Project RED—a national research and advocacy plan to investigate how technology can help re-engineer our education system -- offered a preview of its latest findings at this year’s ISTE Conference in Denver, Colorado on June 28th.

In 2010, Project RED conducted the first large-scale national study to identify and prioritize the factors that make some U.S. K-12 technology implementations perform dramatically better than others. This survey of 1,000 schools was the first and only national research focusing on academic results and the financial implication of education technology. The findings showed that if effectively implemented, technology programs can lead to improved student achievement and significant return on investment.

On June 28, Project RED announced the launch of Phase III of its research, which will culminate in a final report in early 2017. This latest research builds on the initial 1,000-schools study with more of a "deep dive" into results from 15 districts identified as Signature Districts because of their commitment to transforming learning with help from technology. In conjunction with the University of Memphis, the Project RED team is analyzing three years of data from the Signature Districts along with State High Stakes Test Scores and other independently verifiable data, to arrive at conclusions about what works.

On average, the signature districts achieved academic improvement in a variety of content areas along with decreases in disciplinary actions and dropout rates. However, even within a group as small as this, results varied quite a bit, with the top three districts demonstrating dramatic improvement across the board and the bottom six showing actual decreases in academic results. One challenge for Phase III researchers will be to arrive at conclusions about the causes of these discrepancies. At the June 28th briefing they talked about the strong correlation they saw between “implementation fidelity” (the degree to which the district is actually using the best practice approaches identified by earlier Project RED research) and success.

Other preliminary findings included:

  • Successful 1:1 digital conversions are possible but they require a lot of planning, project management and follow through to be successful.
  • Increasing student voice and choice, paired with transformative uses of technology can lead to excellent academic results.
  • Distributed leadership (as opposed to top-down management) is important to sustainability, as well as academic and financial ROI
  • Real-time fidelity monitoring is a “must.”

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