Lucunae in Educational Technology Research

Thu, Aug 11, 2011

Policy, Uncategorized

by Charles W. Bindig, Ed.D.

When we discuss the value of technology in education, scholars have traditionally made the simple assumption that by integrating different genre of technology into the classroom, we have immediately made a student achievement impact. However, the problem with this assumption is that there is very little literature that points to an actual student achievement gain through the use of technology. The term lacunae is borrowed from the medical world and generally refers to a gap in knowledge. In fine arts research, a lacunae investigation will tend to outline the missing gaps in a particular area of educational knowledge. It is the thesis of this argument that we do not know enough about the power of technology in terms of raising student achievement to support wholesale investment in the products.

In the 1999-2000, The Milken Family Foundation published several articles that attempted to address the issue of student achievement but, if one does a search today, it is clear that these articles remain the seminal works in the field. Mann, Shakeshaft, Becker & Kottkamp (1999) found that tutorial software had the power to raise student achievement in a West Virginia Basic Skills study in the area of 11%. Additional findings included that the software had little impact if the teacher intervened at anytime in the process. Solomon (1999) indicated that rolling out this approach to technology could have the same effect to student achievement as lowering the class size to 18 students.

The question is €œWhat happened to the follow-up on this research? The answer is complicated and may have a great deal to do with a “so what” response. If this early evidence was accurate, tutorial software had the power to change education and the teaching profession in general. However, who would author all of this software and how would it be implemented to the average student? The costs would be prohibitive for the schools and it is a finite market for the software companies. Unfortunately, software companies have had a hand in deciding what software implementation in schools would look like. Compass Learning, which is the old Jostens software company in the West Virginia experiment, provides interactive software that is appropriate for short-term interventions. This makes sense since the investment of a software-interactive school would have been prohibitive for a 11% gain. If this is true, why are we spending so much money in the schools for technology for Interactive White Boards, for example, that are static and only as good as the teacher who is presenting the information. However, wait a minute did not Mann et al. indicate that if the teacher intervened the intervention was not effective?

Lacunae in educational technology includes a lack of clarity regarding what actually has an impact on student achievement, and the need to identify what technology actually has a place in the schools. Earlier in this blog an entry addressed the errant purchase of 800+ interactive white boards for a school district in Virginia. The superintendent subsequently responded to the board of supervisors (who were rightfully asking the question does this have an achievement effect?) basically stating that all teachers would be trained with the technology. This response did not address the seminal question, whether adequately trained teachers with the technology could actually positively affect student achievement. Other school districts have technology coaches who among other things monitor who are using the white boards, and who are non-compliant. Unfortunately, all of this activity has little to do with raising student achievement. We know that tutorial software can have a student achievement effect, but that depends exclusively on a one-on-one computer to student relationship. The Interactive White Board is no more than a whole-class lecture piece of technology that runs counter with the little educational research that is extant.


Mann, D., Shakeshaft, C., Becker, J., & Kottkamp, R. (1999). West Virginia’s basic skills/computer education program: an analysis of student achievement. Santa Monica, CA: Milken Family Foundation. Retrieved January 4, 2001, from the World Wide Web: http://www.mff.org/pubs/ME155.pdf

Solmon, L. C. (1999). Afterword; comparing technology with other policy initiatives. In Mann, D., Shakeshaft, C., Becker, J., & Kottkamp, R. (1999). West Virginia’s basic skills/computer education program: an analysis of student achievement. Santa Monica, CA: Milken Family Foundation. Retrieved January 4, 2001, from the World Wide Web:http://www.mff.org/pubs/ME155.pdf


Dr. Bindig is a full time manager of educational outreach for American Public University System and an instructor for the School of Education. He holds an undergraduate degree from The College of New Jersey and a masters degree in Musicology from Rutgers University. Dr. Bindig received an Ed.D. from Nova Southeastern University with a dual concentration in Educational Leadership and Instructional Technology. He has 32 years of experience as a public school teacher, principal and superintendent in the New Jersey public schools. Dr. Bindig has taught for several online universities as well as serving as a dissertation advisor at Nova Southeastern University. His main focus in educational research is student achievement gains facilitated via technology.

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