There has been substantial research on technology in K-12 classrooms (Spector, Merrill, Elen, and Bishop, 2013), including work on the history of technology in schools more generally (Cuban, 1986, 1993), work on the impact on classrooms (Muir-Herzig, 2004), on teacher preparation (Bakir, 2016), and on student learning (Cheung and Slavin, 2013b). Interest in technology and education, more particularly in the possible contributions that new technologies might make to the educational enterprise, has been a consistent feature of the educational landscape for at least a century. Perhaps because education has long been a labor-intensive activity with heavy dependence on teachers, observers have looked to each new generation of technologies for the potential to enhance the impact of education without increasing labor costs. Indeed, the desire to enhance learning experiences that might be provided by teachers together with the general appeal of new technologies themselves may have led to great expectations.
Research and commentary on the role of technology in classrooms has had to contend with the sometimes inflated claims for the possible contributions of new technologies. For example, Saettler (1990) reported that in 1913 no less a figure than Thomas Edison predicted that the motion picture would completely change the schools, making books obsolete in the process. Research on the actual impact of new technologies has often played a corrective role by challenging the claims of technology advocates, and here Cuban (1986) has been a leader in lowering expectations as he reviewed the initial claims for each generation of new technologies and then followed up to describe the often disappointing impacts of each. Note, however, that more recently Cuban has observed some positive effects associated with technologies in the classroom (Herold, 2017).
One of the challenges of assessing the impact of technologies in the classroom is that such technologies take many different forms, and they can be used in many different ways at different levels in the educational system with very different groups of learners, all managed by teachers who are only sometimes well prepared to put them to good use. Nevertheless, several meta-analyses provide an overall view of the contribution of technology. In a second order meta-analysis covering over 1,000 primary studies conducted over 40 years, Tamin, Bernard, Borokhovski, Abrami, and Schmid (2011) found a mean effect size of 0.35, indicating low to moderate effects of technology on student learning. Cheung and Slavin (2013a) found a small effect (0.14) of educational technologies on the reading skills of struggling readers in their meta-analysis of 20 studies, and in another meta-analysis they (Cheung and Slavin, 2013b) found a similar small effect (0.15) on math achievement in K-12 classrooms. It seems reasonable to conclude that when educational technologies are used in K-12 classrooms, there is likely to be a modest positive impact overall.
At this point it is useful to imagine a somewhat more expansive framework for thinking about technology as it impacts K-12 classrooms. With this goal in mind, I will begin by briefly considering the basic elements of classroom organization and the impact on technologies being introduced into classrooms. This will lay the groundwork for identifying key dimensions of a framework. The framework, in turn, will guide consideration of related issues for research and practice, and finally, suggestions for additional research. I begin with an example of a particularly effective use of technology in classrooms.