What is the Impact of Technology on Learning?

By — Pearson Allyn Bacon Prentice Hall
Updated on Apr 30, 2014

Research literature throughout the past decade has shown that technology can enhance literacy development, impact language acquisition, provide greater access to information, support learning, motivate students, and enhance their self-esteem (ACT, 2004; CEO Forum, 2001; Boster et al., 2004; Mann et al., 1999; Tracey & Young, 2006; WestEd, 2002). Indeed, researchers have affirmed that computer technology provides abundant opportunities for students to build or modify their personal knowledge through the rich experiences that technology affords.

Technology and Content Area Learning

Kinzer and Leu (1997) demonstrated positive effects of technology on both learning in a content area and learning to use technology itself. They studied the potential of multimedia and hypermedia technologies. One study, The Reporter Project, used multimedia technology to enhance sixth-grade students’ information gathering and writing skills. The Reporter Project was developed and tested in sixth-grade classrooms for two years and showed that students made statistically significant improvement in their recognition and use of elements such as main ideas, supporting details, and cause and effect relationships. Their writing was also more cohesive than their control-group peers who were taught using similar materials and sequences but without the use of technology.

Technology and Reading Comprehension

Findings consistent with these emerged from a meta-analysis conducted by Pearson et al. (2005). The authors reviewed 20 research studies related to using digital tools and learning environments on middle-school students in the following areas:

  • Strategy Use
  • Metacognition
  • Reading Motivation
  • Reading Engagement
  • Reading Comprehension

They defined digital tools to include a wide range of media forms: images, video and audio clips, hypertext, hypermedia, and Web pages. The majority of studies they found dealt with reading comprehension and vocabulary development. Pearson et al. concluded that a wide range of digital tools enhance reading comprehension and vocabulary development by providing students access to word pronunciation, word meaning, contextual information, and comprehension scaffolds to guide an individual’s reading. Thus, a strong research base supports the conclusion that technology can enhance all aspects of literacy development.

Technology and Language Acquisition

There is also a large body of research that supports the benefits of technology for language acquisition (O’Hara & Pritchard, 2006; Pritchard & O’Hara, 2005; Leu, 2005; Cummins, 2005; Zhao, 2005; Duran, 2005; Egbert, Chao, & Hanson-Smith, 1999; Pennington, 1996; Zhao, 2003). Numerous other studies demonstrate that students who learn in existing multimedia and/or hypertext environments show greater gains in areas of language development than students who learn in more traditional environments (Ayersman, 1996; Boone & Higgins, 1992; Charney, 1994; Martinez-Lage, 1997). Studies investigating the impact of student construction of hypermedia environments on language development came to similar conclusions (Goetze, 2000; Lehrer et al., 1994; Nikolova, 2002).

In a review of studies that focused on technology’s impact on language acquisition, Zhao (2005) examined studies that researched the use of digital multimedia and language. Zhao concluded that technology can be used to enhance language acquisition in the following ways:

  • Enhancing access efficiency through digital multimedia. Multimedia presentations (video, images, sound, text) can create stronger memory links than text alone. In addition, digital technologies allow instant playbacks, which provide the learner with quick and easy access to different sections of instructional materials than when they are using a textbook.
  • Enhancing authenticity using video and the Internet. The Internet provides learners with access to authentic materials, like news and literature, while video can offer context-rich linguistic and culturally relevant materials to learners.
  • Enhancing comprehensibility through learner control and multimedia annotations. Video materials online can be enhanced with full captions, key-word captions, and speech slowdown, allowing the reader to more easily digest the information. Digital reading materials can be hyperlinked to different media, which students can choose to help their comprehension of the material.
  • Providing meaningful and authentic communication opportunities. Students can engage in authentic types of communication through e-mail, chat rooms, and other digital means. (p. 16)
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