challenges in education and technology

Image credit: Kristina Closs

Technology might be making education worse

Listen to the essay, as read by Antero Garcia, associate professor in the Graduate School of Education.

As a professor of education and a former public school teacher, I’ve seen digital tools change lives in schools.

I’ve documented the ways mobile technology like phones can transform student engagement in my own classroom.

I’ve explored how digital tools might network powerful civic learning and dialogue for classrooms across the country – elements of education that are crucial for sustaining our democracy today.

And, like everyone, I’ve witnessed digital technologies make schooling safer in the midst of a global pandemic. Zoom and Google Classroom, for instance, allowed many students to attend classrooms virtually during a period when it was not feasible to meet in person.

So I want to tell you that I think technologies are changing education for the better and that we need to invest more in them – but I just can’t.

Given the substantial amount of scholarly time I’ve invested in documenting the life-changing possibilities of digital technologies, it gives me no pleasure to suggest that these tools might be slowly poisoning us. Despite their purported and transformational value, I’ve been wondering if our investment in educational technology might in fact be making our schools worse.

Let me explain.

When I was a classroom teacher, I loved relying on the latest tools to create impressive and immersive experiences for my students. We would utilize technology to create class films, produce social media profiles for the Janie Crawfords, the Holden Caulfields, and other literary characters we studied, and find playful ways to digitally share our understanding of the ideas we studied in our classrooms.

As a teacher, technology was a way to build on students’ interests in pop culture and the world around them. This was exciting to me.

But I’ve continued to understand that the aspects of technology I loved weren’t actually about technology at all – they were about creating authentic learning experiences with young people. At the heart of these digital explorations were my relationships with students and the trust we built together.

“Part of why I’ve grown so skeptical about this current digital revolution is because of how these tools reshape students’ bodies and their relation to the world around them.”

I do see promise in the suite of digital tools that are available in classrooms today. But my research focus on platforms – digital spaces like Amazon, Netflix, and Google that reshape how users interact in online environments – suggests that when we focus on the trees of individual tools, we ignore the larger forest of social and cognitive challenges.

Most people encounter platforms every day in their online social lives. From the few online retail stores where we buy groceries to the small handful of sites that stream our favorite shows and media content, platforms have narrowed how we use the internet today to a small collection of Silicon Valley behemoths. Our social media activities, too, are limited to one or two sites where we check on the updates, photos, and looped videos of friends and loved ones.

These platforms restrict our online and offline lives to a relatively small number of companies and spaces – we communicate with a finite set of tools and consume a set of media that is often algorithmically suggested. This centralization of internet – a trend decades in the making – makes me very uneasy.

From willfully hiding the negative effects of social media use for vulnerable populations to creating tools that reinforce racial bias, today’s platforms are causing harm and sowing disinformation for young people and adults alike. The deluge of difficult ethical and pedagogical questions around these tools are not being broached in any meaningful way in schools – even adults aren’t sure how to manage their online lives.

You might ask, “What does this have to do with education?” Platforms are also a large part of how modern schools operate. From classroom management software to attendance tracking to the online tools that allowed students to meet safely during the pandemic, platforms guide nearly every student interaction in schools today. But districts are utilizing these tools without considering the wider spectrum of changes that they have incurred alongside them.

photo of Antero Godina Garcia

Antero Garcia, associate professor of education (Image credit: Courtesy Antero Garcia)

For example, it might seem helpful for a school to use a management tool like Classroom Dojo (a digital platform that can offer parents ways to interact with and receive updates from their family’s teacher) or software that tracks student reading and development like Accelerated Reader for day-to-day needs. However, these tools limit what assessment looks like and penalize students based on flawed interpretations of learning.

Another problem with platforms is that they, by necessity, amass large swaths of data. Myriad forms of educational technology exist – from virtual reality headsets to e-readers to the small sensors on student ID cards that can track when students enter schools. And all of this student data is being funneled out of schools and into the virtual black boxes of company databases.

Part of why I’ve grown so skeptical about this current digital revolution is because of how these tools reshape students’ bodies and their relation to the world around them. Young people are not viewed as complete human beings but as boxes checked for attendance, for meeting academic progress metrics, or for confirming their location within a school building. Nearly every action that students perform in schools – whether it’s logging onto devices, accessing buildings, or sharing content through their private online lives – is noticed and recorded. Children in schools have become disembodied from their minds and their hearts. Thus, one of the greatest and implicit lessons that kids learn in schools today is that they must sacrifice their privacy in order to participate in conventional, civic society.

The pandemic has only made the situation worse. At its beginnings, some schools relied on software to track students’ eye movements, ostensibly ensuring that kids were paying attention to the tasks at hand. Similarly, many schools required students to keep their cameras on during class time for similar purposes. These might be seen as in the best interests of students and their academic growth, but such practices are part of a larger (and usually more invisible) process of normalizing surveillance in the lives of youth today.

I am not suggesting that we completely reject all of the tools at our disposal – but I am urging for more caution. Even the seemingly benign resources we might use in our classrooms today come with tradeoffs. Every Wi-Fi-connected, “smart” device utilized in schools is an investment in time, money, and expertise in technology over teachers and the teaching profession.

Our focus on fixing or saving schools via digital tools assumes that the benefits and convenience that these invisible platforms offer are worth it.

But my ongoing exploration of how platforms reduce students to quantifiable data suggests that we are removing the innovation and imagination of students and teachers in the process.

Antero Garcia is associate professor of education in the Graduate School of Education .

In Their Own Words is a collaboration between the Stanford Public Humanities Initiative  and Stanford University Communications.

If you’re a Stanford faculty member (in any discipline or school) who is interested in writing an essay for this series, please reach out to Natalie Jabbar at [email protected] .

Published on Education for Global Development

Four of the biggest problems facing education—and four trends that could make a difference, eduardo velez bustillo, harry a. patrinos, this page in:.

Woman writing in a notebook

In 2022, we published, Lessons for the education sector from the COVID-19 pandemic , which was a follow up to,  Four Education Trends that Countries Everywhere Should Know About , which summarized views of education experts around the world on how to handle the most pressing issues facing the education sector then. We focused on neuroscience, the role of the private sector, education technology, inequality, and pedagogy.

Unfortunately, we think the four biggest problems facing education today in developing countries are the same ones we have identified in the last decades .

1. The learning crisis was made worse by COVID-19 school closures

Low quality instruction is a major constraint and prior to COVID-19, the learning poverty rate in low- and middle-income countries was 57% (6 out of 10 children could not read and understand basic texts by age 10). More dramatic is the case of Sub-Saharan Africa with a rate even higher at 86%. Several analyses show that the impact of the pandemic on student learning was significant, leaving students in low- and middle-income countries way behind in mathematics, reading and other subjects.  Some argue that learning poverty may be close to 70% after the pandemic , with a substantial long-term negative effect in future earnings. This generation could lose around $21 trillion in future salaries, with the vulnerable students affected the most.

2. Countries are not paying enough attention to early childhood care and education (ECCE)

At the pre-school level about two-thirds of countries do not have a proper legal framework to provide free and compulsory pre-primary education. According to UNESCO, only a minority of countries, mostly high-income, were making timely progress towards SDG4 benchmarks on early childhood indicators prior to the onset of COVID-19. And remember that ECCE is not only preparation for primary school. It can be the foundation for emotional wellbeing and learning throughout life; one of the best investments a country can make.

3. There is an inadequate supply of high-quality teachers

Low quality teaching is a huge problem and getting worse in many low- and middle-income countries.  In Sub-Saharan Africa, for example, the percentage of trained teachers fell from 84% in 2000 to 69% in 2019 . In addition, in many countries teachers are formally trained and as such qualified, but do not have the minimum pedagogical training. Globally, teachers for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects are the biggest shortfalls.

4. Decision-makers are not implementing evidence-based or pro-equity policies that guarantee solid foundations

It is difficult to understand the continued focus on non-evidence-based policies when there is so much that we know now about what works. Two factors contribute to this problem. One is the short tenure that top officials have when leading education systems. Examples of countries where ministers last less than one year on average are plentiful. The second and more worrisome deals with the fact that there is little attention given to empirical evidence when designing education policies.

To help improve on these four fronts, we see four supporting trends:

1. Neuroscience should be integrated into education policies

Policies considering neuroscience can help ensure that students get proper attention early to support brain development in the first 2-3 years of life. It can also help ensure that children learn to read at the proper age so that they will be able to acquire foundational skills to learn during the primary education cycle and from there on. Inputs like micronutrients, early child stimulation for gross and fine motor skills, speech and language and playing with other children before the age of three are cost-effective ways to get proper development. Early grade reading, using the pedagogical suggestion by the Early Grade Reading Assessment model, has improved learning outcomes in many low- and middle-income countries. We now have the tools to incorporate these advances into the teaching and learning system with AI , ChatGPT , MOOCs and online tutoring.

2. Reversing learning losses at home and at school

There is a real need to address the remaining and lingering losses due to school closures because of COVID-19.  Most students living in households with incomes under the poverty line in the developing world, roughly the bottom 80% in low-income countries and the bottom 50% in middle-income countries, do not have the minimum conditions to learn at home . These students do not have access to the internet, and, often, their parents or guardians do not have the necessary schooling level or the time to help them in their learning process. Connectivity for poor households is a priority. But learning continuity also requires the presence of an adult as a facilitator—a parent, guardian, instructor, or community worker assisting the student during the learning process while schools are closed or e-learning is used.

To recover from the negative impact of the pandemic, the school system will need to develop at the student level: (i) active and reflective learning; (ii) analytical and applied skills; (iii) strong self-esteem; (iv) attitudes supportive of cooperation and solidarity; and (v) a good knowledge of the curriculum areas. At the teacher (instructor, facilitator, parent) level, the system should aim to develop a new disposition toward the role of teacher as a guide and facilitator. And finally, the system also needs to increase parental involvement in the education of their children and be active part in the solution of the children’s problems. The Escuela Nueva Learning Circles or the Pratham Teaching at the Right Level (TaRL) are models that can be used.

3. Use of evidence to improve teaching and learning

We now know more about what works at scale to address the learning crisis. To help countries improve teaching and learning and make teaching an attractive profession, based on available empirical world-wide evidence , we need to improve its status, compensation policies and career progression structures; ensure pre-service education includes a strong practicum component so teachers are well equipped to transition and perform effectively in the classroom; and provide high-quality in-service professional development to ensure they keep teaching in an effective way. We also have the tools to address learning issues cost-effectively. The returns to schooling are high and increasing post-pandemic. But we also have the cost-benefit tools to make good decisions, and these suggest that structured pedagogy, teaching according to learning levels (with and without technology use) are proven effective and cost-effective .

4. The role of the private sector

When properly regulated the private sector can be an effective education provider, and it can help address the specific needs of countries. Most of the pedagogical models that have received international recognition come from the private sector. For example, the recipients of the Yidan Prize on education development are from the non-state sector experiences (Escuela Nueva, BRAC, edX, Pratham, CAMFED and New Education Initiative). In the context of the Artificial Intelligence movement, most of the tools that will revolutionize teaching and learning come from the private sector (i.e., big data, machine learning, electronic pedagogies like OER-Open Educational Resources, MOOCs, etc.). Around the world education technology start-ups are developing AI tools that may have a good potential to help improve quality of education .

After decades asking the same questions on how to improve the education systems of countries, we, finally, are finding answers that are very promising.  Governments need to be aware of this fact.

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Eduardo Velez Bustillo's picture

Consultant, Education Sector, World Bank

هاري باترينوس

Senior Adviser, Education

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How Important Is Technology in Education? Benefits, Challenges, and Impact on Students

A group of students use their electronics while sitting at their desks.

Many of today’s high-demand jobs were created in the last decade, according to the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE). As advances in technology drive globalization and digital transformation, teachers can help students acquire the necessary skills to succeed in the careers of the future.

How important is technology in education? The COVID-19 pandemic is quickly demonstrating why online education should be a vital part of teaching and learning. By integrating technology into existing curricula, as opposed to using it solely as a crisis-management tool, teachers can harness online learning as a powerful educational tool.

The effective use of digital learning tools in classrooms can increase student engagement, help teachers improve their lesson plans, and facilitate personalized learning. It also helps students build essential 21st-century skills.

Virtual classrooms, video, augmented reality (AR), robots, and other technology tools can not only make class more lively, they can also create more inclusive learning environments that foster collaboration and inquisitiveness and enable teachers to collect data on student performance.

Still, it’s important to note that technology is a tool used in education and not an end in itself. The promise of educational technology lies in what educators do with it and how it is used to best support their students’ needs.

Educational Technology Challenges

BuiltIn reports that 92 percent of teachers understand the impact of technology in education. According to Project Tomorrow, 59 percent of middle school students say digital educational tools have helped them with their grades and test scores. These tools have become so popular that the educational technology market is projected to expand to $342 billion by 2025, according to the World Economic Forum.

However, educational technology has its challenges, particularly when it comes to implementation and use. For example, despite growing interest in the use of AR, artificial intelligence, and other emerging technology, less than 10 percent of schools report having these tools in their classrooms, according to Project Tomorrow. Additional concerns include excessive screen time, the effectiveness of teachers using the technology, and worries about technology equity.

Prominently rising from the COVID-19 crisis is the issue of content. Educators need to be able to develop and weigh in on online educational content, especially to encourage students to consider a topic from different perspectives. The urgent actions taken during this crisis did not provide sufficient time for this. Access is an added concern — for example, not every school district has resources to provide students with a laptop, and internet connectivity can be unreliable in homes.

Additionally, while some students thrive in online education settings, others lag for various factors, including support resources. For example, a student who already struggled in face-to-face environments may struggle even more in the current situation. These students may have relied on resources that they no longer have in their homes.

Still, most students typically demonstrate confidence in using online education when they have the resources, as studies have suggested. However, online education may pose challenges for teachers, especially in places where it has not been the norm.

Despite the challenges and concerns, it’s important to note the benefits of technology in education, including increased collaboration and communication, improved quality of education, and engaging lessons that help spark imagination and a search for knowledge in students.

The Benefits of Technology in Education

Teachers want to improve student performance, and technology can help them accomplish this aim. To mitigate the challenges, administrators should help teachers gain the competencies needed to enhance learning for students through technology. Additionally, technology in the classroom should make teachers’ jobs easier without adding extra time to their day.

Technology provides students with easy-to-access information, accelerated learning, and fun opportunities to practice what they learn. It enables students to explore new subjects and deepen their understanding of difficult concepts, particularly in STEM. Through the use of technology inside and outside the classroom, students can gain 21st-century technical skills necessary for future occupations.

Still, children learn more effectively with direction. The World Economic Forum reports that while technology can help young students learn and acquire knowledge through play, for example, evidence suggests that learning is more effective through guidance from an adult, such as a teacher.

Leaders and administrators should take stock of where their faculty are in terms of their understanding of online spaces. From lessons learned during this disruptive time, they can implement solutions now for the future. For example, administrators could give teachers a week or two to think carefully about how to teach courses not previously online. In addition to an exploration of solutions, flexibility during these trying times is of paramount importance.

Below are examples of how important technology is in education and the benefits it offers to students and teachers.

Increased Collaboration and Communication

Educational technology can foster collaboration. Not only can teachers engage with students during lessons, but students can also communicate with each other. Through online lessons and learning games, students get to work together to solve problems. In collaborative activities, students can share their thoughts and ideas and support each other. At the same time, technology enables one-on-one interaction with teachers. Students can ask classroom-related questions and seek additional help on difficult-to-understand subject matter. At home, students can upload their homework, and teachers can access and view completed assignments using their laptops.

Personalized Learning Opportunities

Technology allows 24/7 access to educational resources. Classes can take place entirely online via the use of a laptop or mobile device. Hybrid versions of learning combine the use of technology from anywhere with regular in-person classroom sessions. In both scenarios, the use of technology to tailor learning plans for each student is possible. Teachers can create lessons based on student interests and strengths. An added benefit is that students can learn at their own pace. When they need to review class material to get a better understanding of essential concepts, students can review videos in the lesson plan. The data generated through these online activities enable teachers to see which students struggled with certain subjects and offer additional assistance and support.

Curiosity Driven by Engaging Content

Through engaging and educational content, teachers can spark inquisitiveness in children and boost their curiosity, which research says has ties to academic success. Curiosity helps students get a better understanding of math and reading concepts. Creating engaging content can involve the use of AR, videos, or podcasts. For example, when submitting assignments, students can include videos or interact with students from across the globe.

Improved Teacher Productivity and Efficiency

Teachers can leverage technology to achieve new levels of productivity, implement useful digital tools to expand learning opportunities for students, and increase student support and engagement. It also enables teachers to improve their instruction methods and personalize learning. Schools can benefit from technology by reducing the costs of physical instructional materials, enhancing educational program efficiency, and making the best use of teacher time.

Become a Leader in Enriching Classrooms through Technology

Educators unfamiliar with some of the technology used in education may not have been exposed to the tools as they prepared for their careers or as part of their professional development. Teachers looking to make the transition and acquire the skills to incorporate technology in education can take advantage of learning opportunities to advance their competencies. For individuals looking to help transform the education system through technology, American University’s School of Education Online offers a Master of Arts in Teaching and a Master of Arts in Education Policy and Leadership to prepare educators with essential tools to become leaders. Courses such as Education Program and Policy Implementation and Teaching Science in Elementary School equip graduate students with critical competencies to incorporate technology into educational settings effectively.

Learn more about American University’s School of Education Online and its master’s degree programs.

Virtual Reality in Education: Benefits, Tools, and Resources

Data-Driven Decision Making in Education: 11 Tips for Teachers & Administration

Helping Girls Succeed in STEM

BuiltIn, “Edtech 101”

EdTech, “Teaching Teachers to Put Tech Tools to Work”

International Society for Technology in Education, “Preparing Students for Jobs That Don’t Exist”

The Journal, “How Teachers Use Technology to Enrich Learning Experiences”

Pediatric Research, “Early Childhood Curiosity and Kindergarten Reading and Math Academic Achievement”

Project Tomorrow, “Digital Learning: Peril or Promise for Our K-12 Students”

World Economic Forum, “The Future of Jobs Report 2018”

World Economic Forum, “Learning through Play: How Schools Can Educate Students through Technology”

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Leading up to the 75th anniversary of the UN General Assembly, this “Realizing the promise: How can education technology improve learning for all?” publication kicks off the Center for Universal Education’s first playbook in a series to help improve education around the world.

It is intended as an evidence-based tool for ministries of education, particularly in low- and middle-income countries, to adopt and more successfully invest in education technology.

While there is no single education initiative that will achieve the same results everywhere—as school systems differ in learners and educators, as well as in the availability and quality of materials and technologies—an important first step is understanding how technology is used given specific local contexts and needs.

The surveys in this playbook are designed to be adapted to collect this information from educators, learners, and school leaders and guide decisionmakers in expanding the use of technology.  


While technology has disrupted most sectors of the economy and changed how we communicate, access information, work, and even play, its impact on schools, teaching, and learning has been much more limited. We believe that this limited impact is primarily due to technology being been used to replace analog tools, without much consideration given to playing to technology’s comparative advantages. These comparative advantages, relative to traditional “chalk-and-talk” classroom instruction, include helping to scale up standardized instruction, facilitate differentiated instruction, expand opportunities for practice, and increase student engagement. When schools use technology to enhance the work of educators and to improve the quality and quantity of educational content, learners will thrive.

Further, COVID-19 has laid bare that, in today’s environment where pandemics and the effects of climate change are likely to occur, schools cannot always provide in-person education—making the case for investing in education technology.

Here we argue for a simple yet surprisingly rare approach to education technology that seeks to:

  • Understand the needs, infrastructure, and capacity of a school system—the diagnosis;
  • Survey the best available evidence on interventions that match those conditions—the evidence; and
  • Closely monitor the results of innovations before they are scaled up—the prognosis.


challenges in education and technology

Podcast: How education technology can improve learning for all students

challenges in education and technology

To make ed tech work, set clear goals, review the evidence, and pilot before you scale

The framework.

Our approach builds on a simple yet intuitive theoretical framework created two decades ago by two of the most prominent education researchers in the United States, David K. Cohen and Deborah Loewenberg Ball. They argue that what matters most to improve learning is the interactions among educators and learners around educational materials. We believe that the failed school-improvement efforts in the U.S. that motivated Cohen and Ball’s framework resemble the ed-tech reforms in much of the developing world to date in the lack of clarity improving the interactions between educators, learners, and the educational material. We build on their framework by adding parents as key agents that mediate the relationships between learners and educators and the material (Figure 1).

Figure 1: The instructional core

Adapted from Cohen and Ball (1999)

As the figure above suggests, ed-tech interventions can affect the instructional core in a myriad of ways. Yet, just because technology can do something, it does not mean it should. School systems in developing countries differ along many dimensions and each system is likely to have different needs for ed-tech interventions, as well as different infrastructure and capacity to enact such interventions.

The diagnosis:

How can school systems assess their needs and preparedness.

A useful first step for any school system to determine whether it should invest in education technology is to diagnose its:

  • Specific needs to improve student learning (e.g., raising the average level of achievement, remediating gaps among low performers, and challenging high performers to develop higher-order skills);
  • Infrastructure to adopt technology-enabled solutions (e.g., electricity connection, availability of space and outlets, stock of computers, and Internet connectivity at school and at learners’ homes); and
  • Capacity to integrate technology in the instructional process (e.g., learners’ and educators’ level of familiarity and comfort with hardware and software, their beliefs about the level of usefulness of technology for learning purposes, and their current uses of such technology).

Before engaging in any new data collection exercise, school systems should take full advantage of existing administrative data that could shed light on these three main questions. This could be in the form of internal evaluations but also international learner assessments, such as the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), and/or the Progress in International Literacy Study (PIRLS), and the Teaching and Learning International Study (TALIS). But if school systems lack information on their preparedness for ed-tech reforms or if they seek to complement existing data with a richer set of indicators, we developed a set of surveys for learners, educators, and school leaders. Download the full report to see how we map out the main aspects covered by these surveys, in hopes of highlighting how they could be used to inform decisions around the adoption of ed-tech interventions.

The evidence:

How can school systems identify promising ed-tech interventions.

There is no single “ed-tech” initiative that will achieve the same results everywhere, simply because school systems differ in learners and educators, as well as in the availability and quality of materials and technologies. Instead, to realize the potential of education technology to accelerate student learning, decisionmakers should focus on four potential uses of technology that play to its comparative advantages and complement the work of educators to accelerate student learning (Figure 2). These comparative advantages include:

  • Scaling up quality instruction, such as through prerecorded quality lessons.
  • Facilitating differentiated instruction, through, for example, computer-adaptive learning and live one-on-one tutoring.
  • Expanding opportunities to practice.
  • Increasing learner engagement through videos and games.

Figure 2: Comparative advantages of technology

Here we review the evidence on ed-tech interventions from 37 studies in 20 countries*, organizing them by comparative advantage. It’s important to note that ours is not the only way to classify these interventions (e.g., video tutorials could be considered as a strategy to scale up instruction or increase learner engagement), but we believe it may be useful to highlight the needs that they could address and why technology is well positioned to do so.

When discussing specific studies, we report the magnitude of the effects of interventions using standard deviations (SDs). SDs are a widely used metric in research to express the effect of a program or policy with respect to a business-as-usual condition (e.g., test scores). There are several ways to make sense of them. One is to categorize the magnitude of the effects based on the results of impact evaluations. In developing countries, effects below 0.1 SDs are considered to be small, effects between 0.1 and 0.2 SDs are medium, and those above 0.2 SDs are large (for reviews that estimate the average effect of groups of interventions, called “meta analyses,” see e.g., Conn, 2017; Kremer, Brannen, & Glennerster, 2013; McEwan, 2014; Snilstveit et al., 2015; Evans & Yuan, 2020.)

*In surveying the evidence, we began by compiling studies from prior general and ed-tech specific evidence reviews that some of us have written and from ed-tech reviews conducted by others. Then, we tracked the studies cited by the ones we had previously read and reviewed those, as well. In identifying studies for inclusion, we focused on experimental and quasi-experimental evaluations of education technology interventions from pre-school to secondary school in low- and middle-income countries that were released between 2000 and 2020. We only included interventions that sought to improve student learning directly (i.e., students’ interaction with the material), as opposed to interventions that have impacted achievement indirectly, by reducing teacher absence or increasing parental engagement. This process yielded 37 studies in 20 countries (see the full list of studies in Appendix B).

Scaling up standardized instruction

One of the ways in which technology may improve the quality of education is through its capacity to deliver standardized quality content at scale. This feature of technology may be particularly useful in three types of settings: (a) those in “hard-to-staff” schools (i.e., schools that struggle to recruit educators with the requisite training and experience—typically, in rural and/or remote areas) (see, e.g., Urquiola & Vegas, 2005); (b) those in which many educators are frequently absent from school (e.g., Chaudhury, Hammer, Kremer, Muralidharan, & Rogers, 2006; Muralidharan, Das, Holla, & Mohpal, 2017); and/or (c) those in which educators have low levels of pedagogical and subject matter expertise (e.g., Bietenbeck, Piopiunik, & Wiederhold, 2018; Bold et al., 2017; Metzler & Woessmann, 2012; Santibañez, 2006) and do not have opportunities to observe and receive feedback (e.g., Bruns, Costa, & Cunha, 2018; Cilliers, Fleisch, Prinsloo, & Taylor, 2018). Technology could address this problem by: (a) disseminating lessons delivered by qualified educators to a large number of learners (e.g., through prerecorded or live lessons); (b) enabling distance education (e.g., for learners in remote areas and/or during periods of school closures); and (c) distributing hardware preloaded with educational materials.

Prerecorded lessons

Technology seems to be well placed to amplify the impact of effective educators by disseminating their lessons. Evidence on the impact of prerecorded lessons is encouraging, but not conclusive. Some initiatives that have used short instructional videos to complement regular instruction, in conjunction with other learning materials, have raised student learning on independent assessments. For example, Beg et al. (2020) evaluated an initiative in Punjab, Pakistan in which grade 8 classrooms received an intervention that included short videos to substitute live instruction, quizzes for learners to practice the material from every lesson, tablets for educators to learn the material and follow the lesson, and LED screens to project the videos onto a classroom screen. After six months, the intervention improved the performance of learners on independent tests of math and science by 0.19 and 0.24 SDs, respectively but had no discernible effect on the math and science section of Punjab’s high-stakes exams.

One study suggests that approaches that are far less technologically sophisticated can also improve learning outcomes—especially, if the business-as-usual instruction is of low quality. For example, Naslund-Hadley, Parker, and Hernandez-Agramonte (2014) evaluated a preschool math program in Cordillera, Paraguay that used audio segments and written materials four days per week for an hour per day during the school day. After five months, the intervention improved math scores by 0.16 SDs, narrowing gaps between low- and high-achieving learners, and between those with and without educators with formal training in early childhood education.

Yet, the integration of prerecorded material into regular instruction has not always been successful. For example, de Barros (2020) evaluated an intervention that combined instructional videos for math and science with infrastructure upgrades (e.g., two “smart” classrooms, two TVs, and two tablets), printed workbooks for students, and in-service training for educators of learners in grades 9 and 10 in Haryana, India (all materials were mapped onto the official curriculum). After 11 months, the intervention negatively impacted math achievement (by 0.08 SDs) and had no effect on science (with respect to business as usual classes). It reduced the share of lesson time that educators devoted to instruction and negatively impacted an index of instructional quality. Likewise, Seo (2017) evaluated several combinations of infrastructure (solar lights and TVs) and prerecorded videos (in English and/or bilingual) for grade 11 students in northern Tanzania and found that none of the variants improved student learning, even when the videos were used. The study reports effects from the infrastructure component across variants, but as others have noted (Muralidharan, Romero, & Wüthrich, 2019), this approach to estimating impact is problematic.

A very similar intervention delivered after school hours, however, had sizeable effects on learners’ basic skills. Chiplunkar, Dhar, and Nagesh (2020) evaluated an initiative in Chennai (the capital city of the state of Tamil Nadu, India) delivered by the same organization as above that combined short videos that explained key concepts in math and science with worksheets, facilitator-led instruction, small groups for peer-to-peer learning, and occasional career counseling and guidance for grade 9 students. These lessons took place after school for one hour, five times a week. After 10 months, it had large effects on learners’ achievement as measured by tests of basic skills in math and reading, but no effect on a standardized high-stakes test in grade 10 or socio-emotional skills (e.g., teamwork, decisionmaking, and communication).

Drawing general lessons from this body of research is challenging for at least two reasons. First, all of the studies above have evaluated the impact of prerecorded lessons combined with several other components (e.g., hardware, print materials, or other activities). Therefore, it is possible that the effects found are due to these additional components, rather than to the recordings themselves, or to the interaction between the two (see Muralidharan, 2017 for a discussion of the challenges of interpreting “bundled” interventions). Second, while these studies evaluate some type of prerecorded lessons, none examines the content of such lessons. Thus, it seems entirely plausible that the direction and magnitude of the effects depends largely on the quality of the recordings (e.g., the expertise of the educator recording it, the amount of preparation that went into planning the recording, and its alignment with best teaching practices).

These studies also raise three important questions worth exploring in future research. One of them is why none of the interventions discussed above had effects on high-stakes exams, even if their materials are typically mapped onto the official curriculum. It is possible that the official curricula are simply too challenging for learners in these settings, who are several grade levels behind expectations and who often need to reinforce basic skills (see Pritchett & Beatty, 2015). Another question is whether these interventions have long-term effects on teaching practices. It seems plausible that, if these interventions are deployed in contexts with low teaching quality, educators may learn something from watching the videos or listening to the recordings with learners. Yet another question is whether these interventions make it easier for schools to deliver instruction to learners whose native language is other than the official medium of instruction.

Distance education

Technology can also allow learners living in remote areas to access education. The evidence on these initiatives is encouraging. For example, Johnston and Ksoll (2017) evaluated a program that broadcasted live instruction via satellite to rural primary school students in the Volta and Greater Accra regions of Ghana. For this purpose, the program also equipped classrooms with the technology needed to connect to a studio in Accra, including solar panels, a satellite modem, a projector, a webcam, microphones, and a computer with interactive software. After two years, the intervention improved the numeracy scores of students in grades 2 through 4, and some foundational literacy tasks, but it had no effect on attendance or classroom time devoted to instruction, as captured by school visits. The authors interpreted these results as suggesting that the gains in achievement may be due to improving the quality of instruction that children received (as opposed to increased instructional time). Naik, Chitre, Bhalla, and Rajan (2019) evaluated a similar program in the Indian state of Karnataka and also found positive effects on learning outcomes, but it is not clear whether those effects are due to the program or due to differences in the groups of students they compared to estimate the impact of the initiative.

In one context (Mexico), this type of distance education had positive long-term effects. Navarro-Sola (2019) took advantage of the staggered rollout of the telesecundarias (i.e., middle schools with lessons broadcasted through satellite TV) in 1968 to estimate its impact. The policy had short-term effects on students’ enrollment in school: For every telesecundaria per 50 children, 10 students enrolled in middle school and two pursued further education. It also had a long-term influence on the educational and employment trajectory of its graduates. Each additional year of education induced by the policy increased average income by nearly 18 percent. This effect was attributable to more graduates entering the labor force and shifting from agriculture and the informal sector. Similarly, Fabregas (2019) leveraged a later expansion of this policy in 1993 and found that each additional telesecundaria per 1,000 adolescents led to an average increase of 0.2 years of education, and a decline in fertility for women, but no conclusive evidence of long-term effects on labor market outcomes.

It is crucial to interpret these results keeping in mind the settings where the interventions were implemented. As we mention above, part of the reason why they have proven effective is that the “counterfactual” conditions for learning (i.e., what would have happened to learners in the absence of such programs) was either to not have access to schooling or to be exposed to low-quality instruction. School systems interested in taking up similar interventions should assess the extent to which their learners (or parts of their learner population) find themselves in similar conditions to the subjects of the studies above. This illustrates the importance of assessing the needs of a system before reviewing the evidence.

Preloaded hardware

Technology also seems well positioned to disseminate educational materials. Specifically, hardware (e.g., desktop computers, laptops, or tablets) could also help deliver educational software (e.g., word processing, reference texts, and/or games). In theory, these materials could not only undergo a quality assurance review (e.g., by curriculum specialists and educators), but also draw on the interactions with learners for adjustments (e.g., identifying areas needing reinforcement) and enable interactions between learners and educators.

In practice, however, most initiatives that have provided learners with free computers, laptops, and netbooks do not leverage any of the opportunities mentioned above. Instead, they install a standard set of educational materials and hope that learners find them helpful enough to take them up on their own. Students rarely do so, and instead use the laptops for recreational purposes—often, to the detriment of their learning (see, e.g., Malamud & Pop-Eleches, 2011). In fact, free netbook initiatives have not only consistently failed to improve academic achievement in math or language (e.g., Cristia et al., 2017), but they have had no impact on learners’ general computer skills (e.g., Beuermann et al., 2015). Some of these initiatives have had small impacts on cognitive skills, but the mechanisms through which those effects occurred remains unclear.

To our knowledge, the only successful deployment of a free laptop initiative was one in which a team of researchers equipped the computers with remedial software. Mo et al. (2013) evaluated a version of the One Laptop per Child (OLPC) program for grade 3 students in migrant schools in Beijing, China in which the laptops were loaded with a remedial software mapped onto the national curriculum for math (similar to the software products that we discuss under “practice exercises” below). After nine months, the program improved math achievement by 0.17 SDs and computer skills by 0.33 SDs. If a school system decides to invest in free laptops, this study suggests that the quality of the software on the laptops is crucial.

To date, however, the evidence suggests that children do not learn more from interacting with laptops than they do from textbooks. For example, Bando, Gallego, Gertler, and Romero (2016) compared the effect of free laptop and textbook provision in 271 elementary schools in disadvantaged areas of Honduras. After seven months, students in grades 3 and 6 who had received the laptops performed on par with those who had received the textbooks in math and language. Further, even if textbooks essentially become obsolete at the end of each school year, whereas laptops can be reloaded with new materials for each year, the costs of laptop provision (not just the hardware, but also the technical assistance, Internet, and training associated with it) are not yet low enough to make them a more cost-effective way of delivering content to learners.

Evidence on the provision of tablets equipped with software is encouraging but limited. For example, de Hoop et al. (2020) evaluated a composite intervention for first grade students in Zambia’s Eastern Province that combined infrastructure (electricity via solar power), hardware (projectors and tablets), and educational materials (lesson plans for educators and interactive lessons for learners, both loaded onto the tablets and mapped onto the official Zambian curriculum). After 14 months, the intervention had improved student early-grade reading by 0.4 SDs, oral vocabulary scores by 0.25 SDs, and early-grade math by 0.22 SDs. It also improved students’ achievement by 0.16 on a locally developed assessment. The multifaceted nature of the program, however, makes it challenging to identify the components that are driving the positive effects. Pitchford (2015) evaluated an intervention that provided tablets equipped with educational “apps,” to be used for 30 minutes per day for two months to develop early math skills among students in grades 1 through 3 in Lilongwe, Malawi. The evaluation found positive impacts in math achievement, but the main study limitation is that it was conducted in a single school.

Facilitating differentiated instruction

Another way in which technology may improve educational outcomes is by facilitating the delivery of differentiated or individualized instruction. Most developing countries massively expanded access to schooling in recent decades by building new schools and making education more affordable, both by defraying direct costs, as well as compensating for opportunity costs (Duflo, 2001; World Bank, 2018). These initiatives have not only rapidly increased the number of learners enrolled in school, but have also increased the variability in learner’ preparation for schooling. Consequently, a large number of learners perform well below grade-based curricular expectations (see, e.g., Duflo, Dupas, & Kremer, 2011; Pritchett & Beatty, 2015). These learners are unlikely to get much from “one-size-fits-all” instruction, in which a single educator delivers instruction deemed appropriate for the middle (or top) of the achievement distribution (Banerjee & Duflo, 2011). Technology could potentially help these learners by providing them with: (a) instruction and opportunities for practice that adjust to the level and pace of preparation of each individual (known as “computer-adaptive learning” (CAL)); or (b) live, one-on-one tutoring.

Computer-adaptive learning

One of the main comparative advantages of technology is its ability to diagnose students’ initial learning levels and assign students to instruction and exercises of appropriate difficulty. No individual educator—no matter how talented—can be expected to provide individualized instruction to all learners in his/her class simultaneously . In this respect, technology is uniquely positioned to complement traditional teaching. This use of technology could help learners master basic skills and help them get more out of schooling.

Although many software products evaluated in recent years have been categorized as CAL, many rely on a relatively coarse level of differentiation at an initial stage (e.g., a diagnostic test) without further differentiation. We discuss these initiatives under the category of “increasing opportunities for practice” below. CAL initiatives complement an initial diagnostic with dynamic adaptation (i.e., at each response or set of responses from learners) to adjust both the initial level of difficulty and rate at which it increases or decreases, depending on whether learners’ responses are correct or incorrect.

Existing evidence on this specific type of programs is highly promising. Most famously, Banerjee et al. (2007) evaluated CAL software in Vadodara, in the Indian state of Gujarat, in which grade 4 students were offered two hours of shared computer time per week before and after school, during which they played games that involved solving math problems. The level of difficulty of such problems adjusted based on students’ answers. This program improved math achievement by 0.35 and 0.47 SDs after one and two years of implementation, respectively. Consistent with the promise of personalized learning, the software improved achievement for all students. In fact, one year after the end of the program, students assigned to the program still performed 0.1 SDs better than those assigned to a business as usual condition. More recently, Muralidharan, et al. (2019) evaluated a “blended learning” initiative in which students in grades 4 through 9 in Delhi, India received 45 minutes of interaction with CAL software for math and language, and 45 minutes of small group instruction before or after going to school. After only 4.5 months, the program improved achievement by 0.37 SDs in math and 0.23 SDs in Hindi. While all learners benefited from the program in absolute terms, the lowest performing learners benefited the most in relative terms, since they were learning very little in school.

We see two important limitations from this body of research. First, to our knowledge, none of these initiatives has been evaluated when implemented during the school day. Therefore, it is not possible to distinguish the effect of the adaptive software from that of additional instructional time. Second, given that most of these programs were facilitated by local instructors, attempts to distinguish the effect of the software from that of the instructors has been mostly based on noncausal evidence. A frontier challenge in this body of research is to understand whether CAL software can increase the effectiveness of school-based instruction by substituting part of the regularly scheduled time for math and language instruction.

Live one-on-one tutoring

Recent improvements in the speed and quality of videoconferencing, as well as in the connectivity of remote areas, have enabled yet another way in which technology can help personalization: live (i.e., real-time) one-on-one tutoring. While the evidence on in-person tutoring is scarce in developing countries, existing studies suggest that this approach works best when it is used to personalize instruction (see, e.g., Banerjee et al., 2007; Banerji, Berry, & Shotland, 2015; Cabezas, Cuesta, & Gallego, 2011).

There are almost no studies on the impact of online tutoring—possibly, due to the lack of hardware and Internet connectivity in low- and middle-income countries. One exception is Chemin and Oledan (2020)’s recent evaluation of an online tutoring program for grade 6 students in Kianyaga, Kenya to learn English from volunteers from a Canadian university via Skype ( videoconferencing software) for one hour per week after school. After 10 months, program beneficiaries performed 0.22 SDs better in a test of oral comprehension, improved their comfort using technology for learning, and became more willing to engage in cross-cultural communication. Importantly, while the tutoring sessions used the official English textbooks and sought in part to help learners with their homework, tutors were trained on several strategies to teach to each learner’s individual level of preparation, focusing on basic skills if necessary. To our knowledge, similar initiatives within a country have not yet been rigorously evaluated.

Expanding opportunities for practice

A third way in which technology may improve the quality of education is by providing learners with additional opportunities for practice. In many developing countries, lesson time is primarily devoted to lectures, in which the educator explains the topic and the learners passively copy explanations from the blackboard. This setup leaves little time for in-class practice. Consequently, learners who did not understand the explanation of the material during lecture struggle when they have to solve homework assignments on their own. Technology could potentially address this problem by allowing learners to review topics at their own pace.

Practice exercises

Technology can help learners get more out of traditional instruction by providing them with opportunities to implement what they learn in class. This approach could, in theory, allow some learners to anchor their understanding of the material through trial and error (i.e., by realizing what they may not have understood correctly during lecture and by getting better acquainted with special cases not covered in-depth in class).

Existing evidence on practice exercises reflects both the promise and the limitations of this use of technology in developing countries. For example, Lai et al. (2013) evaluated a program in Shaanxi, China where students in grades 3 and 5 were required to attend two 40-minute remedial sessions per week in which they first watched videos that reviewed the material that had been introduced in their math lessons that week and then played games to practice the skills introduced in the video. After four months, the intervention improved math achievement by 0.12 SDs. Many other evaluations of comparable interventions have found similar small-to-moderate results (see, e.g., Lai, Luo, Zhang, Huang, & Rozelle, 2015; Lai et al., 2012; Mo et al., 2015; Pitchford, 2015). These effects, however, have been consistently smaller than those of initiatives that adjust the difficulty of the material based on students’ performance (e.g., Banerjee et al., 2007; Muralidharan, et al., 2019). We hypothesize that these programs do little for learners who perform several grade levels behind curricular expectations, and who would benefit more from a review of foundational concepts from earlier grades.

We see two important limitations from this research. First, most initiatives that have been evaluated thus far combine instructional videos with practice exercises, so it is hard to know whether their effects are driven by the former or the latter. In fact, the program in China described above allowed learners to ask their peers whenever they did not understand a difficult concept, so it potentially also captured the effect of peer-to-peer collaboration. To our knowledge, no studies have addressed this gap in the evidence.

Second, most of these programs are implemented before or after school, so we cannot distinguish the effect of additional instructional time from that of the actual opportunity for practice. The importance of this question was first highlighted by Linden (2008), who compared two delivery mechanisms for game-based remedial math software for students in grades 2 and 3 in a network of schools run by a nonprofit organization in Gujarat, India: one in which students interacted with the software during the school day and another one in which students interacted with the software before or after school (in both cases, for three hours per day). After a year, the first version of the program had negatively impacted students’ math achievement by 0.57 SDs and the second one had a null effect. This study suggested that computer-assisted learning is a poor substitute for regular instruction when it is of high quality, as was the case in this well-functioning private network of schools.

In recent years, several studies have sought to remedy this shortcoming. Mo et al. (2014) were among the first to evaluate practice exercises delivered during the school day. They evaluated an initiative in Shaanxi, China in which students in grades 3 and 5 were required to interact with the software similar to the one in Lai et al. (2013) for two 40-minute sessions per week. The main limitation of this study, however, is that the program was delivered during regularly scheduled computer lessons, so it could not determine the impact of substituting regular math instruction. Similarly, Mo et al. (2020) evaluated a self-paced and a teacher-directed version of a similar program for English for grade 5 students in Qinghai, China. Yet, the key shortcoming of this study is that the teacher-directed version added several components that may also influence achievement, such as increased opportunities for teachers to provide students with personalized assistance when they struggled with the material. Ma, Fairlie, Loyalka, and Rozelle (2020) compared the effectiveness of additional time-delivered remedial instruction for students in grades 4 to 6 in Shaanxi, China through either computer-assisted software or using workbooks. This study indicates whether additional instructional time is more effective when using technology, but it does not address the question of whether school systems may improve the productivity of instructional time during the school day by substituting educator-led with computer-assisted instruction.

Increasing learner engagement

Another way in which technology may improve education is by increasing learners’ engagement with the material. In many school systems, regular “chalk and talk” instruction prioritizes time for educators’ exposition over opportunities for learners to ask clarifying questions and/or contribute to class discussions. This, combined with the fact that many developing-country classrooms include a very large number of learners (see, e.g., Angrist & Lavy, 1999; Duflo, Dupas, & Kremer, 2015), may partially explain why the majority of those students are several grade levels behind curricular expectations (e.g., Muralidharan, et al., 2019; Muralidharan & Zieleniak, 2014; Pritchett & Beatty, 2015). Technology could potentially address these challenges by: (a) using video tutorials for self-paced learning and (b) presenting exercises as games and/or gamifying practice.

Video tutorials

Technology can potentially increase learner effort and understanding of the material by finding new and more engaging ways to deliver it. Video tutorials designed for self-paced learning—as opposed to videos for whole class instruction, which we discuss under the category of “prerecorded lessons” above—can increase learner effort in multiple ways, including: allowing learners to focus on topics with which they need more help, letting them correct errors and misconceptions on their own, and making the material appealing through visual aids. They can increase understanding by breaking the material into smaller units and tackling common misconceptions.

In spite of the popularity of instructional videos, there is relatively little evidence on their effectiveness. Yet, two recent evaluations of different versions of the Khan Academy portal, which mainly relies on instructional videos, offer some insight into their impact. First, Ferman, Finamor, and Lima (2019) evaluated an initiative in 157 public primary and middle schools in five cities in Brazil in which the teachers of students in grades 5 and 9 were taken to the computer lab to learn math from the platform for 50 minutes per week. The authors found that, while the intervention slightly improved learners’ attitudes toward math, these changes did not translate into better performance in this subject. The authors hypothesized that this could be due to the reduction of teacher-led math instruction.

More recently, Büchel, Jakob, Kühnhanss, Steffen, and Brunetti (2020) evaluated an after-school, offline delivery of the Khan Academy portal in grades 3 through 6 in 302 primary schools in Morazán, El Salvador. Students in this study received 90 minutes per week of additional math instruction (effectively nearly doubling total math instruction per week) through teacher-led regular lessons, teacher-assisted Khan Academy lessons, or similar lessons assisted by technical supervisors with no content expertise. (Importantly, the first group provided differentiated instruction, which is not the norm in Salvadorian schools). All three groups outperformed both schools without any additional lessons and classrooms without additional lessons in the same schools as the program. The teacher-assisted Khan Academy lessons performed 0.24 SDs better, the supervisor-led lessons 0.22 SDs better, and the teacher-led regular lessons 0.15 SDs better, but the authors could not determine whether the effects across versions were different.

Together, these studies suggest that instructional videos work best when provided as a complement to, rather than as a substitute for, regular instruction. Yet, the main limitation of these studies is the multifaceted nature of the Khan Academy portal, which also includes other components found to positively improve learner achievement, such as differentiated instruction by students’ learning levels. While the software does not provide the type of personalization discussed above, learners are asked to take a placement test and, based on their score, educators assign them different work. Therefore, it is not clear from these studies whether the effects from Khan Academy are driven by its instructional videos or to the software’s ability to provide differentiated activities when combined with placement tests.

Games and gamification

Technology can also increase learner engagement by presenting exercises as games and/or by encouraging learner to play and compete with others (e.g., using leaderboards and rewards)—an approach known as “gamification.” Both approaches can increase learner motivation and effort by presenting learners with entertaining opportunities for practice and by leveraging peers as commitment devices.

There are very few studies on the effects of games and gamification in low- and middle-income countries. Recently, Araya, Arias Ortiz, Bottan, and Cristia (2019) evaluated an initiative in which grade 4 students in Santiago, Chile were required to participate in two 90-minute sessions per week during the school day with instructional math software featuring individual and group competitions (e.g., tracking each learner’s standing in his/her class and tournaments between sections). After nine months, the program led to improvements of 0.27 SDs in the national student assessment in math (it had no spillover effects on reading). However, it had mixed effects on non-academic outcomes. Specifically, the program increased learners’ willingness to use computers to learn math, but, at the same time, increased their anxiety toward math and negatively impacted learners’ willingness to collaborate with peers. Finally, given that one of the weekly sessions replaced regular math instruction and the other one represented additional math instructional time, it is not clear whether the academic effects of the program are driven by the software or the additional time devoted to learning math.

The prognosis:

How can school systems adopt interventions that match their needs.

Here are five specific and sequential guidelines for decisionmakers to realize the potential of education technology to accelerate student learning.

1. Take stock of how your current schools, educators, and learners are engaging with technology .

Carry out a short in-school survey to understand the current practices and potential barriers to adoption of technology (we have included suggested survey instruments in the Appendices); use this information in your decisionmaking process. For example, we learned from conversations with current and former ministers of education from various developing regions that a common limitation to technology use is regulations that hold school leaders accountable for damages to or losses of devices. Another common barrier is lack of access to electricity and Internet, or even the availability of sufficient outlets for charging devices in classrooms. Understanding basic infrastructure and regulatory limitations to the use of education technology is a first necessary step. But addressing these limitations will not guarantee that introducing or expanding technology use will accelerate learning. The next steps are thus necessary.

“In Africa, the biggest limit is connectivity. Fiber is expensive, and we don’t have it everywhere. The continent is creating a digital divide between cities, where there is fiber, and the rural areas.  The [Ghanaian] administration put in schools offline/online technologies with books, assessment tools, and open source materials. In deploying this, we are finding that again, teachers are unfamiliar with it. And existing policies prohibit students to bring their own tablets or cell phones. The easiest way to do it would have been to let everyone bring their own device. But policies are against it.” H.E. Matthew Prempeh, Minister of Education of Ghana, on the need to understand the local context.

2. Consider how the introduction of technology may affect the interactions among learners, educators, and content .

Our review of the evidence indicates that technology may accelerate student learning when it is used to scale up access to quality content, facilitate differentiated instruction, increase opportunities for practice, or when it increases learner engagement. For example, will adding electronic whiteboards to classrooms facilitate access to more quality content or differentiated instruction? Or will these expensive boards be used in the same way as the old chalkboards? Will providing one device (laptop or tablet) to each learner facilitate access to more and better content, or offer students more opportunities to practice and learn? Solely introducing technology in classrooms without additional changes is unlikely to lead to improved learning and may be quite costly. If you cannot clearly identify how the interactions among the three key components of the instructional core (educators, learners, and content) may change after the introduction of technology, then it is probably not a good idea to make the investment. See Appendix A for guidance on the types of questions to ask.

3. Once decisionmakers have a clear idea of how education technology can help accelerate student learning in a specific context, it is important to define clear objectives and goals and establish ways to regularly assess progress and make course corrections in a timely manner .

For instance, is the education technology expected to ensure that learners in early grades excel in foundational skills—basic literacy and numeracy—by age 10? If so, will the technology provide quality reading and math materials, ample opportunities to practice, and engaging materials such as videos or games? Will educators be empowered to use these materials in new ways? And how will progress be measured and adjusted?

4. How this kind of reform is approached can matter immensely for its success.

It is easy to nod to issues of “implementation,” but that needs to be more than rhetorical. Keep in mind that good use of education technology requires thinking about how it will affect learners, educators, and parents. After all, giving learners digital devices will make no difference if they get broken, are stolen, or go unused. Classroom technologies only matter if educators feel comfortable putting them to work. Since good technology is generally about complementing or amplifying what educators and learners already do, it is almost always a mistake to mandate programs from on high. It is vital that technology be adopted with the input of educators and families and with attention to how it will be used. If technology goes unused or if educators use it ineffectually, the results will disappoint—no matter the virtuosity of the technology. Indeed, unused education technology can be an unnecessary expenditure for cash-strapped education systems. This is why surveying context, listening to voices in the field, examining how technology is used, and planning for course correction is essential.

5. It is essential to communicate with a range of stakeholders, including educators, school leaders, parents, and learners .

Technology can feel alien in schools, confuse parents and (especially) older educators, or become an alluring distraction. Good communication can help address all of these risks. Taking care to listen to educators and families can help ensure that programs are informed by their needs and concerns. At the same time, deliberately and consistently explaining what technology is and is not supposed to do, how it can be most effectively used, and the ways in which it can make it more likely that programs work as intended. For instance, if teachers fear that technology is intended to reduce the need for educators, they will tend to be hostile; if they believe that it is intended to assist them in their work, they will be more receptive. Absent effective communication, it is easy for programs to “fail” not because of the technology but because of how it was used. In short, past experience in rolling out education programs indicates that it is as important to have a strong intervention design as it is to have a solid plan to socialize it among stakeholders.

challenges in education and technology

Beyond reopening: A leapfrog moment to transform education?

On September 14, the Center for Universal Education (CUE) will host a webinar to discuss strategies, including around the effective use of education technology, for ensuring resilient schools in the long term and to launch a new education technology playbook “Realizing the promise: How can education technology improve learning for all?”

file-pdf Full Playbook – Realizing the promise: How can education technology improve learning for all? file-pdf References file-pdf Appendix A – Instruments to assess availability and use of technology file-pdf Appendix B – List of reviewed studies file-pdf Appendix C – How may technology affect interactions among students, teachers, and content?

About the Authors

Alejandro j. ganimian, emiliana vegas, frederick m. hess.

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Impacts of digital technologies on education and factors influencing schools' digital capacity and transformation: A literature review

Stella timotheou.

1 CYENS Center of Excellence & Cyprus University of Technology (Cyprus Interaction Lab), Cyprus, CYENS Center of Excellence & Cyprus University of Technology, Nicosia-Limassol, Cyprus

Ourania Miliou

Yiannis dimitriadis.

2 Universidad de Valladolid (UVA), Spain, Valladolid, Spain

Sara Villagrá Sobrino

Nikoleta giannoutsou, romina cachia.

3 JRC - Joint Research Centre of the European Commission, Seville, Spain

Alejandra Martínez Monés

Andri ioannou, associated data.

Data sharing not applicable to this article as no datasets were generated or analysed during the current study.

Digital technologies have brought changes to the nature and scope of education and led education systems worldwide to adopt strategies and policies for ICT integration. The latter brought about issues regarding the quality of teaching and learning with ICTs, especially concerning the understanding, adaptation, and design of the education systems in accordance with current technological trends. These issues were emphasized during the recent COVID-19 pandemic that accelerated the use of digital technologies in education, generating questions regarding digitalization in schools. Specifically, many schools demonstrated a lack of experience and low digital capacity, which resulted in widening gaps, inequalities, and learning losses. Such results have engendered the need for schools to learn and build upon the experience to enhance their digital capacity and preparedness, increase their digitalization levels, and achieve a successful digital transformation. Given that the integration of digital technologies is a complex and continuous process that impacts different actors within the school ecosystem, there is a need to show how these impacts are interconnected and identify the factors that can encourage an effective and efficient change in the school environments. For this purpose, we conducted a non-systematic literature review. The results of the literature review were organized thematically based on the evidence presented about the impact of digital technology on education and the factors that affect the schools’ digital capacity and digital transformation. The findings suggest that ICT integration in schools impacts more than just students’ performance; it affects several other school-related aspects and stakeholders, too. Furthermore, various factors affect the impact of digital technologies on education. These factors are interconnected and play a vital role in the digital transformation process. The study results shed light on how ICTs can positively contribute to the digital transformation of schools and which factors should be considered for schools to achieve effective and efficient change.


Digital technologies have brought changes to the nature and scope of education. Versatile and disruptive technological innovations, such as smart devices, the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), blockchain, and software applications have opened up new opportunities for advancing teaching and learning (Gaol & Prasolova-Førland, 2021 ; OECD, 2021 ). Hence, in recent years, education systems worldwide have increased their investment in the integration of information and communication technology (ICT) (Fernández-Gutiérrez et al., 2020 ; Lawrence & Tar, 2018 ) and prioritized their educational agendas to adapt strategies or policies around ICT integration (European Commission, 2019 ). The latter brought about issues regarding the quality of teaching and learning with ICTs (Bates, 2015 ), especially concerning the understanding, adaptation, and design of education systems in accordance with current technological trends (Balyer & Öz, 2018 ). Studies have shown that despite the investment made in the integration of technology in schools, the results have not been promising, and the intended outcomes have not yet been achieved (Delgado et al., 2015 ; Lawrence & Tar, 2018 ). These issues were exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced teaching across education levels to move online (Daniel, 2020 ). Online teaching accelerated the use of digital technologies generating questions regarding the process, the nature, the extent, and the effectiveness of digitalization in schools (Cachia et al., 2021 ; König et al., 2020 ). Specifically, many schools demonstrated a lack of experience and low digital capacity, which resulted in widening gaps, inequalities, and learning losses (Blaskó et al., 2021 ; Di Pietro et al, 2020 ). Such results have engendered the need for schools to learn and build upon the experience in order to enhance their digital capacity (European Commission, 2020 ) and increase their digitalization levels (Costa et al., 2021 ). Digitalization offers possibilities for fundamental improvement in schools (OECD, 2021 ; Rott & Marouane, 2018 ) and touches many aspects of a school’s development (Delcker & Ifenthaler, 2021 ) . However, it is a complex process that requires large-scale transformative changes beyond the technical aspects of technology and infrastructure (Pettersson, 2021 ). Namely, digitalization refers to “ a series of deep and coordinated culture, workforce, and technology shifts and operating models ” (Brooks & McCormack, 2020 , p. 3) that brings cultural, organizational, and operational change through the integration of digital technologies (JISC, 2020 ). A successful digital transformation requires that schools increase their digital capacity levels, establishing the necessary “ culture, policies, infrastructure as well as digital competence of students and staff to support the effective integration of technology in teaching and learning practices ” (Costa et al, 2021 , p.163).

Given that the integration of digital technologies is a complex and continuous process that impacts different actors within the school ecosystem (Eng, 2005 ), there is a need to show how the different elements of the impact are interconnected and to identify the factors that can encourage an effective and efficient change in the school environment. To address the issues outlined above, we formulated the following research questions:

a) What is the impact of digital technologies on education?

b) Which factors might affect a school’s digital capacity and transformation?

In the present investigation, we conducted a non-systematic literature review of publications pertaining to the impact of digital technologies on education and the factors that affect a school’s digital capacity and transformation. The results of the literature review were organized thematically based on the evidence presented about the impact of digital technology on education and the factors which affect the schools’ digital capacity and digital transformation.


The non-systematic literature review presented herein covers the main theories and research published over the past 17 years on the topic. It is based on meta-analyses and review papers found in scholarly, peer-reviewed content databases and other key studies and reports related to the concepts studied (e.g., digitalization, digital capacity) from professional and international bodies (e.g., the OECD). We searched the Scopus database, which indexes various online journals in the education sector with an international scope, to collect peer-reviewed academic papers. Furthermore, we used an all-inclusive Google Scholar search to include relevant key terms or to include studies found in the reference list of the peer-reviewed papers, and other key studies and reports related to the concepts studied by professional and international bodies. Lastly, we gathered sources from the Publications Office of the European Union ( ); namely, documents that refer to policies related to digital transformation in education.

Regarding search terms, we first searched resources on the impact of digital technologies on education by performing the following search queries: “impact” OR “effects” AND “digital technologies” AND “education”, “impact” OR “effects” AND “ICT” AND “education”. We further refined our results by adding the terms “meta-analysis” and “review” or by adjusting the search options based on the features of each database to avoid collecting individual studies that would provide limited contributions to a particular domain. We relied on meta-analyses and review studies as these consider the findings of multiple studies to offer a more comprehensive view of the research in a given area (Schuele & Justice, 2006 ). Specifically, meta-analysis studies provided quantitative evidence based on statistically verifiable results regarding the impact of educational interventions that integrate digital technologies in school classrooms (Higgins et al., 2012 ; Tolani-Brown et al., 2011 ).

However, quantitative data does not offer explanations for the challenges or difficulties experienced during ICT integration in learning and teaching (Tolani-Brown et al., 2011 ). To fill this gap, we analyzed literature reviews and gathered in-depth qualitative evidence of the benefits and implications of technology integration in schools. In the analysis presented herein, we also included policy documents and reports from professional and international bodies and governmental reports, which offered useful explanations of the key concepts of this study and provided recent evidence on digital capacity and transformation in education along with policy recommendations. The inclusion and exclusion criteria that were considered in this study are presented in Table ​ Table1 1 .

Inclusion and exclusion criteria for the selection of resources on the impact of digital technologies on education

To ensure a reliable extraction of information from each study and assist the research synthesis we selected the study characteristics of interest (impact) and constructed coding forms. First, an overview of the synthesis was provided by the principal investigator who described the processes of coding, data entry, and data management. The coders followed the same set of instructions but worked independently. To ensure a common understanding of the process between coders, a sample of ten studies was tested. The results were compared, and the discrepancies were identified and resolved. Additionally, to ensure an efficient coding process, all coders participated in group meetings to discuss additions, deletions, and modifications (Stock, 1994 ). Due to the methodological diversity of the studied documents we began to synthesize the literature review findings based on similar study designs. Specifically, most of the meta-analysis studies were grouped in one category due to the quantitative nature of the measured impact. These studies tended to refer to student achievement (Hattie et al., 2014 ). Then, we organized the themes of the qualitative studies in several impact categories. Lastly, we synthesized both review and meta-analysis data across the categories. In order to establish a collective understanding of the concept of impact, we referred to a previous impact study by Balanskat ( 2009 ) which investigated the impact of technology in primary schools. In this context, the impact had a more specific ICT-related meaning and was described as “ a significant influence or effect of ICT on the measured or perceived quality of (parts of) education ” (Balanskat, 2009 , p. 9). In the study presented herein, the main impacts are in relation to learning and learners, teaching, and teachers, as well as other key stakeholders who are directly or indirectly connected to the school unit.

The study’s results identified multiple dimensions of the impact of digital technologies on students’ knowledge, skills, and attitudes; on equality, inclusion, and social integration; on teachers’ professional and teaching practices; and on other school-related aspects and stakeholders. The data analysis indicated various factors that might affect the schools’ digital capacity and transformation, such as digital competencies, the teachers’ personal characteristics and professional development, as well as the school’s leadership and management, administration, infrastructure, etc. The impacts and factors found in the literature review are presented below.

Impacts of digital technologies on students’ knowledge, skills, attitudes, and emotions

The impact of ICT use on students’ knowledge, skills, and attitudes has been investigated early in the literature. Eng ( 2005 ) found a small positive effect between ICT use and students' learning. Specifically, the author reported that access to computer-assisted instruction (CAI) programs in simulation or tutorial modes—used to supplement rather than substitute instruction – could enhance student learning. The author reported studies showing that teachers acknowledged the benefits of ICT on pupils with special educational needs; however, the impact of ICT on students' attainment was unclear. Balanskat et al. ( 2006 ) found a statistically significant positive association between ICT use and higher student achievement in primary and secondary education. The authors also reported improvements in the performance of low-achieving pupils. The use of ICT resulted in further positive gains for students, namely increased attention, engagement, motivation, communication and process skills, teamwork, and gains related to their behaviour towards learning. Evidence from qualitative studies showed that teachers, students, and parents recognized the positive impact of ICT on students' learning regardless of their competence level (strong/weak students). Punie et al. ( 2006 ) documented studies that showed positive results of ICT-based learning for supporting low-achieving pupils and young people with complex lives outside the education system. Liao et al. ( 2007 ) reported moderate positive effects of computer application instruction (CAI, computer simulations, and web-based learning) over traditional instruction on primary school student's achievement. Similarly, Tamim et al. ( 2011 ) reported small to moderate positive effects between the use of computer technology (CAI, ICT, simulations, computer-based instruction, digital and hypermedia) and student achievement in formal face-to-face classrooms compared to classrooms that did not use technology. Jewitt et al., ( 2011 ) found that the use of learning platforms (LPs) (virtual learning environments, management information systems, communication technologies, and information- and resource-sharing technologies) in schools allowed primary and secondary students to access a wider variety of quality learning resources, engage in independent and personalized learning, and conduct self- and peer-review; LPs also provide opportunities for teacher assessment and feedback. Similar findings were reported by Fu ( 2013 ), who documented a list of benefits and opportunities of ICT use. According to the author, the use of ICTs helps students access digital information and course content effectively and efficiently, supports student-centered and self-directed learning, as well as the development of a creative learning environment where more opportunities for critical thinking skills are offered, and promotes collaborative learning in a distance-learning environment. Higgins et al. ( 2012 ) found consistent but small positive associations between the use of technology and learning outcomes of school-age learners (5–18-year-olds) in studies linking the provision and use of technology with attainment. Additionally, Chauhan ( 2017 ) reported a medium positive effect of technology on the learning effectiveness of primary school students compared to students who followed traditional learning instruction.

The rise of mobile technologies and hardware devices instigated investigations into their impact on teaching and learning. Sung et al. ( 2016 ) reported a moderate effect on students' performance from the use of mobile devices in the classroom compared to the use of desktop computers or the non-use of mobile devices. Schmid et al. ( 2014 ) reported medium–low to low positive effects of technology integration (e.g., CAI, ICTs) in the classroom on students' achievement and attitude compared to not using technology or using technology to varying degrees. Tamim et al. ( 2015 ) found a low statistically significant effect of the use of tablets and other smart devices in educational contexts on students' achievement outcomes. The authors suggested that tablets offered additional advantages to students; namely, they reported improvements in students’ notetaking, organizational and communication skills, and creativity. Zheng et al. ( 2016 ) reported a small positive effect of one-to-one laptop programs on students’ academic achievement across subject areas. Additional reported benefits included student-centered, individualized, and project-based learning enhanced learner engagement and enthusiasm. Additionally, the authors found that students using one-to-one laptop programs tended to use technology more frequently than in non-laptop classrooms, and as a result, they developed a range of skills (e.g., information skills, media skills, technology skills, organizational skills). Haßler et al. ( 2016 ) found that most interventions that included the use of tablets across the curriculum reported positive learning outcomes. However, from 23 studies, five reported no differences, and two reported a negative effect on students' learning outcomes. Similar results were indicated by Kalati and Kim ( 2022 ) who investigated the effect of touchscreen technologies on young students’ learning. Specifically, from 53 studies, 34 advocated positive effects of touchscreen devices on children’s learning, 17 obtained mixed findings and two studies reported negative effects.

More recently, approaches that refer to the impact of gamification with the use of digital technologies on teaching and learning were also explored. A review by Pan et al. ( 2022 ) that examined the role of learning games in fostering mathematics education in K-12 settings, reported that gameplay improved students’ performance. Integration of digital games in teaching was also found as a promising pedagogical practice in STEM education that could lead to increased learning gains (Martinez et al., 2022 ; Wang et al., 2022 ). However, although Talan et al. ( 2020 ) reported a medium effect of the use of educational games (both digital and non-digital) on academic achievement, the effect of non-digital games was higher.

Over the last two years, the effects of more advanced technologies on teaching and learning were also investigated. Garzón and Acevedo ( 2019 ) found that AR applications had a medium effect on students' learning outcomes compared to traditional lectures. Similarly, Garzón et al. ( 2020 ) showed that AR had a medium impact on students' learning gains. VR applications integrated into various subjects were also found to have a moderate effect on students’ learning compared to control conditions (traditional classes, e.g., lectures, textbooks, and multimedia use, e.g., images, videos, animation, CAI) (Chen et al., 2022b ). Villena-Taranilla et al. ( 2022 ) noted the moderate effect of VR technologies on students’ learning when these were applied in STEM disciplines. In the same meta-analysis, Villena-Taranilla et al. ( 2022 ) highlighted the role of immersive VR, since its effect on students’ learning was greater (at a high level) across educational levels (K-6) compared to semi-immersive and non-immersive integrations. In another meta-analysis study, the effect size of the immersive VR was small and significantly differentiated across educational levels (Coban et al., 2022 ). The impact of AI on education was investigated by Su and Yang ( 2022 ) and Su et al. ( 2022 ), who showed that this technology significantly improved students’ understanding of AI computer science and machine learning concepts.

It is worth noting that the vast majority of studies referred to learning gains in specific subjects. Specifically, several studies examined the impact of digital technologies on students’ literacy skills and reported positive effects on language learning (Balanskat et al., 2006 ; Grgurović et al., 2013 ; Friedel et al., 2013 ; Zheng et al., 2016 ; Chen et al., 2022b ; Savva et al., 2022 ). Also, several studies documented positive effects on specific language learning areas, namely foreign language learning (Kao, 2014 ), writing (Higgins et al., 2012 ; Wen & Walters, 2022 ; Zheng et al., 2016 ), as well as reading and comprehension (Cheung & Slavin, 2011 ; Liao et al., 2007 ; Schwabe et al., 2022 ). ICTs were also found to have a positive impact on students' performance in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) disciplines (Arztmann et al., 2022 ; Bado, 2022 ; Villena-Taranilla et al., 2022 ; Wang et al., 2022 ). Specifically, a number of studies reported positive impacts on students’ achievement in mathematics (Balanskat et al., 2006 ; Hillmayr et al., 2020 ; Li & Ma, 2010 ; Pan et al., 2022 ; Ran et al., 2022 ; Verschaffel et al., 2019 ; Zheng et al., 2016 ). Furthermore, studies documented positive effects of ICTs on science learning (Balanskat et al., 2006 ; Liao et al., 2007 ; Zheng et al., 2016 ; Hillmayr et al., 2020 ; Kalemkuş & Kalemkuş, 2022 ; Lei et al., 2022a ). Çelik ( 2022 ) also noted that computer simulations can help students understand learning concepts related to science. Furthermore, some studies documented that the use of ICTs had a positive impact on students’ achievement in other subjects, such as geography, history, music, and arts (Chauhan, 2017 ; Condie & Munro, 2007 ), and design and technology (Balanskat et al., 2006 ).

More specific positive learning gains were reported in a number of skills, e.g., problem-solving skills and pattern exploration skills (Higgins et al., 2012 ), metacognitive learning outcomes (Verschaffel et al., 2019 ), literacy skills, computational thinking skills, emotion control skills, and collaborative inquiry skills (Lu et al., 2022 ; Su & Yang, 2022 ; Su et al., 2022 ). Additionally, several investigations have reported benefits from the use of ICT on students’ creativity (Fielding & Murcia, 2022 ; Liu et al., 2022 ; Quah & Ng, 2022 ). Lastly, digital technologies were also found to be beneficial for enhancing students’ lifelong learning skills (Haleem et al., 2022 ).

Apart from gaining knowledge and skills, studies also reported improvement in motivation and interest in mathematics (Higgins et. al., 2019 ; Fadda et al., 2022 ) and increased positive achievement emotions towards several subjects during interventions using educational games (Lei et al., 2022a ). Chen et al. ( 2022a ) also reported a small but positive effect of digital health approaches in bullying and cyberbullying interventions with K-12 students, demonstrating that technology-based approaches can help reduce bullying and related consequences by providing emotional support, empowerment, and change of attitude. In their meta-review study, Su et al. ( 2022 ) also documented that AI technologies effectively strengthened students’ attitudes towards learning. In another meta-analysis, Arztmann et al. ( 2022 ) reported positive effects of digital games on motivation and behaviour towards STEM subjects.

Impacts of digital technologies on equality, inclusion and social integration

Although most of the reviewed studies focused on the impact of ICTs on students’ knowledge, skills, and attitudes, reports were also made on other aspects in the school context, such as equality, inclusion, and social integration. Condie and Munro ( 2007 ) documented research interventions investigating how ICT can support pupils with additional or special educational needs. While those interventions were relatively small scale and mostly based on qualitative data, their findings indicated that the use of ICTs enabled the development of communication, participation, and self-esteem. A recent meta-analysis (Baragash et al., 2022 ) with 119 participants with different disabilities, reported a significant overall effect size of AR on their functional skills acquisition. Koh’s meta-analysis ( 2022 ) also revealed that students with intellectual and developmental disabilities improved their competence and performance when they used digital games in the lessons.

Istenic Starcic and Bagon ( 2014 ) found that the role of ICT in inclusion and the design of pedagogical and technological interventions was not sufficiently explored in educational interventions with people with special needs; however, some benefits of ICT use were found in students’ social integration. The issue of gender and technology use was mentioned in a small number of studies. Zheng et al. ( 2016 ) reported a statistically significant positive interaction between one-to-one laptop programs and gender. Specifically, the results showed that girls and boys alike benefitted from the laptop program, but the effect on girls’ achievement was smaller than that on boys’. Along the same lines, Arztmann et al. ( 2022 ) reported no difference in the impact of game-based learning between boys and girls, arguing that boys and girls equally benefited from game-based interventions in STEM domains. However, results from a systematic review by Cussó-Calabuig et al. ( 2018 ) found limited and low-quality evidence on the effects of intensive use of computers on gender differences in computer anxiety, self-efficacy, and self-confidence. Based on their view, intensive use of computers can reduce gender differences in some areas and not in others, depending on contextual and implementation factors.

Impacts of digital technologies on teachers’ professional and teaching practices

Various research studies have explored the impact of ICT on teachers’ instructional practices and student assessment. Friedel et al. ( 2013 ) found that the use of mobile devices by students enabled teachers to successfully deliver content (e.g., mobile serious games), provide scaffolding, and facilitate synchronous collaborative learning. The integration of digital games in teaching and learning activities also gave teachers the opportunity to study and apply various pedagogical practices (Bado, 2022 ). Specifically, Bado ( 2022 ) found that teachers who implemented instructional activities in three stages (pre-game, game, and post-game) maximized students’ learning outcomes and engagement. For instance, during the pre-game stage, teachers focused on lectures and gameplay training, at the game stage teachers provided scaffolding on content, addressed technical issues, and managed the classroom activities. During the post-game stage, teachers organized activities for debriefing to ensure that the gameplay had indeed enhanced students’ learning outcomes.

Furthermore, ICT can increase efficiency in lesson planning and preparation by offering possibilities for a more collaborative approach among teachers. The sharing of curriculum plans and the analysis of students’ data led to clearer target settings and improvements in reporting to parents (Balanskat et al., 2006 ).

Additionally, the use and application of digital technologies in teaching and learning were found to enhance teachers’ digital competence. Balanskat et al. ( 2006 ) documented studies that revealed that the use of digital technologies in education had a positive effect on teachers’ basic ICT skills. The greatest impact was found on teachers with enough experience in integrating ICTs in their teaching and/or who had recently participated in development courses for the pedagogical use of technologies in teaching. Punie et al. ( 2006 ) reported that the provision of fully equipped multimedia portable computers and the development of online teacher communities had positive impacts on teachers’ confidence and competence in the use of ICTs.

Moreover, online assessment via ICTs benefits instruction. In particular, online assessments support the digitalization of students’ work and related logistics, allow teachers to gather immediate feedback and readjust to new objectives, and support the improvement of the technical quality of tests by providing more accurate results. Additionally, the capabilities of ICTs (e.g., interactive media, simulations) create new potential methods of testing specific skills, such as problem-solving and problem-processing skills, meta-cognitive skills, creativity and communication skills, and the ability to work productively in groups (Punie et al., 2006 ).

Impacts of digital technologies on other school-related aspects and stakeholders

There is evidence that the effective use of ICTs and the data transmission offered by broadband connections help improve administration (Balanskat et al., 2006 ). Specifically, ICTs have been found to provide better management systems to schools that have data gathering procedures in place. Condie and Munro ( 2007 ) reported impacts from the use of ICTs in schools in the following areas: attendance monitoring, assessment records, reporting to parents, financial management, creation of repositories for learning resources, and sharing of information amongst staff. Such data can be used strategically for self-evaluation and monitoring purposes which in turn can result in school improvements. Additionally, they reported that online access to other people with similar roles helped to reduce headteachers’ isolation by offering them opportunities to share insights into the use of ICT in learning and teaching and how it could be used to support school improvement. Furthermore, ICTs provided more efficient and successful examination management procedures, namely less time-consuming reporting processes compared to paper-based examinations and smooth communications between schools and examination authorities through electronic data exchange (Punie et al., 2006 ).

Zheng et al. ( 2016 ) reported that the use of ICTs improved home-school relationships. Additionally, Escueta et al. ( 2017 ) reported several ICT programs that had improved the flow of information from the school to parents. Particularly, they documented that the use of ICTs (learning management systems, emails, dedicated websites, mobile phones) allowed for personalized and customized information exchange between schools and parents, such as attendance records, upcoming class assignments, school events, and students’ grades, which generated positive results on students’ learning outcomes and attainment. Such information exchange between schools and families prompted parents to encourage their children to put more effort into their schoolwork.

The above findings suggest that the impact of ICT integration in schools goes beyond students’ performance in school subjects. Specifically, it affects a number of school-related aspects, such as equality and social integration, professional and teaching practices, and diverse stakeholders. In Table ​ Table2, 2 , we summarize the different impacts of digital technologies on school stakeholders based on the literature review, while in Table ​ Table3 3 we organized the tools/platforms and practices/policies addressed in the meta-analyses, literature reviews, EU reports, and international bodies included in the manuscript.

The impact of digital technologies on schools’ stakeholders based on the literature review

Tools/platforms and practices/policies addressed in the meta-analyses, literature reviews, EU reports, and international bodies included in the manuscript

Additionally, based on the results of the literature review, there are many types of digital technologies with different affordances (see, for example, studies on VR vs Immersive VR), which evolve over time (e.g. starting from CAIs in 2005 to Augmented and Virtual reality 2020). Furthermore, these technologies are linked to different pedagogies and policy initiatives, which are critical factors in the study of impact. Table ​ Table3 3 summarizes the different tools and practices that have been used to examine the impact of digital technologies on education since 2005 based on the review results.

Factors that affect the integration of digital technologies

Although the analysis of the literature review demonstrated different impacts of the use of digital technology on education, several authors highlighted the importance of various factors, besides the technology itself, that affect this impact. For example, Liao et al. ( 2007 ) suggested that future studies should carefully investigate which factors contribute to positive outcomes by clarifying the exact relationship between computer applications and learning. Additionally, Haßler et al., ( 2016 ) suggested that the neutral findings regarding the impact of tablets on students learning outcomes in some of the studies included in their review should encourage educators, school leaders, and school officials to further investigate the potential of such devices in teaching and learning. Several other researchers suggested that a number of variables play a significant role in the impact of ICTs on students’ learning that could be attributed to the school context, teaching practices and professional development, the curriculum, and learners’ characteristics (Underwood, 2009 ; Tamim et al., 2011 ; Higgins et al., 2012 ; Archer et al., 2014 ; Sung et al., 2016 ; Haßler et al., 2016 ; Chauhan, 2017 ; Lee et al., 2020 ; Tang et al., 2022 ).

Digital competencies

One of the most common challenges reported in studies that utilized digital tools in the classroom was the lack of students’ skills on how to use them. Fu ( 2013 ) found that students’ lack of technical skills is a barrier to the effective use of ICT in the classroom. Tamim et al. ( 2015 ) reported that students faced challenges when using tablets and smart mobile devices, associated with the technical issues or expertise needed for their use and the distracting nature of the devices and highlighted the need for teachers’ professional development. Higgins et al. ( 2012 ) reported that skills training about the use of digital technologies is essential for learners to fully exploit the benefits of instruction.

Delgado et al. ( 2015 ), meanwhile, reported studies that showed a strong positive association between teachers’ computer skills and students’ use of computers. Teachers’ lack of ICT skills and familiarization with technologies can become a constraint to the effective use of technology in the classroom (Balanskat et al., 2006 ; Delgado et al., 2015 ).

It is worth noting that the way teachers are introduced to ICTs affects the impact of digital technologies on education. Previous studies have shown that teachers may avoid using digital technologies due to limited digital skills (Balanskat, 2006 ), or they prefer applying “safe” technologies, namely technologies that their own teachers used and with which they are familiar (Condie & Munro, 2007 ). In this regard, the provision of digital skills training and exposure to new digital tools might encourage teachers to apply various technologies in their lessons (Condie & Munro, 2007 ). Apart from digital competence, technical support in the school setting has also been shown to affect teachers’ use of technology in their classrooms (Delgado et al., 2015 ). Ferrari et al. ( 2011 ) found that while teachers’ use of ICT is high, 75% stated that they needed more institutional support and a shift in the mindset of educational actors to achieve more innovative teaching practices. The provision of support can reduce time and effort as well as cognitive constraints, which could cause limited ICT integration in the school lessons by teachers (Escueta et al., 2017 ).

Teachers’ personal characteristics, training approaches, and professional development

Teachers’ personal characteristics and professional development affect the impact of digital technologies on education. Specifically, Cheok and Wong ( 2015 ) found that teachers’ personal characteristics (e.g., anxiety, self-efficacy) are associated with their satisfaction and engagement with technology. Bingimlas ( 2009 ) reported that lack of confidence, resistance to change, and negative attitudes in using new technologies in teaching are significant determinants of teachers’ levels of engagement in ICT. The same author reported that the provision of technical support, motivation support (e.g., awards, sufficient time for planning), and training on how technologies can benefit teaching and learning can eliminate the above barriers to ICT integration. Archer et al. ( 2014 ) found that comfort levels in using technology are an important predictor of technology integration and argued that it is essential to provide teachers with appropriate training and ongoing support until they are comfortable with using ICTs in the classroom. Hillmayr et al. ( 2020 ) documented that training teachers on ICT had an important effecton students’ learning.

According to Balanskat et al. ( 2006 ), the impact of ICTs on students’ learning is highly dependent on the teachers’ capacity to efficiently exploit their application for pedagogical purposes. Results obtained from the Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) (OECD, 2021 ) revealed that although schools are open to innovative practices and have the capacity to adopt them, only 39% of teachers in the European Union reported that they are well or very well prepared to use digital technologies for teaching. Li and Ma ( 2010 ) and Hardman ( 2019 ) showed that the positive effect of technology on students’ achievement depends on the pedagogical practices used by teachers. Schmid et al. ( 2014 ) reported that learning was best supported when students were engaged in active, meaningful activities with the use of technological tools that provided cognitive support. Tamim et al. ( 2015 ) compared two different pedagogical uses of tablets and found a significant moderate effect when the devices were used in a student-centered context and approach rather than within teacher-led environments. Similarly, Garzón and Acevedo ( 2019 ) and Garzón et al. ( 2020 ) reported that the positive results from the integration of AR applications could be attributed to the existence of different variables which could influence AR interventions (e.g., pedagogical approach, learning environment, and duration of the intervention). Additionally, Garzón et al. ( 2020 ) suggested that the pedagogical resources that teachers used to complement their lectures and the pedagogical approaches they applied were crucial to the effective integration of AR on students’ learning gains. Garzón and Acevedo ( 2019 ) also emphasized that the success of a technology-enhanced intervention is based on both the technology per se and its characteristics and on the pedagogical strategies teachers choose to implement. For instance, their results indicated that the collaborative learning approach had the highest impact on students’ learning gains among other approaches (e.g., inquiry-based learning, situated learning, or project-based learning). Ran et al. ( 2022 ) also found that the use of technology to design collaborative and communicative environments showed the largest moderator effects among the other approaches.

Hattie ( 2008 ) reported that the effective use of computers is associated with training teachers in using computers as a teaching and learning tool. Zheng et al. ( 2016 ) noted that in addition to the strategies teachers adopt in teaching, ongoing professional development is also vital in ensuring the success of technology implementation programs. Sung et al. ( 2016 ) found that research on the use of mobile devices to support learning tends to report that the insufficient preparation of teachers is a major obstacle in implementing effective mobile learning programs in schools. Friedel et al. ( 2013 ) found that providing training and support to teachers increased the positive impact of the interventions on students’ learning gains. Trucano ( 2005 ) argued that positive impacts occur when digital technologies are used to enhance teachers’ existing pedagogical philosophies. Higgins et al. ( 2012 ) found that the types of technologies used and how they are used could also affect students’ learning. The authors suggested that training and professional development of teachers that focuses on the effective pedagogical use of technology to support teaching and learning is an important component of successful instructional approaches (Higgins et al., 2012 ). Archer et al. ( 2014 ) found that studies that reported ICT interventions during which teachers received training and support had moderate positive effects on students’ learning outcomes, which were significantly higher than studies where little or no detail about training and support was mentioned. Fu ( 2013 ) reported that the lack of teachers’ knowledge and skills on the technical and instructional aspects of ICT use in the classroom, in-service training, pedagogy support, technical and financial support, as well as the lack of teachers’ motivation and encouragement to integrate ICT on their teaching were significant barriers to the integration of ICT in education.

School leadership and management

Management and leadership are important cornerstones in the digital transformation process (Pihir et al., 2018 ). Zheng et al. ( 2016 ) documented leadership among the factors positively affecting the successful implementation of technology integration in schools. Strong leadership, strategic planning, and systematic integration of digital technologies are prerequisites for the digital transformation of education systems (Ređep, 2021 ). Management and leadership play a significant role in formulating policies that are translated into practice and ensure that developments in ICT become embedded into the life of the school and in the experiences of staff and pupils (Condie & Munro, 2007 ). Policy support and leadership must include the provision of an overall vision for the use of digital technologies in education, guidance for students and parents, logistical support, as well as teacher training (Conrads et al., 2017 ). Unless there is a commitment throughout the school, with accountability for progress at key points, it is unlikely for ICT integration to be sustained or become part of the culture (Condie & Munro, 2007 ). To achieve this, principals need to adopt and promote a whole-institution strategy and build a strong mutual support system that enables the school’s technological maturity (European Commission, 2019 ). In this context, school culture plays an essential role in shaping the mindsets and beliefs of school actors towards successful technology integration. Condie and Munro ( 2007 ) emphasized the importance of the principal’s enthusiasm and work as a source of inspiration for the school staff and the students to cultivate a culture of innovation and establish sustainable digital change. Specifically, school leaders need to create conditions in which the school staff is empowered to experiment and take risks with technology (Elkordy & Lovinelli, 2020 ).

In order for leaders to achieve the above, it is important to develop capacities for learning and leading, advocating professional learning, and creating support systems and structures (European Commission, 2019 ). Digital technology integration in education systems can be challenging and leadership needs guidance to achieve it. Such guidance can be introduced through the adoption of new methods and techniques in strategic planning for the integration of digital technologies (Ređep, 2021 ). Even though the role of leaders is vital, the relevant training offered to them has so far been inadequate. Specifically, only a third of the education systems in Europe have put in place national strategies that explicitly refer to the training of school principals (European Commission, 2019 , p. 16).

Connectivity, infrastructure, and government and other support

The effective integration of digital technologies across levels of education presupposes the development of infrastructure, the provision of digital content, and the selection of proper resources (Voogt et al., 2013 ). Particularly, a high-quality broadband connection in the school increases the quality and quantity of educational activities. There is evidence that ICT increases and formalizes cooperative planning between teachers and cooperation with managers, which in turn has a positive impact on teaching practices (Balanskat et al., 2006 ). Additionally, ICT resources, including software and hardware, increase the likelihood of teachers integrating technology into the curriculum to enhance their teaching practices (Delgado et al., 2015 ). For example, Zheng et al. ( 2016 ) found that the use of one-on-one laptop programs resulted in positive changes in teaching and learning, which would not have been accomplished without the infrastructure and technical support provided to teachers. Delgado et al. ( 2015 ) reported that limited access to technology (insufficient computers, peripherals, and software) and lack of technical support are important barriers to ICT integration. Access to infrastructure refers not only to the availability of technology in a school but also to the provision of a proper amount and the right types of technology in locations where teachers and students can use them. Effective technical support is a central element of the whole-school strategy for ICT (Underwood, 2009 ). Bingimlas ( 2009 ) reported that lack of technical support in the classroom and whole-school resources (e.g., failing to connect to the Internet, printers not printing, malfunctioning computers, and working on old computers) are significant barriers that discourage the use of ICT by teachers. Moreover, poor quality and inadequate hardware maintenance, and unsuitable educational software may discourage teachers from using ICTs (Balanskat et al., 2006 ; Bingimlas, 2009 ).

Government support can also impact the integration of ICTs in teaching. Specifically, Balanskat et al. ( 2006 ) reported that government interventions and training programs increased teachers’ enthusiasm and positive attitudes towards ICT and led to the routine use of embedded ICT.

Lastly, another important factor affecting digital transformation is the development and quality assurance of digital learning resources. Such resources can be support textbooks and related materials or resources that focus on specific subjects or parts of the curriculum. Policies on the provision of digital learning resources are essential for schools and can be achieved through various actions. For example, some countries are financing web portals that become repositories, enabling teachers to share resources or create their own. Additionally, they may offer e-learning opportunities or other services linked to digital education. In other cases, specific agencies of projects have also been set up to develop digital resources (Eurydice, 2019 ).

Administration and digital data management

The digital transformation of schools involves organizational improvements at the level of internal workflows, communication between the different stakeholders, and potential for collaboration. Vuorikari et al. ( 2020 ) presented evidence that digital technologies supported the automation of administrative practices in schools and reduced the administration’s workload. There is evidence that digital data affects the production of knowledge about schools and has the power to transform how schooling takes place. Specifically, Sellar ( 2015 ) reported that data infrastructure in education is developing due to the demand for “ information about student outcomes, teacher quality, school performance, and adult skills, associated with policy efforts to increase human capital and productivity practices ” (p. 771). In this regard, practices, such as datafication which refers to the “ translation of information about all kinds of things and processes into quantified formats” have become essential for decision-making based on accountability reports about the school’s quality. The data could be turned into deep insights about education or training incorporating ICTs. For example, measuring students’ online engagement with the learning material and drawing meaningful conclusions can allow teachers to improve their educational interventions (Vuorikari et al., 2020 ).

Students’ socioeconomic background and family support

Research show that the active engagement of parents in the school and their support for the school’s work can make a difference to their children’s attitudes towards learning and, as a result, their achievement (Hattie, 2008 ). In recent years, digital technologies have been used for more effective communication between school and family (Escueta et al., 2017 ). The European Commission ( 2020 ) presented data from a Eurostat survey regarding the use of computers by students during the pandemic. The data showed that younger pupils needed additional support and guidance from parents and the challenges were greater for families in which parents had lower levels of education and little to no digital skills.

In this regard, the socio-economic background of the learners and their socio-cultural environment also affect educational achievements (Punie et al., 2006 ). Trucano documented that the use of computers at home positively influenced students’ confidence and resulted in more frequent use at school, compared to students who had no home access (Trucano, 2005 ). In this sense, the socio-economic background affects the access to computers at home (OECD, 2015 ) which in turn influences the experience of ICT, an important factor for school achievement (Punie et al., 2006 ; Underwood, 2009 ). Furthermore, parents from different socio-economic backgrounds may have different abilities and availability to support their children in their learning process (Di Pietro et al., 2020 ).

Schools’ socioeconomic context and emergency situations

The socio-economic context of the school is closely related to a school’s digital transformation. For example, schools in disadvantaged, rural, or deprived areas are likely to lack the digital capacity and infrastructure required to adapt to the use of digital technologies during emergency periods, such as the COVID-19 pandemic (Di Pietro et al., 2020 ). Data collected from school principals confirmed that in several countries, there is a rural/urban divide in connectivity (OECD, 2015 ).

Emergency periods also affect the digitalization of schools. The COVID-19 pandemic led to the closure of schools and forced them to seek appropriate and connective ways to keep working on the curriculum (Di Pietro et al., 2020 ). The sudden large-scale shift to distance and online teaching and learning also presented challenges around quality and equity in education, such as the risk of increased inequalities in learning, digital, and social, as well as teachers facing difficulties coping with this demanding situation (European Commission, 2020 ).

Looking at the findings of the above studies, we can conclude that the impact of digital technologies on education is influenced by various actors and touches many aspects of the school ecosystem. Figure  1 summarizes the factors affecting the digital technologies’ impact on school stakeholders based on the findings from the literature review.

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Factors that affect the impact of ICTs on education

The findings revealed that the use of digital technologies in education affects a variety of actors within a school’s ecosystem. First, we observed that as technologies evolve, so does the interest of the research community to apply them to school settings. Figure  2 summarizes the trends identified in current research around the impact of digital technologies on schools’ digital capacity and transformation as found in the present study. Starting as early as 2005, when computers, simulations, and interactive boards were the most commonly applied tools in school interventions (e.g., Eng, 2005 ; Liao et al., 2007 ; Moran et al., 2008 ; Tamim et al., 2011 ), moving towards the use of learning platforms (Jewitt et al., 2011 ), then to the use of mobile devices and digital games (e.g., Tamim et al., 2015 ; Sung et al., 2016 ; Talan et al., 2020 ), as well as e-books (e.g., Savva et al., 2022 ), to the more recent advanced technologies, such as AR and VR applications (e.g., Garzón & Acevedo, 2019 ; Garzón et al., 2020 ; Kalemkuş & Kalemkuş, 2022 ), or robotics and AI (e.g., Su & Yang, 2022 ; Su et al., 2022 ). As this evolution shows, digital technologies are a concept in flux with different affordances and characteristics. Additionally, from an instructional perspective, there has been a growing interest in different modes and models of content delivery such as online, blended, and hybrid modes (e.g., Cheok & Wong, 2015 ; Kazu & Yalçin, 2022 ; Ulum, 2022 ). This is an indication that the value of technologies to support teaching and learning as well as other school-related practices is increasingly recognized by the research and school community. The impact results from the literature review indicate that ICT integration on students’ learning outcomes has effects that are small (Coban et al., 2022 ; Eng, 2005 ; Higgins et al., 2012 ; Schmid et al., 2014 ; Tamim et al., 2015 ; Zheng et al., 2016 ) to moderate (Garzón & Acevedo, 2019 ; Garzón et al., 2020 ; Liao et al., 2007 ; Sung et al., 2016 ; Talan et al., 2020 ; Wen & Walters, 2022 ). That said, a number of recent studies have reported high effect sizes (e.g., Kazu & Yalçin, 2022 ).

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Current work and trends in the study of the impact of digital technologies on schools’ digital capacity

Based on these findings, several authors have suggested that the impact of technology on education depends on several variables and not on the technology per se (Tamim et al., 2011 ; Higgins et al., 2012 ; Archer et al., 2014 ; Sung et al., 2016 ; Haßler et al., 2016 ; Chauhan, 2017 ; Lee et al., 2020 ; Lei et al., 2022a ). While the impact of ICTs on student achievement has been thoroughly investigated by researchers, other aspects related to school life that are also affected by ICTs, such as equality, inclusion, and social integration have received less attention. Further analysis of the literature review has revealed a greater investment in ICT interventions to support learning and teaching in the core subjects of literacy and STEM disciplines, especially mathematics, and science. These were the most common subjects studied in the reviewed papers often drawing on national testing results, while studies that investigated other subject areas, such as social studies, were limited (Chauhan, 2017 ; Condie & Munro, 2007 ). As such, research is still lacking impact studies that focus on the effects of ICTs on a range of curriculum subjects.

The qualitative research provided additional information about the impact of digital technologies on education, documenting positive effects and giving more details about implications, recommendations, and future research directions. Specifically, the findings regarding the role of ICTs in supporting learning highlight the importance of teachers’ instructional practice and the learning context in the use of technologies and consequently their impact on instruction (Çelik, 2022 ; Schmid et al., 2014 ; Tamim et al., 2015 ). The review also provided useful insights regarding the various factors that affect the impact of digital technologies on education. These factors are interconnected and play a vital role in the transformation process. Specifically, these factors include a) digital competencies; b) teachers’ personal characteristics and professional development; c) school leadership and management; d) connectivity, infrastructure, and government support; e) administration and data management practices; f) students’ socio-economic background and family support and g) the socioeconomic context of the school and emergency situations. It is worth noting that we observed factors that affect the integration of ICTs in education but may also be affected by it. For example, the frequent use of ICTs and the use of laptops by students for instructional purposes positively affect the development of digital competencies (Zheng et al., 2016 ) and at the same time, the digital competencies affect the use of ICTs (Fu, 2013 ; Higgins et al., 2012 ). As a result, the impact of digital technologies should be explored more as an enabler of desirable and new practices and not merely as a catalyst that improves the output of the education process i.e. namely student attainment.


Digital technologies offer immense potential for fundamental improvement in schools. However, investment in ICT infrastructure and professional development to improve school education are yet to provide fruitful results. Digital transformation is a complex process that requires large-scale transformative changes that presuppose digital capacity and preparedness. To achieve such changes, all actors within the school’s ecosystem need to share a common vision regarding the integration of ICTs in education and work towards achieving this goal. Our literature review, which synthesized quantitative and qualitative data from a list of meta-analyses and review studies, provided useful insights into the impact of ICTs on different school stakeholders and showed that the impact of digital technologies touches upon many different aspects of school life, which are often overlooked when the focus is on student achievement as the final output of education. Furthermore, the concept of digital technologies is a concept in flux as technologies are not only different among them calling for different uses in the educational practice but they also change through time. Additionally, we opened a forum for discussion regarding the factors that affect a school’s digital capacity and transformation. We hope that our study will inform policy, practice, and research and result in a paradigm shift towards more holistic approaches in impact and assessment studies.

Study limitations and future directions

We presented a review of the study of digital technologies' impact on education and factors influencing schools’ digital capacity and transformation. The study results were based on a non-systematic literature review grounded on the acquisition of documentation in specific databases. Future studies should investigate more databases to corroborate and enhance our results. Moreover, search queries could be enhanced with key terms that could provide additional insights about the integration of ICTs in education, such as “policies and strategies for ICT integration in education”. Also, the study drew information from meta-analyses and literature reviews to acquire evidence about the effects of ICT integration in schools. Such evidence was mostly based on the general conclusions of the studies. It is worth mentioning that, we located individual studies which showed different, such as negative or neutral results. Thus, further insights are needed about the impact of ICTs on education and the factors influencing the impact. Furthermore, the nature of the studies included in meta-analyses and reviews is different as they are based on different research methodologies and data gathering processes. For instance, in a meta-analysis, the impact among the studies investigated is measured in a particular way, depending on policy or research targets (e.g., results from national examinations, pre-/post-tests). Meanwhile, in literature reviews, qualitative studies offer additional insights and detail based on self-reports and research opinions on several different aspects and stakeholders who could affect and be affected by ICT integration. As a result, it was challenging to draw causal relationships between so many interrelating variables.

Despite the challenges mentioned above, this study envisaged examining school units as ecosystems that consist of several actors by bringing together several variables from different research epistemologies to provide an understanding of the integration of ICTs. However, the use of other tools and methodologies and models for evaluation of the impact of digital technologies on education could give more detailed data and more accurate results. For instance, self-reflection tools, like SELFIE—developed on the DigCompOrg framework- (Kampylis et al., 2015 ; Bocconi & Lightfoot, 2021 ) can help capture a school’s digital capacity and better assess the impact of ICTs on education. Furthermore, the development of a theory of change could be a good approach for documenting the impact of digital technologies on education. Specifically, theories of change are models used for the evaluation of interventions and their impact; they are developed to describe how interventions will work and give the desired outcomes (Mayne, 2015 ). Theory of change as a methodological approach has also been used by researchers to develop models for evaluation in the field of education (e.g., Aromatario et al., 2019 ; Chapman & Sammons, 2013 ; De Silva et al., 2014 ).

We also propose that future studies aim at similar investigations by applying more holistic approaches for impact assessment that can provide in-depth data about the impact of digital technologies on education. For instance, future studies could focus on different research questions about the technologies that are used during the interventions or the way the implementation takes place (e.g., What methodologies are used for documenting impact? How are experimental studies implemented? How can teachers be taken into account and trained on the technology and its functions? What are the elements of an appropriate and successful implementation? How is the whole intervention designed? On which learning theories is the technology implementation based?).

Future research could also focus on assessing the impact of digital technologies on various other subjects since there is a scarcity of research related to particular subjects, such as geography, history, arts, music, and design and technology. More research should also be done about the impact of ICTs on skills, emotions, and attitudes, and on equality, inclusion, social interaction, and special needs education. There is also a need for more research about the impact of ICTs on administration, management, digitalization, and home-school relationships. Additionally, although new forms of teaching and learning with the use of ICTs (e.g., blended, hybrid, and online learning) have initiated several investigations in mainstream classrooms, only a few studies have measured their impact on students’ learning. Additionally, our review did not document any study about the impact of flipped classrooms on K-12 education. Regarding teaching and learning approaches, it is worth noting that studies referred to STEM or STEAM did not investigate the impact of STEM/STEAM as an interdisciplinary approach to learning but only investigated the impact of ICTs on learning in each domain as a separate subject (science, technology, engineering, arts, mathematics). Hence, we propose future research to also investigate the impact of the STEM/STEAM approach on education. The impact of emerging technologies on education, such as AR, VR, robotics, and AI has also been investigated recently, but more work needs to be done.

Finally, we propose that future studies could focus on the way in which specific factors, e.g., infrastructure and government support, school leadership and management, students’ and teachers’ digital competencies, approaches teachers utilize in the teaching and learning (e.g., blended, online and hybrid learning, flipped classrooms, STEM/STEAM approach, project-based learning, inquiry-based learning), affect the impact of digital technologies on education. We hope that future studies will give detailed insights into the concept of schools’ digital transformation through further investigation of impacts and factors which influence digital capacity and transformation based on the results and the recommendations of the present study.


This project has received funding under Grant Agreement No Ref Ares (2021) 339036 7483039 as well as funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Program under Grant Agreement No 739578 and the Government of the Republic of Cyprus through the Deputy Ministry of Research, Innovation and Digital Policy. The UVa co-authors would like also to acknowledge funding from the European Regional Development Fund and the National Research Agency of the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation, under project grant PID2020-112584RB-C32.

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How technology is shaping learning in higher education

About the authors.

This article is a collaborative effort by Claudio Brasca, Charag Krishnan , Varun Marya , Katie Owen, Joshua Sirois, and Shyla Ziade, representing views from McKinsey’s Education Practice.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced a shift to remote learning overnight for most higher-education students, starting in the spring of 2020. To complement video lectures and engage students in the virtual classroom, educators adopted technologies that enabled more interactivity and hybrid models of online and in-person activities. These tools changed learning, teaching, and assessment in ways that may persist after the pandemic. Investors have taken note. Edtech start-ups raised record amounts of venture capital in 2020 and 2021, and market valuations for bigger players soared.

A study conducted by McKinsey in 2021 found that to engage most effectively with students, higher-education institutions can focus on eight dimensions  of the learning experience. In this article, we describe the findings of a study of the learning technologies that can enable aspects of several of those eight dimensions (see sidebar “Eight dimensions of the online learning experience”).

Eight dimensions of the online learning experience

Leading online higher-education institutions focus on eight key dimensions of the learning experience across three overarching principles.

Seamless journey

Clear education road map: “My online program provides a road map to achieve my life goals and helps me structure my day to day to achieve steady progress.”

Seamless connections: “I have one-click access to classes and learning resources in the virtual learning platform through my laptop or my phone.”

Engaging teaching approach

Range of learning formats: “My program offers a menu of engaging courses with both self-guided and real-time classes, and lots of interaction with instructors and peers.”

Captivating experiences: “I learn from the best professors and experts. My classes are high quality, with up-to-date content.”

Adaptive learning: “I access a personalized platform that helps me practice exercises and exams and gives immediate feedback without having to wait for the course teacher.”

Real-world skills application: “My online program helps me get hands-on practice using exciting virtual tools to solve real-world problems.”

Caring network

Timely support: “I am not alone in my learning journey and have adequate 24/7 support for academic and nonacademic issues.”

Strong community: “I feel part of an academic community and I’m able to make friends online.”

In November 2021, McKinsey surveyed 600 faculty members and 800 students from public and private nonprofit colleges and universities in the United States, including minority-serving institutions, about the use and impact of eight different classroom learning technologies (Exhibit 1). (For more on the learning technologies analyzed in this research, see sidebar “Descriptions of the eight learning technologies.”) To supplement the survey, we interviewed industry experts and higher-education professionals who make decisions about classroom technology use. We discovered which learning tools and approaches have seen the highest uptake, how students and educators view them, the barriers to higher adoption, how institutions have successfully adopted innovative technologies, and the notable impacts on learning (for details about our methodology, see sidebar “About the research”).

Double-digit growth in adoption and positive perceptions

Descriptions of the eight learning technologies.

  • Classroom interactions: These are software platforms that allow students to ask questions, make comments, respond to polls, and attend breakout discussions in real time, among other features. They are downloadable and accessible from phones, computers, and tablets, relevant to all subject areas, and useful for remote and in-person learning.
  • Classroom exercises: These platforms gamify learning with fun, low-stakes competitions, pose problems to solve during online classes, allow students to challenge peers to quizzes, and promote engagement with badges and awards. They are relevant to all subject areas.
  • Connectivity and community building: A broad range of informal, opt-in tools, these allow students to engage with one another and instructors and participate in the learning community. They also include apps that give students 24/7 asynchronous access to lectures, expanded course materials, and notes with enhanced search and retrieval functionality.
  • Group work: These tools let students collaborate in and out of class via breakout/study rooms, group preparation for exams and quizzes, and streamlined file sharing.
  • Augmented reality/virtual reality (AR/VR): Interactive simulations immerse learners in course content, such as advanced lab simulations for hard sciences, medical simulations for nursing, and virtual exhibit tours for the liberal arts. AR can be offered with proprietary software on most mobile or laptop devices. VR requires special headsets, proprietary software, and adequate classroom space for simultaneous use.
  • AI adaptive course delivery: Cloud-based, AI-powered software adapts course content to a student’s knowledge level and abilities. These are fully customizable by instructors and available in many subject areas, including business, humanities, and sciences.
  • Machine learning–powered teaching assistants: Also known as chatbot programs, machine learning–powered teaching assistants answer student questions and explain course content outside of class. These can auto-create, deliver, and grade assignments and exams, saving instructors’ time; they are downloadable from mobile app stores and can be accessed on personal devices.
  • Student progress monitoring: These tools let instructors monitor academic progress, content mastery, and engagement. Custom alerts and reports identify at-risk learners and help instructors tailor the content or their teaching style for greater effectiveness. This capability is often included with subscriptions to adaptive learning platforms.

Survey respondents reported a 19 percent average increase in overall use of these learning technologies since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Technologies that enable connectivity and community building, such as social media–inspired discussion platforms and virtual study groups, saw the biggest uptick in use—49 percent—followed by group work tools, which grew by 29 percent (Exhibit 2). These technologies likely fill the void left by the lack of in-person experiences more effectively than individual-focused learning tools such as augmented reality and virtual reality (AR/VR). Classroom interaction technologies such as real-time chatting, polling, and breakout room discussions were the most widely used tools before the pandemic and remain so; 67 percent of survey respondents said they currently use these tools in the classroom.

About the research

In November 2021, McKinsey surveyed 634 faculty members and 818 students from public, private, and minority-serving colleges and universities over a ten-day period. The survey included only students and faculty who had some remote- or online-learning experience with any of the eight featured technologies. Respondents were 63 percent female, 35 percent male, and 2 percent other gender identities; 69 percent White, 18 percent Black or African American, 8 percent Asian, and 4 percent other ethnicities; and represented every US region. The survey asked respondents about their:

  • experiences with technology in the classroom pre-COVID-19;
  • experiences with technology in the classroom since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic; and
  • desire for future learning experiences in relation to technology.

The shift to more interactive and diverse learning models will likely continue. One industry expert told us, “The pandemic pushed the need for a new learning experience online. It recentered institutions to think about how they’ll teach moving forward and has brought synchronous and hybrid learning into focus.” Consequently, many US colleges and universities are actively investing to scale up their online and hybrid program offerings .

Differences in adoption by type of institution observed in the research

  • Historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and tribal colleges and universities made the most use of classroom interactions and group work tools (55 percent) and the least use of tools for monitoring student progress (15 percent).
  • Private institutions used classroom interaction technologies (84 percent) more than public institutions (63 percent).
  • Public institutions, often associated with larger student populations and course sizes, employed group work and connectivity and community-building tools more often than private institutions.
  • The use of AI teaching-assistant technologies increased significantly more at public institutions (30 percent) than at private institutions (9 percent), though overall usage remained comparatively higher at private institutions.
  • The use of tools for monitoring student progress increased by 14 percent at private institutions, versus no growth at public institutions.

Some technologies lag behind in adoption. Tools enabling student progress monitoring, AR/VR, machine learning–powered teaching assistants (TAs), AI adaptive course delivery, and classroom exercises are currently used by less than half of survey respondents. Anecdotal evidence suggests that technologies such as AR/VR require a substantial investment in equipment and may be difficult to use at scale in classes with high enrollment. Our survey also revealed utilization disparities based on size. Small public institutions use machine learning–powered TAs, AR/VR, and technologies for monitoring student progress at double or more the rates of medium and large public institutions, perhaps because smaller, specialized schools can make more targeted and cost-effective investments. We also found that medium and large public institutions made greater use of connectivity and community-building tools than small public institutions (57 to 59 percent compared with 45 percent, respectively). Although the uptake of AI-powered tools was slower, higher-education experts we interviewed predict their use will increase; they allow faculty to tailor courses to each student’s progress, reduce their workload, and improve student engagement at scale (see sidebar “Differences in adoption by type of institution observed in the research”).

While many colleges and universities are interested in using more technologies to support student learning, the top three barriers indicated are lack of awareness, inadequate deployment capabilities, and cost (Exhibit 3).

Students want entertaining and efficient tools

More than 60 percent of students said that all the classroom learning technologies they’ve used since COVID-19 began had improved their learning and grades (Exhibit 4). However, two technologies earned higher marks than the rest for boosting academic performance: 80 percent of students cited classroom exercises, and 71 percent cited machine learning–powered teaching assistants.

Although AR/VR is not yet widely used, 37 percent of students said they are “most excited” about its potential in the classroom. While 88 percent of students believe AR/VR will make learning more entertaining, just 5 percent said they think it will improve their ability to learn or master content (Exhibit 5). Industry experts confirmed that while there is significant enthusiasm for AR/VR, its ability to improve learning outcomes is uncertain. Some data look promising. For example, in a recent pilot study, 1 “Immersive biology in the Alien Zoo: A Dreamscape Learn software product,” Dreamscape Learn, accessed October 2021. students who used a VR tool to complete coursework for an introductory biology class improved their subject mastery by an average of two letter grades.

Faculty embrace new tools but would benefit from more technical support and training

Faculty gave learning tools even higher marks than students did, for ease of use, engagement, access to course resources, and instructor connectivity. They also expressed greater excitement than students did for the future use of technologies. For example, while more than 30 percent of students expressed excitement for AR/VR and classroom interactions, more than 60 percent of faculty were excited about those, as well as machine learning–powered teaching assistants and AI adaptive technology.

Eighty-one percent or more of faculty said they feel the eight learning technology tools are a good investment of time and effort relative to the value they provide (Exhibit 6). Expert interviews suggest that employing learning technologies can be a strain on faculty members, but those we surveyed said this strain is worthwhile.

While faculty surveyed were enthusiastic about new technologies, experts we interviewed stressed some underlying challenges. For example, digital-literacy gaps have been more pronounced since the pandemic because it forced the near-universal adoption of some technology solutions, deepening a divide that was unnoticed when adoption was sporadic. More tech-savvy instructors are comfortable with interaction-engagement-focused solutions, while staff who are less familiar with these tools prefer content display and delivery-focused technologies.

According to experts we interviewed, learning new tools and features can bring on general fatigue. An associate vice president of e-learning at one university told us that faculty there found designing and executing a pilot study of VR for a computer science class difficult. “It’s a completely new way of instruction. . . . I imagine that the faculty using it now will not use it again in the spring.” Technical support and training help. A chief academic officer of e-learning who oversaw the introduction of virtual simulations for nursing and radiography students said that faculty holdouts were permitted to opt out but not to delay the program. “We structured it in a ‘we’re doing this together’ way. People who didn’t want to do it left, but we got a lot of support from vendors and training, which made it easy to implement simulations.”

Reimagining higher education in the United States

Reimagining higher education in the United States

Takeaways from our research.

Despite the growing pains of digitizing the classroom learning experience, faculty and students believe there is a lot more they can gain. Faculty members are optimistic about the benefits, and students expect learning to stay entertaining and efficient. While adoption levels saw double-digit growth during the pandemic, many classrooms have yet to experience all the technologies. For institutions considering the investment, or those that have already started, there are several takeaways to keep in mind.

  • It’s important for administration leaders, IT, and faculty to agree on what they want to accomplish by using a particular learning technology. Case studies and expert interviews suggest institutions that seek alignment from all their stakeholders before implementing new technologies are more successful. Is the primary objective student engagement and motivation? Better academic performance? Faculty satisfaction and retention? Once objectives are set, IT staff and faculty can collaborate more effectively in choosing the best technology and initiating programs.
  • Factor in student access to technology before deployment. As education technology use grows, the digital divide for students puts access to education at risk. While all the institution types we surveyed use learning technologies in the classroom, they do so to varying degrees. For example, 55 percent of respondents from historically Black colleges and universities and tribal colleges and universities use classroom interaction tools. This is lower than public institutions’ overall utilization rate of 64 percent and private institutions’ utilization rate of 84 percent. Similarly, 15 percent of respondents from historically Black colleges and universities and tribal colleges and universities use tools for monitoring student progress, while the overall utilization rate for both public and private institutions is 25 percent.
  • High-quality support eases adoption for students and faculty. Institutions that have successfully deployed new learning technologies provided technical support and training for students and guidance for faculty on how to adapt their course content and delivery. For example, institutions could include self-service resources, standardize tools for adoption, or provide stipend opportunities for faculty who attend technical training courses. One chief academic officer told us, “The adoption of platforms at the individual faculty level can be very difficult. Ease of use is still very dependent upon your IT support representative and how they will go to bat to support you.”
  • Agree on impact metrics and start measuring in advance of deployment. Higher-education institutions often don’t have the means to measure the impact of their investment in learning technologies, yet it’s essential for maximizing returns. Attributing student outcomes to a specific technology can be complex due to the number of variables involved in academic performance. However, prior to investing in learning technologies, the institution and its faculty members can align on a core set of metrics to quantify and measure their impact. One approach is to measure a broad set of success indicators, such as tool usage, user satisfaction, letter grades, and DFW rates (the percentage of students who receive a D, F, or Withdraw) each term. The success indicators can then be correlated by modality—online versus hybrid versus in-class—to determine the impact of specific tools. Some universities have offered faculty grants of up to $20,000 for running pilot programs that assess whether tools are achieving high-priority objectives. “If implemented properly, at the right place, and with the right buy-in, education technology solutions are absolutely valuable and have a clear ROI,” a senior vice president of academic affairs and chief technology officer told us.

In an earlier article , we looked at the broader changes in higher education that have been prompted by the pandemic. But perhaps none has advanced as quickly as the adoption of digital learning tools. Faculty and students see substantial benefits, and adoption rates are a long way from saturation, so we can expect uptake to continue. Institutions that want to know how they stand in learning tech adoption can measure their rates and benchmark them against the averages in this article and use those comparisons to help them decide where they want to catch up or get ahead.

Claudio Brasca is a partner in McKinsey’s Bay Area office, where Varun Marya is a senior partner; Charag Krishnan is a partner in the New Jersey office; Katie Owen is an associate partner in the St. Louis office, where Joshua Sirois is a consultant; and Shyla Ziade is a consultant in the Denver office.

The authors wish to thank Paul Kim, chief technology officer and associate dean at Stanford School of Education, and Ryan Golden for their contributions to this article.

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Mit leaders and professors eric grimson, cynthia breazeal, and christopher capozzola discuss challenges and opportunities of ai in education.

By Duyen Nguyen

Spurred on by the rapid advancement of generative AI like ChatGPT, much of the current conversation on artificial intelligence has emphasized its threat to humanity. Yet, this technology and other recent innovations also hold promise for the future.

“Today’s technologies in education — generative AI, responsible design, and the future of learning,” was a recent event hosted on MIT campus by MIT Open Learning. As part of the MIT Tech Reunions, this session welcomed over 60 alumni and friends. Vice President for Open Learning Eric Grimson, Dean for Digital Learning Cynthia Breazeal, and Senior Associate Dean for Open Learning Christopher Capozzola discussed both the challenges and opportunities that AI presents in education. Here are some of the most important takeaways from their conversation.

Technology is reshaping residential education

With MIT faculty dedicated to innovating in the classroom, digital tools have been a mainstay of on-campus teaching. Technologies like automated grading in computer science courses enable more time for teaching staff to interact with students, while students are able to correct their learning with immediate feedback on their problem sets. Prof. Grimson pointed to some of these technologies in improving residential education even before the Covid-19 pandemic necessitated a temporary shift to remote learning.

But remote learning pivots have expanded approaches to residential education. For example, using the Zoom chat feature to ask and answer questions during lectures allows more timely opportunities for students to clarify their understanding and engage more deeply in the subject matter and with their classmates. Faculty also gain a better sense of where students need bolstering in mastering concepts. The adoption of blended learning (a mix of in-person and online learning) would make it easier for students to pursue internships and experiences abroad while still receiving an MIT education, said Breazeal, Capozzola, and Grimson.

MIT can expand its role in education globally by leveraging today’s technologies

Several of MIT Open Learning ’s initiatives bring MIT’s resources to learners worldwide. In addition to popular programs like OpenCourseWare and MITx that open up MIT’s curriculum to the globe, efforts to serve under-resourced and vulnerable communities, such as refugee and migrant populations, pave the way for more equitable access to learning and employment opportunities. The MIT Refugee Action Hub (ReACT), which was incubated within Open Learning and is now part of the MIT Abdul Latif Jameel World Education Lab (J-WEL), offers a successful example of how to combine online courses, a virtual learning community, and remote apprenticeship and independent project opportunities with on-site support hubs to address the needs of learners facing challenging circumstances.

There’s an opportunity to strengthen the education pipeline

Grimson noted that, while nearly 75% of jobs in the U.S. paying $35,000 or more require a bachelor’s degree, only one-third of Americans have completed a four-year college education. Digital learning innovations, like flexible learning modalities, can help close this gap. MIT Open Learning is exploring an agile, continuous education (ACE) model that, Prof. Breazeal explained, will give learners more pathways to advance their education at their own pace. The ACE model, which MIT ReACT adopted for its Computer and Data Science certificate program, combines online, in-person, and at-work learning modalities that provide learners with flexible, cost- and time-efficient options for advancing their education. Innovating new ways to meet different learners’ needs, like experimenting with short-form content, is part of this effort, said Prof. Capozzola.

“We know there’s a lot more talent in the world” whom innovative educational approaches could reach, Capozzola added. MIT Open Learning is exploring digital learning innovations in the space between the end of high school and the start of college or university — “pre-matriculation” — as well as collaborations with community colleges and Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to support more learners, particularly those whom the traditional higher education model has overlooked or shut out.

Image of Eric Grimson and a screen that shows: A plethora of offerings. OCW — course materials, some videos. MITx & MicroMasters — online versions of MIT subjects, with assessments. xPRO — professional education courses. Horizons — enterprise level digital content library. Bootcamps — in person and digital experiences. NET/ReACT — courses and apprenticeships. Open Learning Library — repository of OCW and MITx offerings.

Education is inherently human

While a future where AI can create code is on the horizon, the goal of courses like 6.0001 Introduction to Computer Science and Programming in Python is to teach students to think like computer scientists. “It’s not just about code, it’s about computational thinking,” said Grimson. ChatGPT is currently causing society to rethink what’s possible, but Breazeal noted that the promise of AI has been around for decades. Breazeal, who founded the Personal Robots Group at MIT’s Media Lab, has been researching and building socially intelligent personal robots for over a decade. Her work has led to the development of personalized AI tutors that help young learners improve their linguistic skills, improve literacy instruction, and nurture children’s curiosity and learning. “We don’t want an oracle, we want something that will help us learn,” she said, allaying fears that generative AI will displace the motivation and need to learn certain skills.

MIT is playing an important role in creating guidelines for the use of AI and other emerging technologies

Faculty from every school at the Institute are working in AI. At MIT Open Learning, the Responsible AI for Social Empowerment and Education (RAISE) initiative is advancing AI literacy for K-12 students, higher education, and the workforce through programs like Day of AI . The hands-on, team-based approach that RAISE uses to teach young learners about AI has the potential to be adapted to educational programs for learners of all ages. Breazeal explained that the recent program developed by MIT researchers to prepare U.S. Air and Space Forces personnel to understand and utilize AI technologies draws on the same teaching and learning philosophy as Day of AI curricula.

“We need humans interacting with humans,” Breazeal said, in response to an audience question about the likelihood of a future AI-only university. While the session emphasized that the challenges of AI and advanced technologies to education — and humanity — should be taken seriously, the prevailing sentiment was one of hope, not fear.

Learn more about MIT RAISE , Day of AI , and other Open Learning efforts to explore the impact of today’s technologies in education.

challenges in education and technology

How advanced technologies are transforming education was originally published in MIT Open Learning on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Open Learning newsletter

  • Open access
  • Published: 27 December 2022

How does technology challenge teacher education?

  • Lina Kaminskienė 1 ,
  • Sanna Järvelä 2 &
  • Erno Lehtinen 1 , 3  

International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education volume  19 , Article number:  64 ( 2022 ) Cite this article

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The paper presents an overview of challenges and demands related to teachers’ digital skills and technology integration into educational content and processes. The paper raises a debate how technologies have created new skills gaps in pre-service and in-service teacher training and how that affected traditional forms of teacher education. Accordingly, it is discussed what interventions might be applicable to different contexts to address these challenges. It is argued that technologies should be viewed both as the field where new competences should be developed and at the same time as the method used in developing learning environments for teacher students.


In the last few decades, national authorities and multinational organisations have emphasised the importance of increasing the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) in schools and universities (Flecknoe, 2002 ; Roztocki et al., 2019 ; UNESCO ICT Competency Framework for Teachers, 2018 ). This poses a double challenge for teacher education: determining how new technologies can be used to improve the quality of learning experiences that student teachers receive during their university studies and identifying what kinds of new skills future teachers will need for teaching in technologically rich school environments. Several of the arguments in favour of greater use of ICT in schools are based on the belief that due to the general digitisation of the workforce, it is vital that students acquire good digital skills at an early age. However, it has also been argued that the use of ICT will be engaging for students and can thus result in better learning outcomes (Cheung & Slavin, 2013 ; Gloria, 2015 ). A number of large meta-analyses have shown that intervention studies utilising technology have positive effects on students’ motivation and learning (Fadda et al., 2022 ; Wouters et al., 2013 ).

However, when large-scale national and international evaluation studies have examined the relationship between the use of ICT and student achievement, the results have been mixed. Researchers have reported that re-analyses of large international evaluation studies, including the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMMS) and Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), indicate that there is either no relationship or a negative relationship between the frequency of ICT use in teaching and students’ achievements (Eickelmann et al., 2016 ; Papanastasiou et al., 2003 ).

The mixed results regarding the impact of ICT suggest that there are qualitative differences between the ways in which technology is implemented. In intervention studies, ICT applications have typically been used with careful planning, with extensive professional development for teachers conducting the experiment and with continuous support from researchers, whereas large-scale evaluation studies have focused on regular classrooms without such support. When technology is implemented in these latter situations, the pedagogical quality of the technology application is determined by the teachers’ knowledge and skills. However, there is a great deal of variation in the knowledge and competences of teachers when it comes to using technology in their classrooms (Valtonen et al., 2016 ). This highlights the importance of the in-service training of teachers while at the same time calling attention to pre-service teachers’ opportunities to acquire the competencies necessary to implement technology in their classrooms.

What does the development of technology mean for teacher education and how does it challenge traditional forms and content of the discipline? During the past few decades, a large number of policy documents and scientific studies have addressed this issue (Bakir, 2015 ). Different perspectives can be taken into account when discussing the influence of technology on teacher education. Several studies have examined the skills that will be necessary to apply technology to pedagogical practice in the future. This topic has been explored from several perspectives, such as teacher students’ technology literacy or their knowledge of technological pedagogical content (Mishra & Koehler, 2006 ). To ensure that future teachers possess adequate technical skills, standards and recommendations have been developed regarding the content of teacher education programmes. Rather than simply focusing on basic technological skills, the main emphasis has been on the knowledge and skills associated with the pedagogical use of technology (Erstad et al., 2021 ). Moreover, technology can provide many opportunities to develop novel methods to improve the quality of teacher education, such as the development of new methods for conducting research in the field of teacher education. In this special issue, these issues are addressed from a variety of theoretical and methodological perspectives.

Technology integration and content in teacher education

Given the many ways in which technology can be used in education, pre-service teachers’ pedagogical and technical competences in using ICT in teaching have different dimensions. For instance, Tondeur et al. ( 2017 ) developed a test to measure pre-service teachers’ ICT abilities and applied it to a large sample of Belgian teacher candidates. According to the findings, there are two dimensions to ICT competences: (1) competencies for supporting students’ use of ICT in class and (2) competencies for using ICT to create instructional materials. Some studies have also reported barriers that hinder the organisation of adequate teacher education to develop these skills, such as faculty beliefs and skills (Bakir, 2015 ; Polly et al., 2010 ).

The experiences pre-service teachers acquire during their teacher studies have also been shown to influence how willing and skilled they are when it comes to integrating technology in their classrooms (Agyei & Voogt, 2011 ). Additionally, studies have shown that the opportunity for teacher students to observe advanced technology applications in real-world settings is important for their future professional development (Gromseth et al., 2010 ). Hence, it is not sufficient to take formal courses in ICT or educational technology without applying these skills in the classroom.

Finnish pre-service teacher education stresses not only ICT skills but also teachers’ competences, such as strategic learning skills and collaboration competences. Häkkinen et al. ( 2017 ) identified five profiles among Finnish first-year pre-service teachers (N = 872) using perceptions of the teachers’ strategic learning skills and collaboration dispositions and investigated what background variables explained membership to those profiles. The most robust factor explaining membership in the profiles was life satisfaction. For example, pre-service teachers in a profile group with high strategic learning skills and high collaboration dispositions showed the highest anticipated life satisfaction after 5 years. Their results demonstrate the need to develop both ICT skills and learning competences in pre-service teacher education.

Use of technological innovations in organising teacher education

An analysis of the nature of experience and how practise can optimally enhance expertise has demonstrated the importance of deliberate practise (Ericsson et al., 1993 ), defined as an intensive practise that is purposefully focused on developing specific aspects of performance. To achieve this, it is necessary to have the opportunity to practise the most demanding aspects of performance with a large number of repetitions. Feedback from a tutor or coach also plays an important role in deliberate practise (Ericsson, 1993 ). Although deliberate practise has already been applied in some teacher education studies (e.g. Bronkhorst, 2011 ), its main aspect, repeated practise of challenging tasks and informed feedback, has been difficult to apply in traditional teacher education settings. Recent studies have shown that technology can contribute to the development of training methods that better reflect the main principles of deliberate practise.

There is a long tradition of using video technology in teacher education; such technology was first applied in a systematic manner in the 1970s (Nagro & Cornelius, 2013 ). Since then, a number of video-assisted instructional designs have been developed to provide teacher students with opportunities to learn from expert teachers, reflect on their own teaching behaviour and practise professional skills that would not otherwise be possible without this technology. Digital videos that are easy to use and various web platforms that facilitate the sharing and annotation of videos have opened up new opportunities for the development of novel learning environments in the field of teacher education (e.g. Sommerhoff et al., 2022 ). In the past few years, models for using videos recorded by mobile eye-tracking technology in teacher education have also been developed (e.g. Pouta et al., 2021 ).

Simulations are widely used in medical education, and a meta-analysis found that deliberate practise with simulations is superior to traditional clinical training in medical education (McGaghie et al., 2011 ). The use of simulations in teacher education is also gradually increasing. In their review of the use of simulations in teacher education, Theelen et al. ( 2019 ) synthesised the findings of 15 studies that applied computer-based simulations in teacher education. Several studies have demonstrated (Ferdig & Pytash, 2020 ; Samuelsson et al., 2022 ) that classroom simulations increase students’ self-efficacy and confidence in their teaching abilities. Classroom simulations were also found to have a positive impact on the development of classroom management skills.

New technologies can also be used in research on teaching and learning. Digitalisation has provided more ways to collect data and understand the teaching–learning process with multiple data channels and modalities. Multiple layers of data can be collected from contextual interactions, such as high-quality video data, psychophysiological measures and computer logs. With learning analytics, for example, these data can be used to create teacher dashboards, thus fulfilling students’ need for teacher scaffolds (Knoop-van Campen & Molenaar, 2020 ). Recently, eye-tracking technology has also been used to analyse teachers’ and student teachers’ abilities to notice relevant events in classrooms (Gegenfurtner et al., 2020 ; Pouta et al., 2021 ). Eye-movement technology, which has been used to model expert performance in other professional fields (Gegenfurtner et al., 2017 ), could also lead to promising training methods for teacher education.

Articles in this special issue

Three of the articles (Basilotta‑Gómez‑Pablos et al., 2022 ; Peciuliauskiene et al.’s, 2022 ; Kulaksız & Toran, 2022 ) included in this special issue deal with digital competences and interventions aimed at enhancing them.

Basilotta‑Gómez‑Pablos et al. (in this issue) synthesised 56 studies on higher education teachers’ digital competences. The authors used special software called SciMAT to analyse the content of the articles and to present thematic networks. Their review of the literature revealed that the topic is timely and that the number of relevant studies is increasing rapidly. The reviewed studies generally relied on teachers’ self-reports and self-evaluations of their abilities. Overall, the results indicated that the participants were aware of their insufficient knowledge and skills in the area of digital technology. According to the synthesis, many of the articles describe teachers’ experiences of various projects and activities aimed at improving their digital competences; however, many of these articles describe informal learning using internet tools and social networks. The authors conclude that their review clearly shows the gap in the evaluation of teachers’ competence in teaching and learning practice. Their recommendation is that more interventions and training programmes be created to support the development of teachers’ digital competence.

The recent challenges in education caused by the pandemic situation raised teachers’ awareness on the gap of their digital skills.

Despite the developed national or EU digital competences frameworks the trend remains that the development of digital skills is not systemic and lacks coherence in in-service and pre-service teacher education.

Further studies may bring more insights regarding more effective interventions to teaching practices with a wider application of digital technologies.

Peciuliauskiene et al.’s ( 2022 ) paper presents the results of their survey of two Lithuanian universities that offer teacher education programmes. Their questionnaire focused on information literacy (search and evaluation) and ICT self-efficacy. According to their results, both information literacy variables predicted teacher students’ ICT self-efficacy. Additionally, there was an indirect relationship between information evaluation and ICT self-efficacy. The findings of the study are discussed in terms of their theoretical and practical implications. The research indicates that information search ability does not depend on a person’s digital nativity, contrary to what is sometimes assumed when referring to the younger generation of pre-service teachers. As an ICT literacy component, information evaluation has become particularly pertinent during the COVID-19 situation and recent challenges related to distinguishing credible information from the vast amount of fake news and propaganda. It is also noted that optimal time and resources should be planned for the development of information search and evaluation abilities; however, more time should be allocated for the development of information search literacy, as it directly predicts pre-service teachers’ ICT self-efficacy. Based on the findings of this study, we identify the following trends and implications for further studies:

ICT self-efficacy of teachers contribute to the enhancement of teaching and learning process however, ICT self-efficacy should not be limited to specific ICT skills but rather on rethinking the organisation of the teaching process and rethinking the principles of teaching. In other words, the development of digital skills alone without integrating them with specific pedagogical content knowledge and teaching strategies would be less beneficial.

Further studies could be focused on how digital skills development could be better aligned with the development of teacher pedagogical strategies and specific subject areas.

The starting point of Kulaksız and Toran’s study ( 2022 ) was the observation that, despite pre-service teachers’ participation in courses on ICT integration, these teachers are still not confident about their competences to apply their knowledge in practice. In their study, Kulaksız and Toran used the so-called praxeological approach, which aims to produce beneficial knowledge and skills and to organise a democratic and participatory environment. The results indicate that the participants were prepared to transform their skills into practical pedagogical situations due to the personal development they experienced during and after the completion of the co-created course. As pre-service teachers could co-create the technology course, this allowed them to develop not only digital competences but also self-regulated learning skills, collaborative project development skills and peer mentoring skills, which contributed to building their sustainable motivation—an important component of teachers’ self-efficacy. This article highlights that.

Teachers’ motivation is increased through participatory design in their professional development practices which allows to achieve a more holistic development of digital skills in combination with cognitive and non-cognitive competences.

Further studies on how co-teaching contributes to digital skills development and innovative teaching strategies would allow to find more attractive models for teachers professional development.

The aforementioned three articles about digital competencies provide different perspectives on the issue, but they all emphasise the complexity of those competencies while also suggesting new approaches to deal with these challenges. In two of the articles, technology was not the focus of the studies but a method used in developing learning environments for teacher students.

In their study, Martin et al. (in this issue) investigated whether a video-based multimedia application about classroom teaching could be used to enhance teacher students’ professional vision. A teacher’s professional vision is their ability to observe and interpret important events in the classroom and determine the most appropriate teaching activities related to these events. Teacher education faces a variety of challenges because teacher students are unable to readily translate the knowledge they learn through formal teacher education into situation-specific skills that can be applied in actual classroom settings. The aim of the study was to help students make this translation with the aid of a video-based simulation developed using the findings of multimedia research. The simulation presented the classroom videos as short segments and provided prompts aimed at facilitating the students’ self-explanations. In the intervention study, they applied two versions of the video-based simulation: one with features based on multimedia research and one without these features. During the training, the segmented simulation with the self-explanation prompt resulted in increased noticing of relevant events in the teaching–learning process. In the comparison of pre-test and post-test results, all groups participating in the video training developed considerably in their professional vision, but the video simulation with the two multimedia elements did not differ significantly from the video training without these elements. The authors concluded that further research on the optimal implementation of the simulation is needed. Major issues raised by this article were:

It confirms previous studies which have shown that the importance of the use of classroom videos in teacher education.

When new methods (e.g. the multimedia elements added to the videos) are applied in interventions, it is important to pay attention to qualitative changes in learning processes and not only on immediate learning gains.

The results also indicate that methods which have been effective in one context do not necessarily work in a new environment.

Nickl et al.’s study (in this issue) examined how video-based simulations can be used to enhance pre-service teachers’ assessment skills. The aim was to analyse individual learning processes in a simulated environment by taking into account learners’ cognitive and motivational-affective characteristics. Their study applied a person-oriented approach to analyse how these learner characteristics relate to students’ situated learning experiences and performance. In the latent profile analysis, three profiles were identified: one with high knowledge and average motivation-affect, one with high motivation-affect and average knowledge and one with below average knowledge and motivation-affect. Based on the results, it was confirmed that the motivated profile resulted in positive motivational experiences in the situation, while the knowledgeable profile resulted in relevant cognitive demands when working on the tasks. Situational experiences were also found to be related to learning outcomes when working with the simulation. In comparison to the other profiles, the cognitive profile demonstrated the most effective navigation and deep learning processes. The authors concluded that the identification of learner profiles is a promising approach that can uncover individual learner needs when working in technology-based learning environments. There lessons to learn from this study include:

Learners prior learning and their personal characteristics can strongly mediate the outcomes of intervention programs

Person oriented statistical analyses are promising approaches to focus on sub-groups with unique profiles.

The challenge is to decide which individual characteristics are relevant in explaining varying effects of interventions.

Practices which stimulate change

This collection of papers disclosing different aspects of the application of technology in todays’ teacher education clearly highlights that the development of digital competences should become an integral part of pre-service and in-service teacher education. In line with the holistic view on teacher competencies (Metsäpelto et al., 2022 ), this special issue suggests that digital competences appear as a strong component within cognitive and non-cognitive competences that contribute to high-quality teaching.

The results of the studies presented in this special issue strongly reflect recent studies (Falloon, 2020 ; Lin et al., 2022 ) demonstrating that the development of mere digital skills is not sufficient; we should instead structure teacher education to promote the development of digital teaching competences, including ICT attitudes, ICT skills, data literacy and deep pedagogical understanding of the opportunities and limitations of the use of technology in education. Digitally competent teachers are more capable of integrating technologies into their regular teaching practices while also creating more appropriate conditions for personalised learning (Schmid & Petko, 2019 ). This is important because large international evaluation studies (OECD, 2014 , 2019 , 2020 ) have shown that the inadequate use of technology can be harmful for student learning.

It should also be noted that the COVID-19 pandemic created additional challenges for teachers and contributed to changes in their teaching practices and digital habits (Blume, 2020 ). Reflecting school situations caused by COVID-19, numerous studies from the last 2 years have revealed a much wider scope of application of digital technologies in education and a need to create active interactions with learners (Greenhow et al., 2021 ). They have also identified a widening gap between learners who are more digitally advanced and less digitally competent teachers (Blume, 2020 ).

Likewise, simulations and other technological applications can be used to provide richer learning opportunities in teacher education. These new tools can help develop more effective models to connect theoretical content and practical skills. A big challenge for teacher education is to create opportunities for students to deliberately practise skills that are needed in classroom teaching while at the same time deepening student teachers’ theoretical understanding of teaching–learning processes.

Availability of data and materials

The paper is based on openly available data.

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  • Teachers’ digital competences
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challenges in education and technology

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Digital Technologies in Education

The use of information and communication technologies in education can play a crucial role in providing new and innovative forms of support to teachers, students, and the learning process more broadly.

The World Bank Group is the largest financier of education in the developing world, working on education programs in more than 80 countries to provide quality education and lifelong learning opportunities for all.

The WBG works in partnership with governments and organizations worldwide to support innovative projects, timely research, and knowledge sharing activities about the effective and appropriate use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in education systems -- "EdTech" -- to strengthen learning and contribute to poverty reduction around the world, as part of its larger work related to education .

The World Bank estimated the levels of “Learning Poverty” across the globe by measuring the number of 10-year old children who cannot read and understand a simple story by the end of primary school. In low- and middle-income countries “learning poverty” stands at 53%, while for the poorest countries, this is 80% on average.  With the spread of the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19), 180+ countries mandated temporary school closures, leaving ~1.6 billion children and youth out of school at its height and affecting approximately 85% of children world-wide. While most countries are working towards re-opening schools, there are still intermittent closures and use of hybrid learning. 

Reflecting on COVID Response and Remote Learning

Technology played and continues to play an essential role to deliver education to the students outside of school. Commendably, all countries were able to deploy remote learning technologies using a combination of TV, Radio, Online and Mobile Platforms. However, many children in low income countries did not participate in remote learning with about a third of low income countries reporting that 50% of children had not been reached in a joint UNESCO-UNICEF-World Bank survey . The pandemic has also led to significant losses in learning. School closures and limited access to remote learning means that Learning Poverty is likely to worsen from 53% to 63% especially in low-income countries if no remediation interventions are taken.  

The crisis has starkly highlighted the inequalities in digital access and that ‘business as usual’ will not work for delivery of education to all children. To close the digital divides in Education and leverage the power of technology to accelerate learning, reduce learning poverty, and support skills development a focus must be placed in bridging the gaps in: i) digital infrastructure (connectivity, devices and software); ii) human infrastructure (teacher capacity, student skills and parental support); and iii) logistical and administrative systems to deploy and maintain tech architecture.

Education systems must adapt. It is against this backdrop that the EdTech team at the World Bank has identified five key questions to address in the short to medium term. These questions touch on the need to re-imagine education, to provide an equitable, engaging and fun learning experience for all children.

How can countries leverage EdTech investments to develop resilient hybrid learning systems?   This question requires both reflecting on the lessons from implementation of remote learning during COVID and addressing the new digital infrastructure access divide.  The World Bank is working with countries to identify how to address issues of affordable connectivity, device procurement, cloud solutions and multi-modal delivery of education.  Moreover, the investments that countries have made in remote learning could be leveraged address existing challenges in education. Many countries are now thinking about a dual role for remote learning: as an insurance policy against future calamites especially in a world experiencing climate change as well as a way to reach out of school children and provide a lifelong education to all citizens.  

How can countries recover learning loss, more effectively harness data and personalize learning with technology? The World Bank is deepening its work on adaptive learning systems, remote assessment and how education systems can more effectively use learning analytics to personalize education.  A major part of this work will be developing a new strategy for Education Management Information Systems (EMIS 2.0) to support more effective use of data.  

What are the changing roles and new skills for teachers in hybrid learning systems and how can additional human connections be leveraged through technology? The World Bank is exploring teacher competency frameworks, teacher networks, and communities of innovative teachers to support countries to empower teachers.  Teachers are still central to learning even, or rather, especially in an environment rich with technology. Evidence is growing that bypassing Teachers and not engaging them with technology does not lead to student learning improvement.

How can countries leverage open technology ecosystems to expand access to quality content and learning experiences? The World Bank will collaborate with partners developing open global public goods and strategies to engage the large ecosystem of innovators in client countries to support the design and development of new educational content and curriculum.  The team will develop communities of practice around EdTech innovation hubs and creative talent to develop new open educational libraries.  A key content area of focus will be climate change.

How can technology support the development, measurement and accreditation of future skills? The World Bank will support countries to define 21st century competencies in students and teachers; explore ways to more effectively measure these skills and accredit these skills in collaboration with external partners sharing knowledge and experience in communities of practice on hard to measure skills and blockchain for education.  

Education technology by itself is not a panacea

Though investment in EdTech has been increasing, learning and outcomes as a result have not changed considerably in many countries. An OECD report found that, when it comes to impact of computer usage in schools as measured through PISA, “impact on student performance is mixed, at best."  COVID however has changed the debate on EdTech from a question of if to a question of how.  Experience to date highlights that teaching and learning remotely is not the same as face-to-face pedagogy.  Many teachers with access to e-content, for instance, use it like any another textbook to read from in class.  Some adjustments include shorter and more modular content, more engaging content such as edutainment, continuous feedback, smaller group on-line discussions on more open-ended questions. Education at its heart is about human connections and relationships.  While we can never replace the magic that happens between great teachers and students in an in-person environment, we should focus on the social aspects of technology to enhance connections from a distance. Much more attention must be directed on how technology will enhance teaching and learning in a blended learning environment reaching students, both in school and at home.

World Bank EdTech Strategy

As education systems invest in EdTech, the World Bank advocates these five principles for how to design and implement technology to re-imagine education:

1. ASK WHY:   EdTech policies need to be developed with a clear purpose, strategy and vision of the intended education change to address the learning crisis.

If technology is the answer, what is the question? Education technology should be focused on the “education” and not just on the “technology”. Before investing in and deploying EdTech, policymakers must ask what education challenges need to be addressed and what resulting change is desired.  Policies must be holistic to account for teacher capacity and incentives, appropriate digital learning resources linked to the curriculum, and formative assessments that capture learning.  Education at its core is a human-centered socially intensive endeavor. Technology is a means to these goals.

2. DESIGN FOR SCALE: EdTech design should be flexible and user-centered with equity and inclusion at its heart in order to realize scale and sustainability for all.

Design for scale begins with proactive engagement and empathy for all possible end-users -- students, teachers, administrators, parents, etc. Engagement with different users will reveal different needs. Understanding these needs will lead to inclusive and flexible designs that will be equitable and hence scalable.  Today, the use of EdTech has demonstrated and is exacerbating inequities in education systems.  This need not be the case.  Beginning the design process with how technology can be utilized for all will lead to initiatives that are equitable and adaptable to specific contexts and thereby sustainable at scale.

3. EMPOWER TEACHERS: Technology should enhance teacher engagement with students through access to content, data and networks allowing them to focus on personalized student learning.EdTech cannot replace teachers, it can only augment teaching.

Evidence from around the world shows that, over time, the role of teachers become more central, and not peripheral, as the result of the effective use of EdTech.  Technology will replace some of what teachers currently do, while at the same time supporting teachers as they take on new, often more sophisticated duties and responsibilities as a result of technological change. Teachers can be facilitators of learning, part of a learning team, a collaborator with outside expert mentors, a team leader on a project-based learning activity, etc. At the same time, in those circumstances where there is a scarcity of teachers or low-capacity teachers, technology can play an important role in assisting learners to, in part, overcome this absence. Where teachers lack content or pedagogical knowledge, technology can support structured lesson plans or text-based nudges to build this capacity. Teachers’ use of technology will empower them to leverage an array of resources to provide more focused, personalized learning to students.

4. ENGAGE THE ECOSYSTEM: Education systems should take a whole of government and multi-stakeholder approach to engage and incorporate the most innovative ideas to support student learning.Ministries of Education should leverage all stakeholders in the education system when developing and implementing EdTech programs and policies. The best content, software, applications, algorithms and edutainment will be spread across many innovators in the country and around the world.

Ministries of Education should actively identify ways to find, incentive, integrate and sustain the creators in their country. This content can be delivered over the most appropriate channel – radio, TV, mobile, web – and bundled with data on learning and feedback to support continuous learning.  This ecosystem includes key stakeholders such as students, teachers, school leaders, parents, NGOs, donors and the private sector including app developers, publishers, equipment manufacturers, telecommunication companies and cloud service providers. Clearly, EdTech requires that all these actors work in concert to a common goal taking a “whole of government approach.” Successful EdTech policies and deployments requires that Ministries of Education leverage all stakeholders – inside and outside the education system.

5. DATA DRIVEN: Transparent standards and interoperable data architecture supports evidence-based decision making and a culture of learning and experimentation.

Technology can and should be used to easily collect data from educational institutions, analyze this data and support decision making. Technology is currently available to measure outcomes, track student performance, manage student retention, track book distribution, manage teacher recruitment, track education system spending, etc. Without these, countries will not be as efficient in supporting schools, students and teachers. This data however is diffused through various systems in Ministries of Education and other parts of government. Countries must have flexible, scalable systems that avoid data silos that don’t talk to one another and vendor-lock in (where future decisions on the use of EdTech are constrained by technology choices made in the past). To operationalize this principle, Ministries of Education should promote transparent standards that facilitate interoperability of systems, data and content and remove barriers to competition in order to promote a data-driven decision-making culture.  Many times, learnings from this data is not fed back into the system.  A culture of gathering rigorous data about the ‘impact of EdTech’ must be priority. With the pace of technological change, evidence quickly becomes stale. Hence, constant learning through iteration, controlled experimentation, and nimble evaluations is critical to separate ‘hope’ from 'hype' surrounding different technologies and informing all further EdTech decisions. The culture of data-driven decision making must be strengthened.

In order to operationalize these principles, the World Bank focuses on the discovery, diffusion and deployment of new technologies.  

Discover, document, generate and analyze evidence-based technology solutions in education attuned to developing countries. 

The World Bank supports the EdTech community across countries to discover new innovations, build the evidence base and facilitate the transformation of ministries of education into learning organizations. In some sense, policy makers are supported to think like a system, but act like entrepreneurs. This is achieved through institutional support for Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) into projects that use EdTech; the inclusion of partnerships with like-minded organizations and the development of global public goods that can be used across multiple countries.

Diffuse this knowledge widely across policy makers in our client countries and support capacity development to better use this new knowledge. The World Bank promotes multi-stakeholder approaches, including partnerships beyond the traditional education sector, to support the effective, appropriate and impactful use of EdTech.

The World Bank works in partnership with governments, academic institutions, non-governmental organizations, private companies, civil society and communities worldwide to support innovative projects, timely research, and knowledge-sharing about EdTech with the ultimate goal of improving teaching and learning. To do this, it invests in the capabilities of its staff to identify and lead partnerships, drawing on relevant experience and expertise. The World Bank also recognizes the role played by the private sector and seeks to harness its innovation and ingenuity to strengthen efficiencies in the public sector.  This approach of networking expertise is critical to ensure that EdTech experiences are effectively shared across regions and that last-mile support to educational institutions supports implementation of government programs.

Deploy solutions, at the pilot level and at scale, tackling adoption barriers (including in procurement) and in ways informed by evidence, and which allow for efficient course correction. The World Bank supports countries as they seek to strengthen and expand existing educational practices and approaches through the use of new technologies, as well as to transform them. The World Bank works with partners to develop digital global public goods that adhere to its 5 EdTech principles. These digital global public goods are digitized knowledge and ideas that countries can build upon and adapt to their contexts.

To execute this strategy the World Bank will provide support to countries through lending operations, partnership networks, and development of digital global public goods in support of the overall World Bank education approach.

Reimagining Human Connections: Technology and Innovation in Education at the World Bank

Current and Past Projects

Notable recent projects include:

  • In Burundi, the Burundi Skills for Jobs: Women and Youth aims at supporting job creation for women and youth, with a focus on digital skills and support the creation of a new Institute of Computer Science/Computer Engineering and Digital Transformation, anchored at the University of Burundi in partnership with world class universities.
  • In Nigeria, the Edo Basic Education Sector and Skills Transformation Operation leverages technology to improve  teaching  and  learning  processes  in  basic  education  and has institutionalized remote learning EdoBEST@Home program to provide access to all students outside school.
  • In Pakistan, the Higher Education Development Project  includes support to equip Students and Higher Education Institutions with Modern Technology and to leverage technology to improve the teaching, learning and research environment in Pakistan including upgrading Pakistan’s National Research and Education Network (NREN)).
  • In Morocco, the pandemic created an electroshock on the education system that motivated the country to come up with a new system that prepares the schools for the new realities and for the future of education. Classrooms are kept smaller and new methods of teaching have been developed to enable teachers to animate classes in a way that students understand better. In addition, the schools are more connected than ever. System of evaluation of the new way of teaching and learning is being developed. Complementing, but not replacing in-person teaching by online classes. Developing pedagogical models that support the return to school and provide different learning formats for different situations/students. Morocco is introducing a hybrid-model for families to choose.
  • In Turkey, an COVID emergency response Project – Safe Schooling and Distance Education Project aims to build future resilience in the education system by creating a new hybrid learning model to support access to digital resources, improve connectivity and access to education data. The Project will also build out the national ecosystem of innovators to support the development of new learning resources and build capacity of teachers to effectively use these digital resources to support hybrid learning.  
  • EVOKE, an online alternate reality game supporting social innovation among young people around the world including a latest iteration on use of Blockchain for conditional cash transfer in Colombia. Also support for FabLabs in higher education institutions in countries like Bangladesh, research into the use of e-readers in schools in Lagos, and pilots of the Khan Academy in Nigeria and Guyana.
  • Join Upcoming Events (Twitter Announcements)
  • Learn about Past Events (Events Archive)


We release a number of publications each year on specific projects and themes related to technology and innovation in education.  See attached a sample of some of these resources linked to the critical questions we will address in the coming year:

1. How can countries leverage EdTech investments to develop resilient hybrid learning systems?  

  • What is Hybrid Learning?
  • Exploring the potential of Digital Infrastructure
  • Understanding the perceived effectiveness of remote learning – lessons from 18 countries
  • How can countries implement low tech remote learning?
  • Remote Learning During COVID-19 – how to implement multi-channel delivery

2. How can countries recover learning loss, more effectively harness data and personalize learning with technology? 

  • Mitigating learning losses and accelerating learning through Adaptive Learning
  • Considering an adaptive learning system – a roadmap for policy makers
  • Remote Assessment – Potential of phone-based formative assessments to support learning continuity

3. What are the changing roles and new skills for teachers in hybrid learning systems and how can additional human connections be leveraged through technology?  

  • Supporting teachers in the age of the pandemic
  • The Changing Role of Teachers and Technologies amidst the COVID-19 pandemic  
  • Transforming how teachers use technology
  • How to use technology to help teacher be better

4. How can countries leverage open technology ecosystems to expand access to quality content and learning experiences?  

  • Open Learning Management Systems – How to select and evaluate
  • Open Educational Resources are free but you still need to invest to use them

5. How can technology support the development, measurement and accreditation of future skills?   

  • Reimagining Youth Skills
  • Leveraging Blockchain
  • Digital Learning and Skills part I

Comprehensive list of past publications (Archive)

Download Knowledge Packs

Knowledge Packs are resources developed by the World Bank’s EdTech team to serve as short, practical guides on individual topics within education technology. 

  • Virtual and XR Laboratories for Workforce Development (pdf, last version September 2023)
  • Education TV Knowledge Pack  – (pdf, last version June 2020)
  • EdTech Knowledge Pack on Remote Learning response to COVID-19 (pdf, last draft 8 April 2020). 
  • EduRadio knowledge pack
  • Mobile Distance & Hybrid Education Solutions knowledge pack
  • More COVID-19-specific resources

Founded in 2019, the EdTech Hub was established to accelerate progress toward ending the global learning crisis by increasing the use of evidence to inform decision-making about education technology. Technology has the potential to help address the global learning crisis. But that potential is not yet being realised. Some reasons for this include:

  • incomplete understanding of what works and what does not
  • many under-researched issues
  • intervention designs are often not evidence-based
  • policy decisions are often not evidence-based
  • stakeholders are disconnected
  • the evidence that does exist is not easily accessible

The EdTech Hub aims to address these gaps. The EdTech Hub will synthesize existing evidence, conduct new research, support innovations to scale, and provide advisory support to governments and other country partners.

The EdTech Hub is collaboratively run by a partnership of organisations: Overseas Development Institute, Faculty of Education at the University of Cambridge, Results for Development, Open Development and Education, Brink, Jigsaw Consult, BRAC, Afrilabs and eLearning Africa. The EdTech Hub is funded by the UK Department for International Development, the World Bank and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Education Continuity Partnership under COVID-19 with OECD, Harvard & HundrED

In the wake of COVID-19, the Harvard Global Education Innovation Initiative , HundrED , the OECD Directorate for Education and Skills and the World Bank Group Education Global Practice is gathering information from around the world on the education response to the crisis. This includes a series of webinar conversations and a series of education stories.

Strategic Impact Evaluation Fund ( SIEF )

The World Bank’s Strategic Impact Evaluation Fund (SIEF) supports scientifically rigorous research that measures the impact of programs and policies to improve education, health, access to quality water and sanitation, and early childhood development in low and middle income countries. The majority of the evaluations are randomized control trials (RCTs) and they were chosen through a competitive process open to researchers worldwide.

On July 29, 2020, SIEF announced six evaluation teams that will receive funding through SIEF’s COVID-19 emergency window . These evaluations will rapidly generate evidence on how to keep students engaged with learning and remote education at home and how to prepare them for the return to school. Each evaluation will also collect detailed cost data that can help shed light on the resources required for scale and sustained implementation. Teams include: Bangladesh, Ecuador, Ghana, Guatemala, Pakistan, Sierra Leone.

Global EdTech Readiness Index Partnership

The Global Edtech Readiness Index is part of the Global Education Policy Dashboard (GEPD) funded by a partnership between the World Bank, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, U.K.'s Department for International Development and government of Japan.

The World Bank, with support from Imaginable Futures has created the EdTech Readiness Index (ETRI). The tool will enable countries to: (a) identify good practices and areas where EdTech policies can be strengthened, and (b) monitor progress as countries take action. 

The ETRI goes beyond measuring the availability of devices and the level of connectivity to capture key elements of the larger education-technology ecosystem in a country, guiding efforts to increase learning opportunities and reduce inequalities. ETRI is organized around 6 pillars: School Management, Teachers, Students, Devices, Connectivity, and Digital Resources. For each pillar, the ETRI reports on a practice indicator (to capture the practices at the school level), a de jure policy indicator (to capture whether there is a policy to inform each practice), and a de facto policy indicator (to measure the extent to which the policy is implemented)

Continuity and Acceleration of Learning

The Continuous and Accelerated Learning (CAL) program aims to support multi-modal continuous learning by supporting the development, dissemination and delivery at scale of new and existing global public goods and regional learning continuity approaches, in the short term to offset the impacts of school closures, and in the medium to long term to ensure continuity and accelerate learning after schools re-open while building resilience into the education system. Support will be focused on improving foundational learning and lowering learning poverty by adapting to students’, teachers’ and parents’ needs, anywhere, anytime in a more inclusive, equitable, effective and resilient way than pre-COVID-19.

As part of the Continuous and Accelerated Learning (CAL) program “Teachers for a Changing World: Transforming Teacher Professional Development Spotlight” (T4T) in partnership with HundrED a created a global contest to identify and promote scalable and impactful solutions for teacher professional development using technology.

The CAL work is supported by GPE and other donors and involves partnerships with UNESCO and UNICEF.

Reimagine Education: Digital Learning for Every Child Everywhere with UNICEF

UNICEF and the World Bank are joining forces to support countries to use technology as an accelerator to address key global education challenges related to equitable access to quality and relevant learning.  This partnership will build on, extend, and complement existing global joint initiatives partnerships and programs that use digital technology to address the learning crisis. It also supports the improvement of teachers’ effectiveness in the classroom; student development of skills needed to succeed in school, work, and life; connecting all schools to the Internet; and research on technological innovations for education. This partnership is unique, representing the convergence and alignment of the World Bank and UNICEF’s global and country-level expertise, reach and ability to support implementation at scale. 

mEducation Alliance

The mEducation Alliance is a non-governmental organization focused on the evidence-driven and sustainable role of technology in education to  advance quality educational outcomes. Formed in 2010, the mEducation Alliance is a  unique, multi-stakeholder convening platform for government and donor policymakers, other investors, researchers, and practitioners to work together, particularly in lower-resource, developing country contexts.

The mEducation Alliance is dedicated to strengthening formal and non-formal educational systems by:

  • Convening: connecting EdTech investors, policymakers, and practitioners;
  • Communicating: sharing good practices within the global EdTech community; and,
  • Catalyzing: accelerating EdTech investments and the scaling of promising interventions and initiatives.

Key mEducation Alliance Key Activities and Product Highlights

  • Ecosystem building for and acceleration of EdTech interventions
  • Dissemination of good practices via a variety of multimedia channels
  • Annual Symposia and other networking events (virtual and in person)
  • EdTech research profiles and research roundtables
  • Landscape and literature reviews
  • Investment consultations for donors and EdTech service providers
  • Catalyzing education grand challenges and competition calls
  • Working groups for donors and policymakers
  • Launch and support of a range of signature EdTech initiatives (e.g, Math Attacks!, Young Digital Champions, EdTech Academy)

The World Bank is an alliance member, along with the British Council, EdTech Hub, GIZ, Gesci, Global Partnership for Education, GSMA, IAmLearn, IDRC CRDI, ISTE, ITU, KERIS, Norad, OAS, Peace Corps, SPRIDER, US State Department, UNHCR, UNICEF, UNESCO, DFID, USAID, World Vision, World Wide Web Foundation, Brookings, and ADEA.




Blog:  EdTech hope or hype? Insights from East Asia Pacific


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Dependence on Tech Caused ‘Staggering’ Education Inequality, U.N. Agency Says

Heavy reliance on online remote learning during the pandemic drew attention away from more equitable ways of teaching children at home, a UNESCO report says.

A young man in a gray hooded shirt watches a computer screen on a desk.

By Natasha Singer

Natasha Singer has chronicled the growth of online learning in U.S. public schools for more than a decade.

In early 2020, as the coronavirus spread, schools around the world abruptly halted in-person education. To many governments and parents, moving classes online seemed the obvious stopgap solution.

In the United States, school districts scrambled to secure digital devices for students. Almost overnight, videoconferencing software like Zoom became the main platform teachers used to deliver real-time instruction to students at home.

Now a report from UNESCO , the United Nations’ educational and cultural organization, says that overreliance on remote learning technology during the pandemic led to “staggering” education inequality around the world. It was, according to a 655-page report that UNESCO released on Wednesday, a worldwide “ed-tech tragedy.”

The report, from UNESCO’s Future of Education division, is likely to add fuel to the debate over how governments and local school districts handled pandemic restrictions, and whether it would have been better for some countries to reopen schools for in-person instruction sooner.

The UNESCO researchers argued in the report that “unprecedented” dependence on technology — intended to ensure that children could continue their schooling — worsened disparities and learning loss for hundreds of millions of students around the world, including in Kenya, Brazil, Britain and the United States.

The promotion of remote online learning as the primary solution for pandemic schooling also hindered public discussion of more equitable, lower-tech alternatives, such as regularly providing schoolwork packets for every student, delivering school lessons by radio or television — and reopening schools sooner for in-person classes, the researchers said.

“Available evidence strongly indicates that the bright spots of the ed-tech experiences during the pandemic, while important and deserving of attention, were vastly eclipsed by failure,” the UNESCO report said.

The UNESCO researchers recommended that education officials prioritize in-person instruction with teachers, not online platforms, as the primary driver of student learning. And they encouraged schools to ensure that emerging technologies like A.I. chatbots concretely benefitted students before introducing them for educational use.

Education and industry experts welcomed the report, saying more research on the effects of pandemic learning was needed.

“The report’s conclusion — that societies must be vigilant about the ways digital tools are reshaping education — is incredibly important,” said Paul Lekas, the head of global public policy for the Software & Information Industry Association, a group whose members include Amazon, Apple and Google. “There are lots of lessons that can be learned from how digital education occurred during the pandemic and ways in which to lessen the digital divide. ”

Jean-Claude Brizard, the chief executive of Digital Promise, a nonprofit education group that has received funding from Google, HP and Verizon, acknowledged that “technology is not a cure-all.” But he also said that while school systems were largely unprepared for the pandemic, online education tools helped foster “more individualized, enhanced learning experiences as schools shifted to virtual classrooms.”

​Education International, an umbrella organization for about 380 teachers’ unions and 32 million teachers worldwide, said the UNESCO report underlined the importance of in-person, face-to-face teaching.

“The report tells us definitively what we already know to be true, a place called school matters,” said Haldis Holst, the group’s deputy general secretary. “Education is not transactional nor is it simply content delivery. It is relational. It is social. It is human at its core.”

Here are some of the main findings in the report:

The promise of education technology was overstated.

For more than a decade, Silicon Valley tech giants as well as industry-financed nonprofit groups and think tanks have promoted computers, apps and internet access in public schools as innovations that would quickly democratize and modernize student learning.

Many promised that such digital tools would allow schoolchildren to more easily pursue their interests, learn at their own pace and receive instant automated feedback on their work from learning analytics algorithms.

The report’s findings challenge the view that digital technologies are synonymous with educational equality and progress.

The report said that when coronavirus cases began spiking in early 2020, the overselling of ed-tech tools helped make remote online learning seem like the most appealing and effective solution for pandemic schooling even as more equitable, lower-tech options were available.

Remote online learning worsened education disparities.

UNESCO researchers found the shift to remote online learning tended to provide substantial advantages to children in wealthier households while disadvantaging those in lower-income families.

By May 2020, the report said, 60 percent of national remote learning programs “relied exclusively” on internet-connected platforms. But nearly half a billion young people — about half the primary and secondary students worldwide — targeted by those remote learning programs lacked internet connections at home, the report said, excluding them from participating.

According to data and surveys cited in the report, one-third of kindergarten through 12th-grade students in the United States “were cut off from education” in 2020 because of inadequate internet connections or hardware. In 2021 in Pakistan, 30 percent of households said they were aware of remote learning programs while fewer than half of this group had the technology needed to participate.

Learning was hindered and altered.

Student learning outcomes stalled or “declined dramatically” when schools deployed ed tech as a replacement for in-person instruction, the UNESCO researchers said, even when children had access to digital devices and internet connections.

The report also said students learning online spent considerably less time on formal educational tasks — and more time on monotonous digital tasks. It described a daily learning routine “less of discovery and exploration than traversing file-sharing systems, moving through automated learning content, checking for updates on corporate platforms and enduring long video calls.”

Remote online learning also limited or curtailed student opportunities for socialization and nonacademic activities, the report said, causing many students to become disengaged or drop out of school.

The report warned that the shift to remote learning also gave a handful of tech platforms — like Google and Zoom — extraordinary influence in schools. These digital systems often imposed private business values and agendas, the report added, that were at odds with the “humanistic” values of public schooling.

Regulation and guardrails are needed.

To prevent a repeat scenario, the researchers recommended that schools prioritize the best interests of schoolchildren as the central criteria for deploying ed tech.

In practical terms, the researchers called for more regulation and guardrails around online learning tools. They also suggested that districts give teachers more say over which digital tools schools adopt and how they are used.

Natasha Singer writes about technology, business and society. She is currently reporting on the far-reaching ways that tech companies and their tools are reshaping public schools, higher education and job opportunities. More about Natasha Singer


Global education monitoring report summary, 2023: technology in education: a tool on whose terms? (hin)


The new 2023 GEM Report on  Technology in education: A tool on whose terms?  addresses the use of technology in education around the world through the lenses of relevance, equity, scalability and sustainability.

It argues that education systems should always ensure that learners’ interests are placed at the center and that digital technologies are used to support an education based on human interaction rather than aiming at substituting it. The report looks at ways in which technology can help reach disadvantaged learners but also ensure more knowledge reaches more learners in more engaging and cheaper formats. It focuses on how quality can be improved, both in teaching and learning basic skills, and in developing the digital skills needed in daily life. It recognizes the role of technology in system management with special reference to assessment data and other education management information.

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AI Is Common Thread Through the Big Challenges Schools Are Facing, New Report Says

challenges in education and technology

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For the third year in a row, recruiting and retaining staff is the top hurdle hindering districts’ ability “to deliver extraordinary student outcomes,” concludes a new report from the nonprofit Consortium for School Networking.

The organization—which represents school district chief technology officers and other ed-tech leaders—said in the report that the next two big challenges school districts will have to address this year are cybersecurity and scaling innovation.

The “ Driving K-12 Innovation report ” highlights the “hurdles,” “accelerators,” and “tech enablers” impacting education innovation for the year ahead based on a survey of, and discussions with, more than 140 educators and information technology professionals in the United States and abroad.

Laura Geringer, the project director for the “Driving K-12 Innovation” report, noted that K-12 education is at a turning point, fueled largely by the evolution of artificial intelligence.

“Generative AI was a big topic and ended up being woven throughout all of the conversations about the other topics,” Geringer said.

The CoSN report comes as schools are dealing with troubling levels of student academic achievement and facing accelerated changes in education technology, with the rise of generative artificial intelligence and schools becoming the top target for cyberattacks .

How do we create a culture of innovation where people want to be a part of the change and want to be a part of public education? That's a huge priority for me.

For Lauren Owens, who is in her first year as the executive director of technology for the Agua Fria district in Arizona, the three challenges that are top of mind for her are generative AI, cybersecurity, and staffing.

“It doesn’t matter if you are a Title I district, if you are in a suburb, those three areas are hitting every education organization across the world,” Owens said.

Cyberattacks continue to be a looming threat for schools, many districts are in the beginning stages of implementing AI , and “you need people who can handle generative AI and cybersecurity, and that is harder to find right now,” she added.

Higher workloads fuel recruitment and retention problems

Teshon Christie, the chief of digital transformation and innovation for the Highline district in Washington, said the staffing problem “makes it challenging” for students to learn from qualified teachers and for districts to hold professional development initiatives. The “workload is higher” now, as well, for everyone in schools, which makes retaining educators a challenge, he said.

The report attributes the ongoing challenge of recruiting and retaining educators to “ social and emotional burnout ” and “ low pay compared to other sectors .”

“When you get these superskilled, talented people who are coders or who are cybersecurity specialists, there’s not a lot of draw for them to stay in public education, when those jobs are absolutely needed in the private sector where they make more money,” Owens said. “How do we create a culture of innovation where people want to be a part of the change and want to be a part of public education? That’s a huge priority for me.”

To meet this moment of accelerated change and “increase the speed of innovation,” more educators are considering new approaches for how students demonstrate what they’re learning, such as competency-based grading ; strengthening educators’ leadership skills; and teaching students to take more initiative in their learning, according to the report.

To better serve their students and staff, the report recommends that districts leverage generative AI; adaptive technologies, or tools that change a student’s learning pathway depending on how they interact with it; and a more interconnected digital learning environment, which would allow for a more seamless experience for students to easily access their learning materials and collaborate with peers and teachers.

Geringer of CoSN recommends that educators use its report as “a basis to have conversations about where you are and where you want to go; about what barriers, hurdles, catalysts, accelerators, and tools will help you get from where you are toward the future that you want to have in your specific school.”

The Agua Fria district, Owens said, is already working on a strategic plan to integrate AI into the district’s culture. The school system is also thinking about training its own large language model. The goal of that model would be to make educators’ jobs easier.

Christie, from the Highline district, is preparing all staff to be able to use AI, whether for instructional use or for operational and facilities uses, “to create efficiency” to free up schools to spend more time helping students learn.

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How technology is reinventing education.

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New advances in technology are upending education, from the recent debut of new artificial intelligence (AI) chatbots like ChatGPT to the growing accessibility of virtual-reality tools that expand the boundaries of the classroom. For educators, at the heart of it all is the hope that every learner gets an equal chance to develop the skills they need to succeed. But that promise is not without its pitfalls.

“Technology is a game-changer for education – it offers the prospect of universal access to high-quality learning experiences, and it creates fundamentally new ways of teaching,” said Dan Schwartz, dean of  Stanford Graduate School of Education  (GSE), who is also a professor of educational technology at the GSE and faculty director of the  Stanford Accelerator for Learning . “But there are a lot of ways we teach that aren’t great, and a big fear with AI in particular is that we just get more efficient at teaching badly. This is a moment to pay attention, to do things differently.”

For K-12 schools, this year also marks the end of the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding program, which has provided pandemic recovery funds that many districts used to invest in educational software and systems. With these funds running out in September 2024, schools are trying to determine their best use of technology as they face the prospect of diminishing resources.

Here, Schwartz and other Stanford education scholars weigh in on some of the technology trends taking center stage in the classroom this year.

AI in the classroom

In 2023, the big story in technology and education was generative AI, following the introduction of ChatGPT and other chatbots that produce text seemingly written by a human in response to a question or prompt. Educators immediately  worried  that students would use the chatbot to cheat by trying to pass its writing off as their own. As schools move to adopt policies around students’ use of the tool, many are also beginning to explore potential opportunities – for example, to generate reading assignments or  coach  students during the writing process.

AI can also help automate tasks like grading and lesson planning, freeing teachers to do the human work that drew them into the profession in the first place, said Victor Lee, an associate professor at the GSE and faculty lead for the AI + Education initiative at the Stanford Accelerator for Learning. “I’m heartened to see some movement toward creating AI tools that make teachers’ lives better – not to replace them, but to give them the time to do the work that only teachers are able to do,” he said. “I hope to see more on that front.”

He also emphasized the need to teach students now to begin questioning and critiquing the development and use of AI. “AI is not going away,” said Lee, who is also director of  CRAFT  (Classroom-Ready Resources about AI for Teaching), which provides free resources to help teach AI literacy to high school students across subject areas. “We need to teach students how to understand and think critically about this technology.”

Immersive environments

The use of immersive technologies like augmented reality, virtual reality, and mixed reality is also expected to surge in the classroom, especially as new high-profile devices integrating these realities hit the marketplace in 2024.

The educational possibilities now go beyond putting on a headset and experiencing life in a distant location. With new technologies, students can create their own local interactive 360-degree scenarios, using just a cell phone or inexpensive camera and simple online tools.

“This is an area that’s really going to explode over the next couple of years,” said Kristen Pilner Blair, director of research for the Digital Learning initiative at the Stanford Accelerator for Learning, which runs a program exploring the use of virtual field trips to promote learning. “Students can learn about the effects of climate change, say, by virtually experiencing the impact on a particular environment. But they can also become creators, documenting and sharing immersive media that shows the effects where they live.”

Integrating AI into virtual simulations could also soon take the experience to another level, Schwartz said. “If your VR experience brings me to a redwood tree, you could have a window pop up that allows me to ask questions about the tree, and AI can deliver the answers.”


Another trend expected to intensify this year is the gamification of learning activities, often featuring dynamic videos with interactive elements to engage and hold students’ attention.

“Gamification is a good motivator, because one key aspect is reward, which is very powerful,” said Schwartz. The downside? Rewards are specific to the activity at hand, which may not extend to learning more generally. “If I get rewarded for doing math in a space-age video game, it doesn’t mean I’m going to be motivated to do math anywhere else.”

Gamification sometimes tries to make “chocolate-covered broccoli,” Schwartz said, by adding art and rewards to make speeded response tasks involving single-answer, factual questions more fun. He hopes to see more creative play patterns that give students points for rethinking an approach or adapting their strategy, rather than only rewarding them for quickly producing a correct response.

Data-gathering and analysis

The growing use of technology in schools is producing massive amounts of data on students’ activities in the classroom and online. “We’re now able to capture moment-to-moment data, every keystroke a kid makes,” said Schwartz – data that can reveal areas of struggle and different learning opportunities, from solving a math problem to approaching a writing assignment.

But outside of research settings, he said, that type of granular data – now owned by tech companies – is more likely used to refine the design of the software than to provide teachers with actionable information.

The promise of personalized learning is being able to generate content aligned with students’ interests and skill levels, and making lessons more accessible for multilingual learners and students with disabilities. Realizing that promise requires that educators can make sense of the data that’s being collected, said Schwartz – and while advances in AI are making it easier to identify patterns and findings, the data also needs to be in a system and form educators can access and analyze for decision-making. Developing a usable infrastructure for that data, Schwartz said, is an important next step.

With the accumulation of student data comes privacy concerns: How is the data being collected? Are there regulations or guidelines around its use in decision-making? What steps are being taken to prevent unauthorized access? In 2023 K-12 schools experienced a rise in cyberattacks, underscoring the need to implement strong systems to safeguard student data.

Technology is “requiring people to check their assumptions about education,” said Schwartz, noting that AI in particular is very efficient at replicating biases and automating the way things have been done in the past, including poor models of instruction. “But it’s also opening up new possibilities for students producing material, and for being able to identify children who are not average so we can customize toward them. It’s an opportunity to think of entirely new ways of teaching – this is the path I hope to see.”

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Challenges in Education Technology in 2023 and Beyond

The world of education is rapidly changing, and technology is playing a significant role. Education technology uses digital technology to support teaching and learning. Education technology can help make learning more fun and engaging but also presents new challenges.

FREMONT, CA: Education technology, or EdTech, has become increasingly important in the educational landscape in recent years, with the COVID-19 pandemic accelerating its adoption worldwide. In 2023, EdTech will continue to face challenges, from access and equity concerns to the effectiveness of digital learning tools. Here are some of the difficulties EdTech is likely to face in the future.

The digital divide is one of EdTech's most significant challenges in 2023. While many students have access to the internet and digital devices, a considerable proportion still needs to, particularly in lower-income communities and developing countries. This means that digital learning tools, such as online courses and virtual classrooms, are not always accessible to those who need them the most, perpetuating existing educational inequalities. Having access to the digital infrastructure necessary for students to participate fully in the digital age will require concerted efforts from governments, NGOs, and technology companies.

Another challenge facing EdTech is the need for effective digital pedagogy. While digital tools and platforms can enhance learning in many ways, they can also be ineffective or detrimental if not used correctly. Teachers must be trained to use digital tools effectively and adapt their teaching strategies to incorporate digital learning methods. This will require ongoing professional development programs to help teachers stay up-to-date with technological innovations and pedagogical best practices.

A related challenge is the need for effective assessment tools in digital learning environments. Digital learning contexts, where students can work asynchronously or use different resources, may only sometimes be conducive to traditional assessments such as exams and quizzes. New assessment tools like peer review and project-based assessments may be more appropriate. Still, they must be carefully designed and implemented to ensure effectiveness and fairness.

Another critical challenge for EdTech in 2023 is balancing the benefits of digital learning with the importance of social and emotional learning. While digital tools can provide students access to a wealth of information and resources, they may sometimes foster a different sense of community and social interaction than traditional classroom settings offer. This can be particularly challenging for younger students, who may need more support and guidance in developing their social and emotional skills. Educators need to find ways to integrate social and emotional learning into digital learning environments to ensure that students are well-rounded and prepared for future challenges.

Finally, there is the challenge of data privacy and security. As more and more learning occurs online, students’ data is increasingly at risk of being stolen or misused. This not only puts students’ privacy at risk but also undermines the trust that students, parents, and educators have in the educational system. Educators and technology companies need to work together to ensure that student data is protected and that all stakeholders know their rights and responsibilities regarding data privacy.

While EdTech has the potential to revolutionize education and provide students with new opportunities for learning and growth, it is also facing many challenges in 2023. From issues of access and equity to questions around effective pedagogy, assessment, and social and emotional learning, educators and technology companies need to work together to overcome these challenges and ensure that all students have access to the digital infrastructure they need to thrive in the digital age.

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