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Research Basis for Merit Software:
Impact of Educational Technology

In sum, CAI works well under several conditions. First, educational technology should be subjected to rigorous scientific research as to the degree to which it measurably improves learning. In order to engage students in active learning, its content should be both interactive and context-based. It should also be designed with enough flexibility to provide targeted, intensive instruction. Not only should it foster students’ skill building and independent learning, it should serve to supplement class curricula, rather than replace them. Likewise, it should effectively serve students, teachers and schools, by being simple to implement, straightforward in use, and practical in academic purpose.

Though educational technology can be a useful tool, it can easily by a harmful one (Buckingham and Scanlon, 2003). The pressure on schools to provide accountability—that is consistent academic gain—for all levels and sub-groups of students, can lead to the selection of deficient educational material. This sort of educational technology may be drill and quiz-driven, or it may entertain its users—via video clips, simulations, animations, and sound effects—to the point of distraction.

Recent research demonstrates that inadequately designed educational technology can negatively impact students (Donnelly, 2006). Rather than fostering learning, such technology can actually impede student ability to learn essential skills. Such negative impact has far-reaching effects. In recent years, local and national governments have begun addressing the impact of inadequate education. Researchers have also measured the tremendous cost of illiteracy (Belfield and Levin, 2001). It impacts everything from school funding, to students’ families, future earnings and health, to local municipalities’ social services. The cost of using deficient educational materials is enormous.