Education Technology: An Evidence-Based Review
In recent years, there has been widespread excitement around the potential for technology to transform learning. As investments in education technology continue to grow, students, parents, and teachers face a seemingly endless array of education technologies from which to choose—from digital personalized learning platforms to educational games to online courses. Amidst the excitement, it is important to step back and understand how technology can help—or in some cases hinder—how students learn. This review paper synthesizes and discusses experimental evidence on the effectiveness of technology-based approaches in education and outlines areas for future inquiry. In particular, we examine RCTs across the following categories of education technology: (1) access to technology, (2) computer-assisted learning, (3) technology-enabled behavioral interventions in education, and (4) online learning. While this review focuses on literature from developed countries, it also draws upon extensive research from developing countries. We hope this literature review will advance the knowledge base of how technology can be used to support education, outline key areas for new experimental research, and help drive improvements to the policies, programs, and structures that contribute to successful teaching and learning.
We are extremely grateful to Caitlin Anzelone, Rekha Balu, Peter Bergman, Brad Bernatek, Ben Castleman, Luke Crowley, Angela Duckworth, Jonathan Guryan, Alex Haslam, Andrew Ho, Ben Jones, Matthew Kraft, Kory Kroft, David Laibson, Susanna Loeb, Andrew Magliozzi, Ignacio Martinez, Susan Mayer, Steve Mintz, Piotr Mitros, Lindsay Page, Amanda Pallais, John Pane, Justin Reich, Jonah Rockoff, Sylvi Rzepka, Kirby Smith, and Oscar Sweeten-Lopez for providing helpful and detailed comments as we put together this review. We also thank Rachel Glennerster for detailed support throughout the project, Jessica Mardo and Sophie Shank for edits, and to the Spencer Foundation for financial support. Any errors or omissions are our own. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.