The summary below presents the research evidence on digital technology in the Australasian context.
The Teaching & Learning Toolkit focuses on impact; it presents an estimate of the average impact of digital technology on learning progress, based on the synthesis of a large number of quantitative studies from around the world.
This page offers a summary and analysis of individual Australasian studies on digital technology. In contrast to the Toolkit it includes studies which do not estimate impact, but instead investigate the implementation of interventions and how they are perceived by school leaders, teachers and students. This information is valuable for school leaders and teachers interested in finding out more about particular examples of digital technology interventions that have been delivered in Australia and New Zealand.
Melbourne Graduate School of Education generated this summary and it is current for June 2016.
Summary of Australasian Research
Digital technologies are used to support learning. Approaches in this area are very varied, but a simple split can be made between:
- Program for students, where learners use technology in problem solving or more open-ended learning, and
- Technology for teachers such as interactive whiteboards or learning platforms.
Despite large-scale implementation of digital technology for teaching and learning in Australian schools, there remains a limited amount of research into its impact on student learning and achievement. The available research focuses mainly on the implementation of particular programs within a school or a community of schools, examining changes in student engagement and motivation. A few studies also examine changes in academic outcomes that result from digital technology use. The research results are varied despite some positive impacts observed.
Harris (2008) outlined the work done by the Sydney Centre for Innovation in Learning (SCIL), the research and development unit of Northern Beaches Christian School (NBCS), in implementing ICT-related pedagogical change within NBCS K-12 classrooms. The program included the introduction of an online portal, fully online courses, online language courses, and blended learning techniques. Using student NAPLAN data (Years 3, 5 and 7) between 2004 and 2007, there appears to be a relationship between ICT use and a consistent upward trend in academic outcomes. The most dramatic change was in numeracy, with an increase from 38 per cent to 85 per cent (two years later) of students being placed in the top two bands. However, the author on this non-peer reviewed paper did not sufficiently clarify the study methodology.
An Australian study involving 2269 students examined the relationship between students’ perceptions of teacher–student interactions and academic performance at an asynchronous, self-paced, statewide, virtual high school (Hawkins, Graham, Sudweeks & Barbour, 2013). An 18-item survey was used to measure students’ perceptions of the quality and frequency of teacher–student interaction, and academic performance was measured by grade for the course awarded and subsequent course completion rate. It was found that an increase in quality and frequency of interaction resulted in an increased likelihood of course completion. However, an increase in quality and frequency of interaction had minimal effect on grades, possibly due to mastery-based teaching that skewed grades toward the high end (Hawkins et al., 2013).
A New Zealand-based study that explored the effect of Facebook use, self-discipline and parental style on academic achievement found that while self-discipline and parental style were predictors of academic outcomes, Facebook use only had a weak relationship with outcomes (using regression analysis) (Cepe, 2014). Study participants included high school (n=106) and university students (n=211) as well as their parents. Data were collected through an online survey, and students self-reported on their own grades as well as behavioural measures of self-discipline and academic distraction. The effect upon academic outcomes is more closely related to distraction behaviours (Cepe, 2014).
Hand-held Game Consoles (HGCs) have been shown to enhance student engagement and motivation in the development of mental maths skills, regardless of the teacher’s approach (O’Rourke, Main & Ellis, 2013). This is based on a study of nine Year 4 classrooms in Western Australia, using interviews and observations. While the authors hypothesised that HGCs can increase academic achievement by increasing engagement, there were no measures of academic achievement (O’Rourke, Main & Ellis, 2013).
Neumann (2015) examined the use of digital devices by young children in the home. Parents of children aged 2 to 4 years (N=69) answered a questionnaire that examined how many digital devices they had at home, how much time children spend on these, and how easily children could operate the devices. The questionnaire also examined parental engagement in digital activities and parents’ views on touch screen tablets. The results indicated that televisions and touch screen tablets were the most popular digital devices for children, and parents felt touch screen tablets were the easiest devices for their children’s use. While this study did not identify the impact of digital device use on academic outcomes, it provides an insight into the most commonly used digital devices in the home.
In an Australian Indigenous context, Johnson (2013) examined the impact of broadband and mobile phone access on reading comprehension. Twenty-three Indigenous adolescents (mean age 16.4 years) in remote regions of Western Australia were interviewed to investigate the age of first use and current frequency of use of television, computers, the Internet, video games and mobile phones. Measures of reading comprehension were taken simultaneously during the interview using a cloze deletion procedure. No significant relationships were found between age of first use of electronic devices and reading comprehension. Mobile phone use increased alongside reading comprehension levels, but reading comprehension tended to decrease with increased use of the computer. Johnson (2013) suggests the common use of text messages may help improve reading achievement among adolescents with limited literacy skills.
Cepe, M. (2014). The effect of Facebook use, self-discipline and parenting styles on the academic achievement of high school and university students (Masters thesis, University of Canterbury, Canterbury, New Zealand). Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/10092/9667
Harris, S. (2008). ICT Innovation Transforming the Heart of the Classroom. Terrey Hills, NSW: Sydney Centre for Innovation in Learning.
Hawkins, A., Graham, C. R., Sudweeks, R. R., & Barbour, M. K. (2013). Academic performance, course completion rates, and student perception of the quality and frequency of interaction in a virtual high school. Distance Education, 34(1), 64-83.
Johnson, G. (2013). Technology use and reading comprehension among Australian Indigenous adolescents. International Journal of Economy, Management and Social Sciences, 2(8), 558-564.
Neumann, M. M. (2015). Young Children and Screen Time: Creating a Mindful Approach to Digital Technology. Australian Educational Computing, 30(2), 1-15.
O'Rourke, J., Main, S., & Ellis, M. (2013). So the kids are busy, what now? Teacher perceptions of the use of hand-held game consoles in West Australian primary classrooms. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 29(5), 735-747.
• Google Scholar
Digitaltechnology; word processing computer/education technology; online/e-learning; computer assisted instruction.