Panel: Innovations in Education Technology: Evidence from K-12 Field Experiments

Thursday, November 2, 2017: 10:15 AM-11:45 AM
Columbian (Hyatt Regency Chicago)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Panel Organizers:  Katharine Meyer, University of Virginia
Panel Chairs:  Justin Brian Doromal, University of Virginia
Discussants:  Ariel Kalil, University of Chicago

Summer Reading Connection: Engaging Student Learning through Technology
Katharine Meyer and Benjamin L. Castleman, University of Virginia

Differentiated Literacy and Student Achievement: Evidence from a Randomized Controlled Trial of Achieve3000
Darryl V. Hill, Fulton County School System, Matthew A. Lenard, Wake County Public School System and Lindsay Page, University of Pittsburgh

The availability of digital communication devices in U.S. households and schools is at an all-time high – 95 percent of adults own a cellphone, 78 percent own a computer, and 51 percent own a tablet (Pew Research Center, 2016). By 2008, 98 percent of public schools had internet access, with vast improvements in equitable distribution of resources – while in 2000 there was a 20-percentage point gap in internet access between schools with the highest and lowest proportion of free or reduced-price lunch eligible students, by 2008 that gap was only two percentage points (NCES, 2014). Schools have capitalized on this increased technology availability by leveraging tools to communicate information and advice to parents about students’ development and engaging in adaptive instruction with students. These outreach efforts often have a low variable per/student cost, scale easily, and/or capitalize on devices’ built-in alert and notification systems to focus attention on important information. At the same time, schools and researchers struggle to balance the ease and effectiveness of technological outreach with higher-cost but frequently necessary personalized instruction and information.


Researchers have studied the effects of text messaging and other device outreach on student outcomes from pre-kindergarten to college, finding large returns relative to small financial outlays (Castleman & Page, 2014; Mayer, Kalil, Oreopoulos, & Gallegos, 2015; York & Loeb, 2014). These interventions are especially effective for students from low-income families, who tend to experience lower levels of parental engagement (Bradley, Corwyn, McAdoo & García Coll, 2001; Kalil, Ryan & Corey 2012). This panel examines how schools leverage new technology to engage students and parents in active learning and reduce student achievement gaps.


The author of the first paper, “Leveraging Technology to Engage Parents at Scale: Evidence from a Randomized Controlled Trial,” evaluates the impact of a school-year text message intervention targeted at parents of middle and high school students, notifying parents about their child’s missed assignments, grades and class absences. In the second paper, “Can Schools Empower Parents to Prevent Summer Learning Loss? A Text Message Field Experiment to Promote Literacy Skills,” the authors examine the impact of summer text message outreach to parents of 1st through 4th grade students promoting literacy skills and emphasizing the importance of reading. The authors of the third paper, “Summer Reading Connection: Engaging Student Learning through Technology,” examine a summer reading campaign targeting 2nd through 5th grade that distributed motivational and instructional literacy videos via iPad. In the final paper, “The Impact of Achieve3000 on Elementary Literacy Outcomes: Final Results from a Three-Year Randomized Trial,” the authors examine an in-school literacy tool that differentiated reading passages to develop reading proficiency in 2nd through 5th grade students. Together, these papers offer insight into a range of information and communications technology tools available for districts to affect student learning.

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