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Reading / Effectiveness of Technology in K-12 Classrooms

This review examines research on the effects of technology use on reading achievement in K-12 classrooms. It applies consistent inclusion standards to focus on studies that met high methodological standards. In addition, methodological and substantive features of the studies are investigated to examine the relationship between education technology and study features. A total of 84 qualified studies based on over 60,000 K-12 participants were included in the final analysis. Four major categories of education technology are reviewed:

  • Computer-managed learning, which included only Accelerated Reader. This program uses computers to assess students’ reading levels, assigning reading materials at students’ levels, scoring tests on those readings, and charting students’ progress. Students do not work directly on the computer with Accelerated Reader.
  • Innovative technology applications, such as Fast ForWord, Reading Reels, and Lightspan.
  • Comprehensive models, such as READ 180, Writing to Read, and Voyager Passport. These programs use computer-assisted instruction along with non-computer activities as students’ core reading approach.
  • Supplemental technology, such as Destination Reading, Plato Focus, Waterford, and WICAT. These programs provide additional instruction at students’ assessed levels of need to supplement traditional classroom instruction.

Consistent with previous reviews of similar focus, the findings suggest that education technology generally produced a positive, though small, effect (ES=+0.16) in comparison to traditional methods. However, the effects may vary by education technology type. In particular, the types of supplementary computer-assisted instruction programs that have dominated the classroom use of education technology in the past few decades are not producing educationally meaningful effects in reading for K-12 students. In contrast, innovative technology applications and integrated literacy interventions with the support of extensive professional development showed somewhat promising evidence. However, too few randomized studies for these promising approaches are available at this point for firm conclusions.

Full Report
Cheung, A., Slavin, R.E. (2012, April). The Effectiveness of Educational Technology Applications for Enhancing Reading Achievement in K-12 Classrooms: A Meta-Analysis. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University, Center for Research and Reform in Education.

Additional source:
Cheung, A. & Slavin, R. E. (2012). How features of educational technology programs affect student reading outcomes: A meta-analysis. Educational Research Review. 7(3), 198-215. DOI: 10.1016/j.bbr.2011.03.031

Additional Report
A separate review has been completed on the effectiveness of technology use for struggling readers.


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Full Report Upper Elementary Reading Full Report (PDF, 1.4 MB)
Educator's Summary Upper Elementary Reading Full Report (PDF, 237 KB)


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