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How Effective is Digital Educational Media? The Research on Home and School Use

by Monica Fuglei How Effective is the Use of Digital Educational Media?

My house is full of the “warm glowing warming glow” of screens. Between the television, tablet, and laptops, we have more access to digital media than we have people in the home. My daughter’s class is assigned their own laptop computers. Meanwhile,  parents, teachers, and administrators continue to hash out exactly what the role of digital media should be in learning.

How much is educational media used by children at home?

According to parents surveyed by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center, the availability of educational games, websites, and television shows is widespread. Lower price points on technology and increased overall ownership of devices reduce the digital divide. The majority of children viewed educational media over the television. Tablets and e-readers were found in two-thirds of surveyed homes, though they were not primarily used to read books.

Most digital media produced for preschoolers is educational

Early access to educational media appears to pay off, with the survey reporting that nearly 80 percent of preschool screen media is education-oriented. Parents also seem to believe that this exposure has significant benefits, but education-targeted media usage drops off as children age, with an overall average of about 44 percent of media viewed by two to 10-year-olds being characterized as “educational” by parents. The decrease in educational media use at home appears to coincide with children’s entry into the school system. 

How is digital media being used at school?

Schools provide access to educational media, even in known technology deserts, courtesy of school districts’ increased focus on this goal and monetary support from targeted grants. At the same time, educators are trying to figure out how to make educational media pay off in terms of increasing student performance and access, reducing overall cost, and making technology available to all.

Seven key findings on educational technology implementation

One support program, Project Red, provides policy and training support at all stages of the technology implementation process, helping educators get a firm grasp on how and when technology can enhance student learning. Their research into effective educational technology generated seven key findings that include: 

  • Properly implemented technology saves money
  • Online collaboration increases learning productivity and student engagement
  • Daily use of technology delivers the best return on investment

Among the examples they cite is the trend of school districts abandoning traditional textbooks for laptops and e-readers for overall cost savings. The organization also highlights a case where a student with an extended illness was able to attend classes via Skype to ensure that she had access to her educational resources. 

Digital Learning Day highlights education reform, college readiness

Last week, educators celebrated Digital Learning Day, an event created to highlight the college and career readiness that comes from access to the digital environment. A blog post in honor of Digital Learning Day discussed how educators can use technology to reform education in positive ways, including dynamic curriculum delivery and online tools that give students control over and responsibility for their own learning while also allowing them to understand their unique learning profiles. 

The technology benefits for educators include access to formative assessment that helps them identify struggling students and adapt curriculum or homework assignments accordingly. This increased flexibility could lead to an environment of more easily differentiated learners, who are receiving exactly the education they need.  


Monica Fuglei is a graduate of the University of Nebraska in Omaha and a current adjunct faculty member of Arapahoe Community College in Colorado, where she teaches composition and creative writing.

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