The IPI-Technology Component (January, 2014)

Even as I observed the excitement among educators during the development and field testing of the IPI-Technology component in high-tech schools that were already using the IPI Process, I had no idea the process, when implemented, would be viewed so positively.  That fact alone made the full year invested in the development and field-testing of the IPI-T Component worthwhile.   Though the number of schools using the IPI-T process pales with the thousands of schools that have used the basic IPI Process, it is evident to me that the IPI-T has the potential to exceed the impact of the basic IPI Process, both in numbers of schools using the process as well as the educational impact on students. 

The potential of the IPI-T rests in the details of the data provided and the realization of the degree of impact the infusion of technology across the school can have on student engagement, student cognitive thinking, and student disengagement.  The data sets are too small at this time to write articles and present juried papers at national and international professional research conferences; however, the volume of data grow each month and the preliminary analyses are clearly interesting.   I will share some early observations with the understanding that readers of this website shall take these observations as NOT CONCLUSIVE.  Though the data sets are simply too small at this time to form conclusions, we can look at early trends and conjecture. So let me conjecture for a few moments and in a year or so we will get to look back and see if the analyses of larger sets of data confirm these conjectures. 

My first observation is a generalization that students appear to enjoy their learning activities when they are using their tablets or laptops as part of the learning experience (clearly more so compared to when the technology is not being used by the students).  While the concept of “enjoy” is a obviously nebulous, and the observations that they “seem to enjoy” is more imprecise, it is still a valid perspective that I have formed after thousands of classroom observations using the IPI-T process.  The students just seem more into their work when they are using their tablets or laptops.

A second observation, which is about the presence of higher-order/deeper engagement, is based on sample sizes too small to generalize to populations, but too prevalent not to be noted.  The percentages of IPI codes for higher-order/deeper engagement (IPI Categories 5 and 6) are greater in “high-tech” classrooms compared to “no-tech” classrooms.  And not only are the IPI code percentages higher, but head counts of students engaged in HO/D is also higher in the “high-tech” classes.  Further, the differences are so pronounced that I am predicting statistical significance once the sample sizes are large enough to appropriately test.  In other words, I believe that in just a matter of months I will be able to document that HO/D thinking is clearly more common among students using technology as part of the learning experience compared to students in classes where the students are not using technology to support their learning. 

A third observation is related to the ratios of lower-order/surface engagement compared to higher-order/deeper engagement as measured by the IPI categories.  I look at this issue first form a “school-wide perspective” of 1:1 schools compared to non 1:1 schools, meaning all observations made in 1:1 schools.   From prior studies (not linked to the IPI-Technology data) I have described the ratios typical in K-12 schools as between 4 and 5 to 1 (4/5:1).   That ratio has consistently been highest in high schools and lowest in elementary schools.  The ratio of LO/S to HO/D in the 1:1 high-tech use schools has been averaging closer to 3:1 than 4/5:1.  I think that difference will also be statistically significant once the data set is robust enough to appropriately compute the differences.

A fourth observation is based on a study of “high-tech classes” compared to “no-tech” classes in high-tech 1:1 schools.  The differences are even more impressive in this look at learning in classes where technology is being used by the students compared to classes in the same school where technology is not being used.  The average ratio is approximately 1.3:1 in the classes where students are using technology as part of the learning experience compared to an average ratio of  6.0:1 in classes not using technology.  Such numbers are clearly different.  Even though the data sets are currently small, I can readily predict that the LO/S to HO/D ratios differences in tech classrooms will soon be documented as statistically significant.

A fifth observation about student engagement in high-tech classes is rather unique among our IPI findings over the years.  The percentages of category 1 (student disengagement) for the overall IPI classroom code and for the number of students by head counts who are disengaged, is slightly higher in high-tech middle school and high school classrooms than is the case in non-tech classrooms.  In other words, when technology is prevalent throughout the classroom, there is a slightly greater tendency for students to be disengaged (only at the MS and HS levels).  The anecdotal evidence related to this statistical finding is, perhaps, not too surprising.  When students have laptops and tablets open on their desks and are they are supposed to be using them for their work, they have temptation and the means for distraction, at their fingertips…and some succumb to that temptation.   In classes without the technology, those same temptations are not readily available and disengagement is not so readily disguised as appropriate engagement.

A final observation is related to teachers’ knowledge of technology and their ability to infuse the use of technology into the learning experience for students.  In many 1:1 schools, in fact in almost all, some teachers seem to embrace the availability of technology and build that availability into the learning experience, while others seemed to avoid the infusion of technology.  And as one might guess, repeated observations of the same classes throughout the school day seemed to affirm that the some teachers chose to teach without that infusion while others tried but were less skilled and yet others were highly skilled themselves with technology and were proficient in the infusion of technology into their lesson designs.  Anecdotally, it was also evident that a significant number of the “category 1” data points were coming from classrooms where teachers were not adept at the use of technology but made the effort to build it into their classes and did so unsuccessfully.  Obviously, professional development and experience and prior knowledge with technology were factors in the more effective and less effective infusion of tech into the learning setting.

With regard to the observation about disengagement, I am obligated to note that based on the sample of classrooms thus far observed, the overwhelming “positive” evidence that HO/D is much higher in high-tech classrooms far outweighs the “negative” evidence of small differences in disengagement.  If, in fact, these findings continue to hold true as the data sets grow more robust, the resultant impact on student thinking in high-tech classrooms should have major impact on student learning in the coming years.  While this optimistic perspective must be tempered with the minimal data set upon which it is based, it must also be tempered on the potential that the “newness” of having technology in the classroom will wear off and the magnitude of the differences between high-tech and no-tech classes will wane.  However, based on looking at existing data in schools that have been 1:1 for two or more years compared to 1:1 schools who are but months or a year into the 1:1 process, the positive changes in the data do not seem to wane, but rather increase.

Jerry Valentine

January 3, 2014