6 Chapter 6 – Are students surviving or thriving as a result of increased use and resource allocation for educational technologies?

A guided conversation focusing on elementary and post-secondary education.

Pugh, J., & Smith, D.


In this chapter we look into increased resource allocation for educational technologies at the elementary and post-secondary level.  Through researching literature, interviewing professionals, and having a guided discussion using our careers as an Elementary Administrator (Darren, Principal Saint Pius X Catholic Elementary School) and a Program Manager (Jena, The Ohio State University) we hope to answer the question: Are students surviving or thriving as a result of increased resource allocation for educational technologies?  Our guided discussion focuses on a variety of topics surrounding how elementary and post secondary institutions allocate funding for educational technologies, monitor the resource allocation, monitor student usage of technologies, using data to support if students are surviving or thriving, and finally interview practitioners to help answer our research question.


Thriving is defined as flourishing or prospering where surviving is defined as remaining alive.  In this chapter we look to answer the question: are students surviving or thriving as a result of increased use and resource allocation for educational technologies?  Education is big business, “tech giants are expected to earn 21 billion a year by 2020 from their ‘educational’ support equipment and programs in 2017” (Onickel, 2018). Constantly teachers and professors are being sent to seminars and professional development classes, for the next big wave of technology that is going to instantly change education. As Onickel states: “it takes work, and it takes time. There are no shortcuts or ‘magic bullets.’ Sometimes it can be mentally and emotionally draining as students attempt to overcome challenges. Tears may flow when something just doesn’t come the first time, or the second time, or even the third. Some students need to try a fourth time, take a break, and go for a fifth or even a sixth try” (Onickel, 2018).

In this chapter we look into increased resource allocation for educational technologies at the elementary and post-secondary level.  Through researching literature, interviewing professionals, and having a guided discussion using our careers as an Elementary Administrator (Darren, Principal Saint Pius X Catholic Elementary School) and a Program Manager (Jena, The Ohio State University) we hope to answer our question.  Our guided discussion focuses on a variety of topics surrounding how elementary and post secondary institutions allocate funding for educational technologies, monitor the resource allocation, monitor student usage of technologies, using data to support if students are surviving or thriving, and finally interview practitioners to help answer our research question.  Through our interviews with practitioners we examine how the terms “thriving” and “surviving” differ by context and individuals.

Resource Allocation

The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) uses its General Revenue Fund to fund the majority of primary and secondary education in the state of Ohio. Profits from the Ohio Lottery also assist in funding the over six hundred public districts across the state. Once the budget is set money is allocated to all of the public districts from the state level other funds are distributed to the public districts from the Federal Government, for example ESSA funds.  ESSA stands for Every Student Succeeds Act. As far as private school resource allocation is concerned in the case of Saint Pius X , we are allocated Auxiliary Funds (combination of state and federal money) from our public district bi-annually (Reynoldsburg City Schools). These funds can only be spent in certain ways.  The two main was Auxiliary Funds can be spent are: 1) Materials for Students/Staff and 2) Personnel. The majority of money allocated to St. Pius X is spent on books, software, and educational technology. For example last year we purchased over 200 Chromebooks (for student use), a coding program, and replaced older Smart Boards with new Smart TV’s. Two years ago we were allocated nearly $900,000 in Auxiliary Funding, all of my spending has to be approved by the local district (Diocese of Columbus) and the Public District (Reynoldsburg City Schools). Technology is extremely expensive and requires professional development for staff and so the majority of our resources are devoted to it.



Examples of Allocations Toward Education Technology in our Professions

Current examples at Saint Pius X and Ohio State of allocation of funds toward educational technology. For example 1:1 Chromebooks 3rd-8th grade, this money comes from Auxiliary Funds from the state and allocated to use by our public district (Reynoldsburg). In the Fisher College of Business, funding has been allocated to the Undergraduate Leadership & Engagement Office to utilize a licensed form of CampusLabs – FisherU – for student engagement management, including a co-curricular transcript feature for students. (DS/JP)

Impact of Technology on Students

In this section we share research that supports students “thriving” and “surviving” based on educational technology research. Educational technology can be used to supplement learning in the classroom and even facilitate fully-online learning environments. Recent research has explored how educational technology impacts students’ learning whether through the development of critical thinking to overall academic performance. There are strengths and weaknesses to the increased use of technology; this section also reviews mental challenges for students posed by the increased use of technology.

In the last twenty years or so the United States of America educational system has been playing catch up in terms of educational technology. No Child Left Behind Act which was designed with the intent to break down socioeconomic and racial barriers that have plagued elementary education for years.  In 2015 NCLBA was replaced with the Every Student Succeeds Act. Legislative support and billions of dollars being spent on technology have helped students across the country, however technology alone will not do the job, as pedagogy and professional development for staff also play major roles in impacting students.  As Harris states: “While 1:1 Technology is being adopted at a rapid pace across the state and country, one must keep in mind that the device that is used in the classroom for student learning cannot simply be a replacement of best practices in teaching and learning for students” (Harris, Al-Bataineh, & Al-Bataineh, 2016). One study that yielded results that students are “thriving” initially with concern toward technology allotments was done in the state of Illinois, in two fourth grade classrooms at two different schools of lower socioeconomic makeup. The two classrooms were given 1:1 laptops for students and test results were compared to traditional fourth grade classrooms as well. Initially students who had received a laptop scored higher than those who did not however in the end the scores pretty much evened out.


Academic Performance, Critical Thinking and Learning Effectiveness

Educational technology provides new ways to engage students with new information and ways of learning. In classes and while studying, college students are often engaged in multiple types of technology ranging from educational technology to personal technologies. This subsection explores research on technology’s effects on student learning and academic performance.

 In a study on student multitasking, Bellur, Nowak, and Hull (2015) found that students who “multitask” in class have lower GPAs on average. This finding is consistent with Uzun and Kilis (2019) whose study also found that students engaged with more personal technologies and multitasked at higher levels and therefore had lower overall academic performance. Wentworth and Middleton (2014) found the same as participants in their research who reported higher frequency of personal technology use also exhibited lower academic performance. The findings of these studies makes logical sense as the distractions of internet browsing, texting, gaming, and video-streaming take away from time and energy spent engaging deeply with course material.

In a study on college student technology use and its relation to student engagement, self-directed learning, and academic performance, the survey results of 761 participants showed that while technology use is positively correlated with self-directed learning and student engagement, academic performance is not affected by technology use (Rashid & Asghar, 2016). This finding addresses an ongoing question in educational technology as to whether its utilization positively affects academic achievement outside of providing new avenues for engaging students in the learning process.

In relation to the development of critical thinking from the student perspective, educational technology has been shown to benefit nursing students by providing additional outlets to engage in the learning process (Swart, 2017). This mixed methods study examined the use of online discussion-based forums in addition to an in-class system of responding to demonstrate critical thinking; participants reported benefiting from multiple options for exhibiting this learning as different methods align with personal preferences.

Photo- Taken by Darren Smith, Saint Pius X Elementary School 2019.

Distraction, Mental Health and Student Engagement

Despite positive gains in connecting with material in new ways, the growth of technology use both academically and personally can be detrimental to students. As discussed in relation to academic performance, the increase in overall technology use can have positive effects on methods of learning, but negative effects on academic performance when personal technology leads to multitasking in the classroom and as students study less efficiently or effectively. This subsection explores how technology can affect students’ engagement in the classroom and their overall mental health.

In a study of 351 community college students, Aaron and Lipton (2017) sought to understand the effect of personal technology use on short-term learning following a video in class. Students completed a short quiz on the video content in addition to answering an anonymous question of whether they interacted with personal technology during the viewing. Quiz responses were also considered in the context of individual classes’ technology policy restrictions; classes with higher restrictions earned higher scores on the quiz. In their discussion, the authors also considered the effects of students being distracted by peer technology use in class (Aaron & Lipton, 2017).

Despite this, in a recent literature review on personal technology in the classroom, Schneider (2018) acknowledges that a technology ban in college classrooms is not a viable solution and recommends the following: 1) instructors should not view students’ personal technology use as a personal attack, 2) educators must explain how academic performance can be negatively impacted by the use of personal technology, 3) instructors should focus on the larger class abiding by technologies policies and not the smaller number of those choosing to ignore them, 4) instructors will do better to manage students’ personal technology use instead of eliminating it, 5) instructors should “promote structured use” (p. 17) of personal technology, such as engaging students by requesting they look up a term for the class during discussion, and 6) instructors must remember the history of education, personal technology is not the first exhibition of distraction in the classroom.

As we consider whether students are surviving or thriving as a result of increased use of technology, Flatt’s (2013) literature review highlighted technology’s role in mental health. Considerations for technology use were given in terms of internet use, personal cell phones, access to pornography online, and concerns for technological addiction with relation to each of these. Findings from this review also showed that mental health counsellors on campus believe that “the dependence on social technology is partly to blame for students’ inability to handle social pressures and the increased responsibility that accompanies university life” (Flatt, 2013, p. 8).

Practitioner Beliefs, Experiences, and Perceptions on Use of Technology in Education

Educational technologies are only effective when practitioners are appropriately supported through training and utilization within their curricula. Varying levels of support in implementation and maintaining use over time affect practitioner experiences as well as the students who learn from them. This section provides a look into the practitioner experience with educational technologies and their effectiveness in carrying out the academic mission of both elementary and post-secondary education.

A recent study from England examined faculty members who cite lack of time, equipment, or skills as barriers to their engagement with educational technologies in the classroom (Loughlin, 2017). Later in the survey, these same faculty exhibited behaviors and competencies with personal technologies that would suggest their ability to also adopt educational technology in their practice. Loughlin posited that the concern instead may stem from resentment of feeling forced to incorporate new technologies while rewards are not given for technological innovation as a part of performance review metrics.

In the Technology column for Public Services Quarterly, Loos (2017) discussed librarians’ role in working with technology and students on college campuses. Loos highlighted a workshop on the promotion of digital wellness for students, taking into account previously mentioned concerns of potential negative effects of technology on mental health (Flatt, 2013) in addition to physical effects like straining hands, necks, eyes and sleep quality. The focus of this wellness workshop was avoiding “digital burnout” (p. 33), helping students define healthy boundaries for technology use, and understanding the detriment of multitasking with technology.

(DS) At the elementary level, Darren interviewed four Junior High teachers from Saint Pius X and two Junior High Students from public schools and posed the following questions:

  1. What do the words “thriving “ and “surviving” mean to you in an educational sense?
  2. In you professional domain as a student or teacher/professor do you feel that students are  thriving surviving as a result of increased use and resource allocation for educational technologies? Please provide examples, if possible.

The results from these interviews were very interesting and provide wonderful insight as to how instructors interpret “thriving” and “surviving” in their respected domains. Majority of the teachers defined “thriving” as exceeding what is being graded and “surviving” as absorbing basic information.  All of the teachers mentioned lack of motivation or effort as the main reason students survive. As one Jr. High teacher stated:

“Students in my classroom are thriving because of educational technologies. They are more motivated to learn because of the many uses of technology. Students who would not have reviewed for assessments on their own are now reviewing using game-type programs (Quizizz, Quizlet, Kahoot). They enjoy the competition, and in the process, they review the material. Additionally, ever since using Chromebooks on a regular basis, students’ written responses on assessments and writing assignments have lengthened, become more detailed, and indicative of their knowledge because typing is faster and easier than handwriting their thoughts. Students who struggled in the past because of writing deficits or unorganized thoughts are now able to express themselves more fully and thoughtfully while making edits and revisions (fairly) painlessly. Having the Chromebooks has been a  game-changer for my instruction, assessment, and classroom practices, and I see how the students benefit daily.” (Steph, Jr. High Science Teacher).

Many of the teachers interviewed also mentioned that many ed tech applications make their job more manageable, regardless of the painful professional development typically associated with it. As one Jr. High teacher stated, “Through electronic grading students are able to receive instant results and parents are also kept abreast of any changes (positive or negative).  Students are also able to receive individualized reinforcement or enrichment activities that allows the students a better opportunity to achieve the standards. I also believe that students are able to receive information and data in a manner that is creative and flexible when electronic technology is used to deliver information that previously may have been given in a lecture format.” (Patty, Jr. High ELA).  From my interviews I was able to gather that teachers like the upside of technology but realize it takes strong pedagogy and classroom management along with technology to impact student learning.

Teacher Interview:

Utilization of Educational Technology

Educational technology takes a number of forms in elementary and collegiate settings including classroom instruction to behavior management. This section considers the use of specific technologies such as ePortfolios and Technology Enhanced Learning environments and programs used to curb cheating. In the classroom, higher education has moved to Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) and blended learning environments and even fully online courses. Research has shown the best TEL environments must be have a student-focused design and that practitioners should consider students’ intrinsic motivations for effectively utilizing the technology (Ifinedo, Pyke & Anwar, 2018). Additional research on how students utilize a variety of lecture resources has shown different populations utilizing resources at different rates, such as female and older students favoring digital resources instead of lecture attendance (O’Brien & Verma, 2019). Expanding this research would show whether this is generalizable across institutional types and students’  academic focus areas.

Another digital demonstration of learning occurs through ePortfolios which have gained popularity in recent years. Through these, students reflect on their experiences through text, photographs, and videos. ePortfolios are especially beneficial for contextualizing co- and extra-curricular learning; they are used at The Ohio State University for all Honors & Scholars students, which includes nearly 40% of undergraduates. Research on these has shown that students persist in utilizing them when they have meaningful, authentic projects and receive valuable feedback throughout the process (Thibodeaux, Cummings & Harapnuik, 2017), in addition to facilitating a growth mindset (Singer-Freeman & Bastone, 2017).

To curb cheating, both K-12 and higher education utilize educational technologies that scan student work and ensure authenticity. At The Ohio State University, programs like Proctorio and Lockdown Browser support educators. In the elementary setting, GoGuardian is used at St. Pius X.


Many of these new learning technologies can also be utilized through student-assigned tablets. The Ohio State University has started the Digital Flagship initiative to deploy iPads to all incoming first-year students. At St. Pius X we have worked hard to balance educational technology with traditional learning. On the administrative level we use SchoolSpeak as our way to communicate to parents, this allows us to send email and SMS blasts to the masses and post grades. Daily: teachers across all grade levels make use of a wide variety of educational technologies for example, interactive smartboards, 3-D printing, Kahoot, Accelerated Reader, and I-Ready to name a few.



Through research , interviewing practitioners/students, and this guided discussion we have taken a deep look into: Are students surviving or thriving as a result of increased use and resource allocation for educational technologies?  We came to the conclusion that thriving and surviving depends greatly on the instructor or professor instructing students.  Educational technologies can enhance or hinder learning  depending on the pedagogical skills of the teacher and the way they build relationships and use technology in association with strong teaching practices.


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ESLTECH 6223 Issues and Practices in Learning Technologies 2019 Copyright © 2019 by ESLTECH 6223 Class. All Rights Reserved.

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