Technology changes the classroom, not how students learn

JMU Headlines

by Ginny Cramer


Harrisonburg, Virginia — From artificial intelligence to digital concept maps, technology may be changing the classroom, but not how students learn. Meta-analytic studies on instructional technology have found that technology does not impact student learning.  

“What is most fascinating about the findings from the research on instructional technology is that the effect size – the magnitude of the impact on student learning, remains as it has for the past 30-plus years, zero. 

What we continue to find is that technology is not the influencer. The teacher’s decision about when and how to use technology is the influencer. Put differently, the teacher creates the impact, not the technology,” said John Almarode, a professor of education at James Madison University specializing in the science of learning.  

“The single most important and powerful influence on learning is the teacher,” he said.   

“There are lots of meta-analyses on instructional technology, and they gather it all together and put it in a big pile and they find that the impact is zero. Instead it's how it's used. For example, computer assisted instruction for individuals with special needs has a high impact, but it's how it's used that does it, not the technology itself.”

— John Almarode

Data bears out the preeminence of quality teaching beyond technology to implementing novel approaches, interventions and strategies. Preliminary findings of Almarode’s current meta-analytics research show that to succeed, teachers must implement strategies in a way that reflects the local context of the classroom. 

Looking ahead to the coming school year, Almarode expects changes in how technology is used in the classroom. That could include how teachers use technology to address some of the challenges currently facing learners.   

The effects of the pandemic can still be seen in the wide continuum of student readiness in the classroom for example. Teachers will need to scaffold and differentiate learning experiences and tasks so that learners at all levels of readiness can progress. Re-engaging students, too, presents an ongoing challenge. School attendance numbers were down last year in many parts of the country. Additionally, research demonstrates that attendance alone is not enough. Active participation, beginning with an initial successful learning experience, is what opens doors to student success.  

Technology will continue to have a role in the classroom. As new questions arise, such as how to handle the use of artificial intelligence for homework, the answers, Almarode thinks, will be found with teachers. “If AI can do the homework, it’s probably not good homework,” he says. Teachers will have to rethink the rigor of assignments.  

One downside of technology for both students and teachers? The loss of snow days. Almarode expects snow days to continue being replaced by virtual learning days in many parts of the country. “Is it something to be concerned about? No. Does it take the fun out of snow days? Yes,” he says.  

“Nowadays, you see it on the bottom of the ticker tape and you know Augusta County Schools, online learning day, Eastern Mennonite School, online learning day, and so now, the poor kids, they wake up, 6 inches of snow on the ground and guess what? Boom they are back on Zoom. So is it something to be concerned about? No. Does it take the fun out of snow days? Yes. Are we going to be ok? Yes we'll be fine.”

— John Almarode


Media contact: Ginny Cramer,, 540-568-5325

Back to Top

Published: Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Last Updated: Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Related Articles