Essays on Technology in Education
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CitationYardley, Joshua. 2019. Essays on Technology in Education. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractThe three essays in this dissertation investigate the ways in which technology may affect a student’s academic performance or learning process. Each essay considers a different technology currently used in education.
The first essay estimates the effect of a statewide one-to-one laptop program in Maine middle and high schools on high school graduation rates. Using a synthetic controls approach, I show evidence that the laptop program increased high school graduation rates in the state by 3 to 4 percentage points, despite no sign of effects of the program on test scores. Results from a fixed effects model that exploits variation in the timing of the decisions of high schools to opt into the program suggest these improvements in the statewide graduation rate was driven by high schools’ decisions to adopt the laptop program rather than by some other contemporaneous shock in the state. The laptop program appears to be most successful in improving graduation rates in school districts with higher than average median household incomes but also higher than average poverty rates.
The second essay compares the efficacy of an online course to an otherwise identical in-person course using performance on a standardized test as the relevant outcome. The study analyzes a unique dataset from a standardized test preparation company that offers the same test-prep course online and in-person. Using drive time to the nearest test prep classroom as an instrument for a student’s decision to enroll in an online, rather than an in-person, class, I find that online courses lead to significantly lower scores than do in-person courses. This effect is almost entirely due to the negative effect of online courses on students with the lowest baseline scores at the beginning of the course. I find no effect of online courses on the students who start out with higher baseline scores.
The third essay examines the effect of using audience response systems (“clickers”) instead of hand raising to elicit feedback from students in a classroom. The experimental evidence presented in this study strongly suggests that the tally from a public show of hands consistently misrepresents the true knowledge or preferences of a class in ways that are predictable and systematic. Specifically, students raising their hands tend to herd and vote with the majority answer. Beyond impeding the teacher’s ability to assess her class, such herding threatens to diminish learning by limiting the level to which a student engages with the questions posed by the teacher.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:42029621
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