When does technology improve learning?

Document Type

Book Chapter


Cambridge University Press

Place of Publication

Port Melbourne, Victoria


Henderson, M., & Romeo, G.


School of Education / Centre for Schooling and Learning Technologies




Newhouse, C.P. (2015). When does technology improve learning? In Henderson, M., & Romeo, G. (Eds.) Teaching and digital technologies: Big issues and critical questions (pp. 197-213). Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press.

Book Available here.


Computers started appearing in Australian schools during the 1970s but for a long time the uptake was slow. Now, in 2015, many schools have more computers than students, representing a big investment in digital technologies. Quite rightly, teachers and parents sometimes ask whether the investment is worth it – has it helped students learn better? You may think this would be an easy question to answer ... just assess whether students doing a particular learning task with computers achieved better results than other students doing the same task without computers. However, it is not that easy because, first, it is difficult to measure learning and, second, there are so many factors that influence a student’s learning. As a result, it is nearly impossible to determine with certainty whether using the computer made the difference. Nevertheless, research into whether using digital technologies improves learning, and under what conditions, remains a worthwhile undertaking.

This chapter examines why digital technologies are used in schools, and how that use may improve learning. It refers to what has been learned from research, and describes how teachers may use a critical and evaluative framework to guide their decisions about when and how to use these technologies. In particular it discuss the concept of meaningful uses of the technology. The aim of the chapter is to help you with decisions you need to make about when and how to use digital technologies to support the learning of your students.

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