By Michael J. Petrilli
For decades, education technophiles have envisioned a future wherein gee-whiz devices and engaging digital applications whisk students away from the doldrums of traditional classroom instruction and into a fun world of beeping computers, self-paced lessons, and cloud-based collaboration.
That may yet come to pass—and at some outlier schools, is already here—but don’t be surprised if the true transformative power of education technology is most evident when it comes to something old-fashioned: basic education research. The declining cost and easy availability of substantial computing power may enable us finally to unlock the black box of the classroom, giving scholars and teachers much more insight into what is and isn’t working. Technology can do more than just keep students engaged; it can equip teachers, school and district leaders, and policymakers with the sort of insights and analytics that can help them make better decisions for students.