Such an opinion can harm new technologies in education, says the scientific Director of the Institute of education Higher school of Economics Isak Frumin. He told RG why many online tools are inefficient and how to check their quality.

Frumin, why remote technology so hard “prescribed” in education?

Isak froumin: there are several problems. Some expected, for example, low Internet speed, lack of computers and gadgets. On these issues we knew long before the pandemic. Something can be attributed to force majeure. But we saw that some of the digital educational products turned out to be useless or not effective in the “real online”, if I may say so. We see the deficit of what is needed, and a surplus that does not work. When we discuss unusual ways of treatment, serious scientists say, “No, no, wait. Before you judge the effectiveness of the vaccine, you need to conduct a clinical trial”. The same “clinical trial” is needed in education.

You are talking about experiments?

Isak froumin: is Now fifteen years worldwide “gold standard” in educational research, as well as in the natural Sciences, it is simply an experiment. The proof that the same students under the same conditions the new method works better. Experiments are needed to firmly prove this was the cause of improvement, deterioration or no result. Without such an analysis it is impossible today to assess any educational products.

Instead, today we are trying to establish the relationship between the two processes. For example: failed in schools, the Internet, distributed electronic copies of textbooks in a year – the average unified state exam score increased. But the second does not follow from the first! There is a textbook example like this about communication: “Everyone who ate cucumbers died.” But we do understand that cucumbers were not the cause of death. And in education we cannot say, for example, that the introduction of chess lessons develop children’s logical thinking. You need to prove it in the experiment. Our Institute from the very beginning took on a “Board” the word “conclusiveness”, we are looking for is evidence-based ways to improve education.

show your “clinical studies”?

Isak froumin: Rather unexpected conclusion of our research staff Igor Chirikov, Tatiana Semenova, Natalia Malashonok together with colleagues from Stanford and Berkeley. Compared the effectiveness of different forms of training to Russian of students of engineering specialties and found that properly constructed online and blended learning can be as effective as traditional face-to-face form. The study involved more than 300 students within two months. Quite comparable to a large-scale clinical trials.

If the experimental methods are so good, why not pass them through all educational products?

Isak froumin: unfortunately, we have to admit: we have no culture of evidence-based assessment of the effectiveness of various technologies in education. One company, knowing that we do not guarantee “a positive result”, refused to cooperate. But its educational products go to our children.

by the Way, is the HSE master’s program “Evidence-based educational development” is one of the few in the world where a compulsory course of experimental design. All of our graduate students necessarily learn. I hope that after some time in Russia will be a “critical mass” of people for whom proven the effectiveness of educational products will be a mandatory criterion. And after that will begin to change and improve all the solutions and tools in the field of education.

But now many digital products come in the school without experiments. How to be?

Isak froumin: to be Honest, in an emergency, and we were in it, sometimes not until you check. We have to rely on common sense and the experience of other users. But still with such a large use of digital technologies in education experiments are needed.

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Jennifer Alvarez is an investigative journalist and is a correspondent for European Union. She is based in Zurich in Switzerland and her field of work include covering human rights violations which take place in the various countries in and outside Europe. She also reports about the political situation in European Union. She has worked with some reputed companies in Europe and is currently contributing to USA News as a freelance journalist. As someone who has a Masters’ degree in Human Rights she also delivers lectures on Intercultural Management to students of Human Rights. She is also an authority on the Arab world politics and their diversity.