Here’s some interesting data: More than two-thirds of U.S. public school districts provide wireless internet access, computing devices and interactive whiteboards, according to the CDW-G 2011 21st-Century Classroom Report. In order to fully integrate these powerful learning tools, however, educators still need a comprehensive set of best practices for effective use of technology in the classroom.

A new study of 58 Missouri school districts plans to address this need and provide a roadmap on how technology and professional development can improve student performance. The research is a collaboration between the eMINTS National Center, which offers research-based professional development courses to K-20 educators, the American Institutes for Research and private-sector partners, led by CDW-G. The effort is underwritten by an Investing in Innovation Fund (i3) grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

“Schools are not able to provide teachers with as much professional development as they probably need,” says Monica Beglau, executive director of eMINTS. “In order to achieve the results schools want from technology, you need a long-term plan for professional development. Three or four days of laptop training is not enough,” she insists. “I think the study results will show that the best approach is a significant, long-term professional development program.”

eMINTS professional development uses interactive group sessions and in-classroom coaching and mentoring to help educators integrate technology into their teaching. The eMINTS instructional model has demonstrated positive effects on student achievement in more than 3,500 classrooms across the United States.

During the three-year study, researchers will track teacher progress through annual classroom observation and surveys. Researchers will also measure student progress and performance using scores from Missouri state assessments, a 21st-century skills assessment from Learning.com and student surveys. Seventh- and eighth-grade classrooms in 58 high-need rural districts in Missouri are participating in the program. Districts were randomly assigned to one of three groups with varying levels of professional development programs and technology.

eMINTS and CDW-G deployed a total of 2,696 student notebooks from Lenovo and 201 teacher notebooks from Lenovo to Group 1 and Group 2 districts. Districts in Group 3 will receive student and teacher devices when the research is complete in 2015. For teachers, the devices are the center of classroom instruction, controlling the classroom technology, and serving as teachers’ personal learning devices for professional development. Student use the devices in each core content area – language arts, mathematics, science and social studies – to research, write and learn.

Data collection will be complete in the spring of 2014, and analysis will be published in January 2015.  For more information about the program, click here: http://www.emints.org/.