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Shedding Light in the Darkness

Are Computers in Schools Making Kids Dumber?

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The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has just released a study which looked at computer use among 15-year-olds across 31 nations and regions in 2012, and found that students who used computers more at school had both lower reading and lower math scores, as measured by PISA or Program for International Student Assessment.

The study analyzed school computer use three years ago when the average student across the world was using the Internet once a week, doing software drills once a month, and emailing once a month. But the highest-performing students were using computers in the classroom less than that.

The results show “no appreciable improvements” in reading, mathematics or science in the countries that had invested heavily in information technology.

“Those that use the Internet every day do the worst,” said Andreas Schleicher, OECD Director for Education and Skills, and author of “Students, Computers and Learning: Making the Connection,” the OECD’s first report to look at the digital skills of students around the world. The study controlled for income and race; between two similar students, the one who used computers more, generally scored worse. “Those students who use tablets and computers very often tend to do worse than those who use them moderately,” he reported.

Schleicher says school technology had raised “too many false hopes.”

Home computer use wasn’t as harmful to academic achievement. Many students in many high performing nations reported spending between one to two hours a day on a computer outside of school. Across the 31 nations and regions, the average 15-year-old spent more than two hours a day on the computer.

In a press briefing on the report, Schleicher noted that many of the the top 10 scoring countries and regions on the PISA test, such as Singapore and Shanghai, China, are cautious about giving computers to students during the school day.

“One of the most disappointing findings of the report is that the socio-economic divide between students is not narrowed by technology, perhaps even amplified,” Schleicher reported.

He said making sure all children have a good grasp of reading and maths is a more effective way to close the gap than “access to hi-tech devices” And he warned classroom technology can be a distraction and result in pupils cutting and pasting “prefabricated” homework answers from the internet. “Cutting and pasting information from Google they’re not going to learn a lot.”

The study shows “there is no single country in which the internet is used frequently at school by a majority of students and where students’ performance improved”.

http://www.oecd.org/publications/students-computers-and-learning-9789264239555-en.htm

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