Doubts about school computer use

Educause referenced an article on the BBC News site today called Doubts about school computer use . The Educause newsletter states…

    A recent study of the effects of computer use on teenage students suggests that increased computer use may result in lower academic performance. The authors of the study, Thomas Fuchs and Ludger Woessmann of the CESifo economic research organization in Munich, looked at data on many thousands of students in 31 countries. Initial results indicated a positive relationship between computers and academic achievement, specifically in math and reading. When the results were adjusted, however, to compensate for the higher levels of wealth and education in homes where computers are more likely to be present, the data showed that the more computers there are in the home, the lower the student’s performance. In addition, despite showing higher test scores for increased time spent using computers at home, the study showed that the more time students spent using computers at school, the lower their test scores. According to the report, “the initial positive pattern on computer availability at school simply reflects that schools with better computer availability also feature other positive school characteristics.”

Reports like this create concern for me. While I acknowledge the need for a critical review of computer use in schools, the underpinning assumptions being made in this research must also be critically looked at. In this case, there is an assumption that a direct link must exist between computer use and achievement (as determined by a conventional testing regime that has evolved to suit the existing pedagogy of face-to-face and book-based learning). What this report reinforce is that access to computers, along with books in libraries, science equipment and other educational facilities, will increase the likelihood of better learning outcomesfor students. On their own, however, without the thoughtful integration into carefully planned programmes of learning, such resources are unlikely to produce any benefit, and, in the case of computers, may result in a considerable amount of “non-productive” engagement, potentially culminating in lower achievement levels.
The main problem with this article, I feel, lies in the title – it doesn’t, for me, raise doubts about school computer use, rather it confirms doubts about the claims made by some about school compuer use!
Intersting to note the following, also from the BBC News site…
Games deserve a place in class
Games help street teens learn
Computer exam even more popular

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