School Computer Investment ‘Isn’t Helping Pupils’

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Heavy investment in schoolroom IT is not helping pupils, OECD think tank report claims

A global study has warned that heavy investment in schoolroom IT is not actually helping pupils.

The controversial findings come from a report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) think tank, and also revealed that using too much technology in schools can actually lower standards.

False Hope?

Education, school © Poznyakov Shutterstock 2012The warning from the OECD came after it conducted its first PISA assessment of digital skills around the world.

It found that even countries which have invested heavily in information and communication technologies (ICT) in schools, have seen no noticeable improvement in their performances in PISA results for reading, mathematics or science.

“Ensuring that every child reaches a baseline level of proficiency in reading and mathematics will do more to create equal opportunities in a digital world than solely expanding or subsidising access to high-tech devices and services,” said the OECD.

That comes despite the fact that many countries around the world invest significant sums of money for school computers.

For example, the global spend on technology in schools is estimated at a staggering $27bn (£17.4bn), but the OECD is controversially saying that this investment is not achieving value for money.

According to the OECD, students who use computers moderately at school tend to have somewhat better learning outcomes than students who use computers rarely. But significantly, it said that students who use computers very frequently at school do much worse, even after accounting for social background and student demographics.

“School systems need to find more effective ways to integrate technology into teaching and learning  to provide educators with learning environments that support 21st century pedagogies and provide children with the 21st century skills they need to succeed in tomorrow’s world,” said Andreas Schleicher, OECD director for education and skills.

“Technology is the only way to dramatically expand access to knowledge,” said Schleicher. “To deliver on the promises technology holds, countries need to invest more effectively and ensure that teachers are at the forefront of designing and implementing this change.”

The findings also points out that high achieving school systems such as South Korea and Shanghai in China, tend to have lower levels of computer use in school. Singapore meanwhile, which only has a moderate use of technology in school, is top for digital skills.

“If you look at the best-performing education systems, such as those in East Asia, they’ve been very cautious about using technology in their classrooms,” Schleicher was quoted by the BBC as saying.

Schleicher also warned that classroom technology can be a distraction and result in pupils cutting and pasting “prefabricated” homework answers from the Internet.

Education Tech

He also warned that the findings of the report should not be used as an “excuse” not to use technology, but as a spur to finding a more effective approach. Schleicher pointed to the easy way that digital textbooks can be updated, as a good example of how online technology could be better than traditional methods.

The tech industry has some well known players in the education market.

In July Microsoft launched a new Minecraft site for educators, after it claimed the game can help students learn a number of skills in the classroom.

Earlier this year, the Vodafone Foundation lifted the lid on its Instant Classroom, a digital ‘school in a box’ intended to bring education to children and young adults in refugee camps.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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