Technology has been in the school classroom and in children’s homes since, well, technology arrived way back in the days of electricity. Has technology made learning easier? Are students getting a better education with modern technology?
No. When it comes to educating our children, it’s my experience that technology is not the panacea that most people think it is. My introduction to technology in schools started with the film projector. Since then we’ve seen a steady influx of technological gadgets enter the classroom; records, video tape, cassette recorders and players, and now the internet and mass adoption of computers, smartphones, and tablets.
I read a report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) which mirrors my own experience as a teacher over the past 30 years. From the BBC report:
Frequent use of computers in schools is more likely to be associated with lower results.
On the other hand, those who do not use modern technology in schools (or very little) fare far worse than those who use technology sparingly. That may seem like a paradox but it’s not. The report points out what should be obvious but is not, partly because teachers and school officials are often ‘dazzled’ by the prospects of utilizing technology in schools, without recognizing the fundamental reasons why students do well or poorly.
Good students come from good teachers and involved parents.
These five items were the takeaways that told me that computers, smartphones, and tablets in schools need to be regulated, monitored, and managed to become truly effective tools for learning.
- Students who use computers very frequently at school get worse results
- Students who use computers moderately at school, such as once or twice a week, have “somewhat better learning outcomes” than students who use computers rarely
- The results show “no appreciable improvements” in reading, mathematics or science in the countries that had invested heavily in information technology
- High achieving school systems such as South Korea and Shanghai in China have lower levels of computer use in school
- Singapore, with only a moderate use of technology in school, is top for digital skills
In short, computer usage and internet connections can be useful and beneficial, but like everything else in life, only when used in moderation, and only when used properly as part of a thorough curriculum. Those countries with the highest number of computers per student fared worse on test scores than those countries with a lower number of computers per student (to a point; and mostly in developed nations).
I’m not saying parents should throw away their children’s Macs, PCs, iPhones, or iPads, but usage should be limited, monitored, and managed, rather than, as television has done all too frequently in the past, become an easy, mobile babysitter.