The United States and other countries have, for the past few years, been intensely focused on bringing technology into the classroom. Kids love computers, and indeed, having access to the World Wide Web presents some fantastic learning opportunities. Programs like Khan Academy, Pratham, and more have developed innovative ways to help kids learn and study.
Unfortunately, recent studies are showing that students and schools that use more technology by and large actually have lower scores on math and reading tests. A recent article in Bloomberg Businessweek brought to light a disturbing fact about technology in the classroom: it isn’t working, after all. In fact, sometimes it makes things worse.
According to a study out of the University of Chicago, California’s technology rollout in the late 1990s extended Internet access with the result being no impact on learning outcomes. At all.
Another study from the Urban Institute studied the same type of tech rollout in North Carolina and found “modest but statistically significant and persistent negative impacts on student math and reading test scores.”
And in Portugal, Carnegie Mellon found that in schools that used more broadband, there were significant declines in test scores across the nation. Schools that had less access and Internet freedom, however, performed better than those with more. The article continues, showing again and again that technology either has no effect or a negative effect on learning: programs in the developing world, Peru, Costa Rica, and more have all seen similar results.
Yet, we continue to push for more access to technology, more computer labs, and more online classes. Why have we kept the idea in our heads that technology is the cure-all for education’s problems? These studies clearly show that it probably isn’t.
Using computers as an occasional learning tool can be fantastic—tool being the key word. As much as technology has advanced, the fact remains: it’s still not a suitable replacement for a qualified and passionate teacher.
Regardless of these findings, technology is going to be a thing in the classroom for the foreseeable future. The good news is that although technology affects student learning in many ways, not all of them are bad. Technology can be a benefit for education, too. The best thing educators can do is to be technologically savvy themselves so they can teach their students about the tools they’ll need in order to have a successful future.