A world-first report suggests an over-reliance of computers in schools isn’t actually making our kids smarter. In fact, it may be doing the opposite. But it appears Australia may be bucking the trend.
For many parents, when we’re researching future schools for our children, we want to know how up-to-date their technology facilities are. We want our children to be at the forefront by being taught on the latest computers, with a large emphasis on learning new technology, because it’s what they’ll need to get ahead. But it’s a falsehood, according to the OECD’s latest evidence.
In the end, great learning comes down to great teaching, not great technology, according to the report, Students, Computers and Learning: Making The Connection. The OECD’s education director, Andreas Schleicher says in the report that, “students who use computers very frequently at school do a lot worse in most learning outcomes, even after accounting for social background and student demographics”. And it’s a particularly sobering study for Australians, with the report finding our students are the most likely to use computers at school.
The reason? Technology sometimes distracts from human engagement (such as between a teacher and student), which is vital for deep understanding and higher-order thinking.
“In the end, technology can amplify great teaching, but great technology cannot replace poor teaching. If we want students to become smarter than a smartphone, we need to think harder about the pedagogies we are using to teach them.’’
The analysis of data from more than half a million 15-year-olds in OECD countries, also found that students who spend six or more hours on the internet each day are twice as likely to feel lonely at school. Australian students are spending twice as long online each day at school than the other countries in the study.
Save Our Schools Australia says the report’s finding are a clear example of Australia’s heavy investment in computer-based technology in schools failing to improve student performance in reading, mathematics and science. However the study does point out that Australian students are a rare exception to daily browsing being associated with lower performance.
Mr Schleicher says there is a fundamental place for technology in schools, because technology is the only way we can “dramatically expand access to knowledge”.
He says, “Why should students be limited to a textbook that was printed two years ago, and maybe designed ten years ago, when they could have access to the world’s best and most up-to-date textbook?”
In conclusion, the report says that successfully using technology in education isn’t really about having access to the best technology. The key is, “teachers, school leaders and other decision-makers who have the vision, and ability to make the connection between students, computers and learning”.