Technology, including classroom technology, is a very important part of our life in this day and age. When I had my first computer at the age of 24, my kids were born in a house with a computer that everyone could access whenever they needed. Today, we all have our own laptop and mobile phone (which is technically another computer).
Do you think that this technology improves their academic achievement?
Years ago, when I opened my first early childhood center, I asked Gal (my husband) to write me a program that teaches kids from 18 months to 2 years old to use a keyboard. Every child spent some time during the playing on the computer. I put stickers on the keyboard and they had to match their colors and shapes to what they saw on the screen. I thought it was an innovative and creative method to improve kids’ coordination, fine motor skills and academic performance.
Those kids only needed to be in my program for 3 months and they could all read and write their names, play advanced matching games, do 60- and even 120-piece puzzles and build sophisticated structures. Their parents did not believe that their children could do those things until they watched them with their own eyes.
Today, only 25 years later, my “super modern computer-based lessons for 2-year-olds” is a total joke. Every baby is born into a high technology environment and schools are continually increasing the use of classroom technology.
I have been wondering for a long time whether the introduction of more classroom technology translates to higher academic success.
The numbers are talking, so you had better listen
Recently, I saw some research done by The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), whose mission is to promote policies that will improve the economic and social well-being of people around the world. OECD ran an international study on the impact of introducing computers into the classroom on academic performance and their conclusions were alarming.
They tested the correlation between the use of computers in the class and success in an international PISA test, which exams students aged 15 and 16 in reading, math and science in more than 60 countries.
Students who used computers at school once or twice a week showed higher academic achievement than those who use computers very little. So far, no big surprise. But…
Students who used computers more often showed lower academic performance. What?!
Balance is important!
Not too much. Not too little.
The research found that countries that invested highly in classroom technology, like Spain, Norway and Denmark, did not improve students’ performance compared to countries that did not make the same investment.
It also found that in the countries with the highest use of classroom technology – New Zealand, Australia and Sweden – showed a significant drop in students’ reading ability.
Well, you do not have to be a genius to know that the literacy level of the information children read on the Internet is low. Children today read a lot less and watch videos more. They also write less and their level of written expression has dropped significantly.
School is the only place that can “make” kids read and expose them to quality literature, and if this is gone, no wonder that kids’ reading ability is dropping. Can you imagine any sensible, normal, healthy teen going to check out Shakespeare unless the teacher makes it compulsory?
Let’s Limit Classroom Technology
Classroom technology is great, but it was never a substitute for quality teaching and quality learning. We can learn a lot with the use of technology, but it will never be our “educator”. Even 25 years ago, the first computer game was there to support playing with cards, lifting them, moving them around on the table, examining them and playing in a group. Technology did not replace these things. It only introduced another dimension of learning.
We have proof that more technology does not translate into better academic achievements. So what else needs to happen to stop governments and schools from wasting money on more gadgets, more computers and more technology, and to get them to focus more on quality learning?
Technology is neither good nor bad. It is how we use it that makes the difference. Currently, we use technology badly in schools, because we think that more (or more advanced) technology is better, when it clearly isn’t.
There is a desperate need to change this mindset. Technology does not help us teach the kids of tomorrow, it takes them backwards. Let’s wake up, rally other parents and have our say about it. Our tax money is being wasted at our kids’ expense, not to mention the devastating social impacts due to the increase in use of technology and the decrease in quality reading and human interaction.