Most students in elementary, middle, and high school today use some form of technology in the classroom. Computers and iPads are pretty much commonplace. Are they worth the hype or do they inhibit learning?
Education reform over the past decade or so has taken the form of school choice or improving teacher quality. While there has been some progress in these areas, many educators feel that utilizing advancements in instructional software and the one-on-one benefits of online tutorials can help students even more.
Most teachers are enthusiastic about using technology in class. There is some discrepancy, though, about the effectiveness of computer use. While there have been some improvements in math scores after using computers, there is a decline in reading levels. According to OECD, reading scores of fourth graders who use tablets are virtually one grade level lower than students who do not use computers as often.
There also seems to be a high discrepancy between lower income students and those with more advantages regarding technology. Disadvantaged students tend to spend more time using computers in class but do not perform as well in reading and mathematics.
It’s likely that less information is absorbed by reading from a device than from paper, probably because computers can be a big distraction. Learning from a person who asks questions engages a student more than responding to questions provided on a computer. There is a relationship factor.
Computers also take away from learning communally. It’s helpful for many students to learn from one another rather than simply responding to commands on a screen.
If computers provide information that does not meet student needs or is not presented in a logical format, it does not benefit them. Therefore, it usually works better for math than for reading or the social sciences.
Since one of the most important aspects of reading comprehension is background vocabulary and knowledge about a topic, success rates for checking reading comprehension online don’t work for most children, as their backgrounds vary widely.
Computers may be better suited to reinforce concepts already taught in the classroom instead of teaching new ones, to ensure that students fully understand.