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Heavy investment in technology no guarantee of pupil improvement, OECD finds

Global study shows that frequent use in computers more often associated with lower results

The old saying about a workman being only as good as his tools seems rather relevant today as the OECD’s findings have brought the world of education technology back down to earth a little.

Comparing data from 31 countries across the globe, ‘Students, Computers and Learning: Making The Connection’ says that even countries which have invested heavily in information and communication technologies (ICT) for education have seen no noticeable improvement in their performances in PISA results for reading, mathematics or science.

The report is not, however, suggesting that technology is inherently bad, or that it is the cause of lower results, merely that a new approach is needed to deliver on its potential in schools, and to tackle the digital divide.

The study found that overall, students who use computers moderately at school tend to have somewhat better learning outcomes than students who use computers rarely. But also that students who use computers very frequently at school do much worse, even after accounting for social background and student demographics.

Andreas Schleicher, OECD Director for Education and Skills, said: “To deliver on the promises technology holds, countries need to invest more effectively and ensure that teachers are at the forefront of designing and implementing this change.”

This comes just days after Schools Minister Nick Gibb announced that Tom Bennett will review wider behaviour issues such as the impact of smartphones in lessons. This will also investigate how teacher training prepares teachers to tackle low-level disruption in class, such as the use of mobile phones and other devices in schools, which many teachers are seeing as a growing hindrance.

The London School of Economics found earlier this year that banning mobile phones from classrooms could account for an additional week’s worth of schooling over the school year, having a particular benefit on low-achieving children and those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

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Pie Corbett