Are schools really wasting money on computers?

By Paula Dillon
November 19th, 2015

The answer is complex — but here’s what the media and some schools get wrong

computers-schoolsDuring the past few years, I have closely followed the education studies published by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Overall, I find great significance in their findings. However, I was discouraged when I saw recent news articles coming out of the OECD’s latest report on the use of computers in school. Headlines ranged from “Schools wasting money on computers for kids” to “Computers in schools don’t help kids learn.” After taking a close read of the report, I soon realized that these news articles missed the real message.

It is true that the OECD report shines a light on some of the limitations of technology use in education. For example, they note that, “technology is of little help in bridging the skills divide between advantaged and disadvantaged students.”

Taken alone, this statement might have led me to question whether the recent rise of technology integration in schools across the country is a smart idea. After all, like many educators, I have more than a passing interest in the subject. My school district has invested in Chromebooks, iPads, and a variety of teaching and learning software computers/devices/programs for students over the past three years leading up to our transformation to one-to-one.

But what the media glossed over is that the OECD report does not in fact recommend that schools start dumping their computers off at their local electronics recycling facility. It only suggests that more research is needed to fully understand next steps for educators, administrators, and policymakers. Importantly, the report suggests that the findings be cautiously interpreted, as developing students’ 21st century skills is more critical than ever, and we don’t want to stifle that effort. This is a far cry from saying that schools are wasting money on technology.

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