A new report concludes that improved professional development, use of sophisticated software, and paying more attention to how students actually use computers will improve the use of computers in the classroom. In addition, the report says that use of computers in an effective manner will improve student learning and raise achievement.

However, the report, which was commissioned by the Software and Information Industry Association, is being criticized by some educators for giving undue weight to software and computers as critical educational tools.

The report analyzed national and state data on student test scores to assess student achievement. It compared student test scores for teachers who received ten or more hours of professional development in computers with those who received five or fewer hours, and it found that students of teachers with more training performed better. This finding would seem to support federal, state, and local initiatives to offer more professional development courses and even to require computer proficiency for teacher recertification.

While some experts suggest that the work may be influenced by its funding source, the authors of the report say they used readily available and commonly accepted data to perform their study.

An Education Department (ED) director said the report is “a real contribution” to understanding the benefits of technology in schools. ED considers the study to be another piece of information to add to the growing body of evidence to suggest what works and what doesn’t with school technology, she said.