Too much technology could hurt learning outcomes

Using computers and other learning technology too often can be detrimental to student performance, OECD says

computers-technologyStudents who use computers and learning technology at moderate levels tend to have better learning outcomes than students who use computers and learning technology rarely, according to new research from the OECD. A more startling find, however, is the fact that students who use computers very frequently at school perform much worse.

“Students, Computers and Learning: Making The Connection” finds that even countries that 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.

To assess their digital skills, the test required students in 31 countries and economies* to use a keyboard and mouse to navigate texts by using tools like hyperlinks, browser button or scrolling, in order to access information, as well as make a chart from data or use on-screen calculators.

Top performers were Singapore, Korea, Hong Kong-China, Japan, Canada and Shanghai-China. This reflects closely their performances in the 2012 print-reading test, suggesting that many of the skills essential for online navigation can also be taught and learned using standard, analogue reading techniques.

The report also explores differences in performance between print and digital reading. Students in the United States and Canada both perform better in digital reading, on average, than students in other OECD countries with similar skills in print reading.

In contrast, students in Poland and Shanghai-China — both strong performers in print reading — do less well transferring their print-reading skills to an online environment.

In addition, the test assessed students’ internet browsing and navigation skills. Students in the United States and Canada rank among the highest of OECD countries for the average quality of their browsing, falling just behind Singapore, Australia, and Korea.

In both the United States and Canada, there are more students who are able to remain on task and correct browsing missteps than on average across OECD countries.

“School systems need to find more effective ways to integrate technology into teaching and learning to provide educators with learning environments that support 21st century pedagogies and provide children with the 21st century skills they need to succeed in tomorrow’s world,” said Andreas Schleicher, OECD Director for Education and Skills. “Technology is the only way to dramatically expand access to knowledge. 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.”

Ensuring that every child reaches a baseline level of proficiency in reading and mathematics will do more to create equal opportunities in a digital world than solely expanding or subsidizing access to high-tech devices and services, says the OECD.

* Participating countries and economies: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Chinese-Taipei, Colombia, Denmark, Estonia, France, Hong Kong-China, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea, Macao-China, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Shanghai-China, Singapore, the Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, United Arab Emirates, and the United States.

More information on the assessment and findings of this report is also available at

Material from a press release was used in this report.

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