"Bear in mind that the wonderful things you learn in your schools are the work of many generations, produced by enthusiastic effort and infinite labor in every country of the world. All this is put into your hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honor it, add to it, and one day faithfully hand it to your children. Thus do we mortals achieve immortality in the permanent things which we create in common." - Albert Einstein

Thursday, September 17, 2015

"Technology Can Amplify Great Teaching But Not Replace Poor Teaching"

A study sponsored by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has arrived at the conclusion that the use of computers in school or at home does not necessarily improve student learning outcomes. One plausible explanation offered is that learning requires an interaction between teacher and student which computers cannot simply replace. Another explanation is that the appropriate pedagogical use of technology is yet to be mastered by educators. One thing, however, is clear, proficiency in the use of technology still hinges on basic proficiency in reading and mathematics. Those who are good in reading text in print are found to be likewise proficient in digital reading. Technology is here to stay and to address the widening digital divide, the study points out that "ensuring that every child attains a baseline level of proficiency in reading and mathematics seems to do more to create equal opportunities in a digital world than can be achieved by expanding or subsidising access to high-tech devices and services."

The sixth chapter of the study, Students, Computers and Learning: Making the Connection, shows the following figures that demonstrate the negative correlation between learning outcomes and computer use in mathematics and reading.

The above figures are copied from OECD (2015), Students, Computers and Learning: Making the Connection, PISA, OECD Publishing. http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264239555-en
The internet does offer a richer, wider and more updated library of information. Unfortunately, the internet is also a source of hoaxes and generally useless and distracting information. For the internet to be useful, it does require evaluative skills from the user. A user must be able to discern whether a source from the internet is trustworthy or not. On top of the ability to assess the credibility or authority of a source, a user must also possess abilities in searching and navigating through internet resources. Thus, the promise of information offered by the internet can only be achieved with these skills in place first.

Technology, of course, provides new pedagogical and assessment avenues, but in this regard, educators must first acquire the know-how necessary to use the new tools provided. Unfortunately, in this area, educators sometimes lose their focus on student learning while trying to learn and incorporate these tools in their classrooms. The challenges faced by educators and the skills required to guarantee good use of the internet can explain why greater computer use does not lead to better learning outcomes.

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