Computers and Learning
Still, similar to the lingering myth of "learning styles", there is the belief that computers can enhance learning. And yes, perhaps, technology can, but it is probably in a way so different from what most people think it can. Enyedy of UCLA recently authored a research brief for the National Education Policy Center: ("Briefs published by the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) are blind peer-reviewed by members of its Editorial Review Board.")
The first paragraph alone of the executive summary is quite loaded and should be taken seriously:
There has been a renewed interest in and enthusiasm for online learning and computerized instruction. One gets a sense of déjà vu when reading today’s educational blogs and policy documents, which are recycling the same arguments for computerized instruction that appeared in the 1980s. But in the more than 30 years since the personal computer and computer-assisted instruction entered K-12 education, not much has changed. Computers are now commonplace in the classroom, but teaching practices often look similar, as do learning outcomes. This raises two questions: What has changed to get people excited about online learning? And is this revival of enthusiasm warranted?In a simpler graphic manner, the research brief above summarizes what research has found with regard to how much computers have contributed to basic education:
Enyedy therefore starts with the assumption that there is something wrong with the following formula of teaching: "I, we, you, where the teacher tells the student something, followed by a worked-out example gone over together, and ending with independent student practice." There is ample research out there that shows that direct instruction, worked examples, and problem solving are in fact the most effective ways of teaching and learning. The real reason why computers have yet to contribute significantly to learning outcomes is that the computer has not enhanced the traditional way by which we teach and learn. My opinion is that the transformative role computers may play is facilitating the communication between teacher and a student, and among themselves. Concept mapping or tools that help teachers identify where a student is and thereby guides both teacher and pupil on what to do is definitely one area technology can enhance learning in the classroom. Teachers still need to reach out and learn that there are resources on the web shared by excellent educators.
Enyedy does provide a good overview of research that tackles the question of how computers have contributed to instructional efficacy. Most studies do attribute no gain in learning outcomes except for one: blended instruction, which combines online and face-to-face instruction. With this brief, Enyedy correctly reminds us to be especially wary of the "snake oil salesman" who touts the coming computers' (now it's the tablet or smartphone) revolution in education.