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How Classroom Technology Is Holding Students Back

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stressed student at laptop computer, illustration

Schools across the United States have jumped on the education technology bandwagon in recent years. As older education reform strategies have failed to bear fruit, educators have pinned their hopes on the idea that instructional software and online tutorials and games can help narrow the massive test-score gap between students at the top and bottom of the socioeconomic scale.

A recent Gallup report found near-universal enthusiasm for technology on the part of educators. But it's not clear this fervor is based in evidence. When asked if "there is a lot of information available about the effectiveness" of the digital tools they used, only 18% of administrators said yes, along with about a quarter of teachers and principals.

In fact, the evidence is equivocal at best. Some studies have found positive effects, at least from moderate amounts of computer use, especially in math. But much of the data shows a negative impact at a range of grade levels. According to other studies, college students in the U.S. who used laptops or digital devices in their classes did worse on exams. Eighth graders who took Algebra I online did much worse than those who took the course in person. And fourth graders who used tablets in all or almost all their classes had, on average, reading scores 14 points lower than those who never used them — a differential equivalent to an entire grade level.

From Technology Review
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