Com­put­ers im­pact teach­ing both pos­i­tively and neg­a­tively

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

Us­ing com­put­ers in the class­room does not lead to an i mprove­ment in the av­er­age per­for­mance of stu­dents in math and science, ac­cord­ing to a re­cent study by the Ifo In­sti­tute.

“But the av­er­age re­sult masks the fact that the use of com­put­ers has op­pos­ing ef­fects in dif­fer­ent ar­eas”, said Ludger Woess­mann, Direc­tor of the Ifo Cen­ter for the Eco­nomics of Ed­u­ca­tion.

“If com­put­ers are used to look up ideas and in­for­ma­tion stu­dent out­comes im­prove; but us­ing com­put­ers to prac­tice skills re­duces stu­dent achieve­ment,” he ex­plained. The Ifo In­sti­tute’s study cov­ers the math and science achieve­ment of over 400,000 stu­dents in fourth and eighth grade from over 50 coun­tries on the TIMSS in­ter­na­tional stu­dent achieve­ment test.

“The over­all ‘null ef­fect’ is sober­ing, but fre­quently proven”, noted Woess­mann. “What is new about our re­sults is that this null ef­fect arises from a com­bi­na­tion of pos­i­tive and neg­a­tive par­tial ef­fects,” he ex­plained. If com­put­ers were to be used more to search for in­for­ma­tion and less for prac­tic­ing skills, com­put­ers could be used far more ef­fec­tively in class­rooms and with bet­ter re­sults.

“Many pro­po­nents hope that com­puter-as­sisted in­struc­tion will con­sti­tute a tech­no­log­i­cal break­through that will fun­da­men­tally rev­o­lu­tionise ed­u­ca­tion,” said Woess­mann.

“Our find­ings show that a qual­i­ta­tive im­prove­ment in teach­ing will only oc­cur if we fo­cus on us­ing com­put­ers for spe­cific ac­tiv­i­ties where this makes sense and cre­ates real added value.”

How­ever, “its po­ten­tial ef­fects on the abil­ity to use com­put­ers are not in­ves­ti­gated,” noted Oliver Falck, Direc­tor of the Ifo Cen­ter for Industrial Or­gan­i­sa­tion and New Tech­nolo­gies. “Our re­sults are based on how stu­dent achieve­ment in tra­di­tional school sub­jects is af­fected.”

Th­ese re­sults are im­por­tant be­cause a lot of money is be­ing in­vested in equip­ping schools with com­put­ers and in­ter­net ac­cess. Pro­po­nents hope that com­put­eras­sisted teach­ing meth­ods that re­place tra­di­tional, lec­ture-style teach­ing will lead to sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ments in stu­dent achieve­ment. A pos­si­ble in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the new find­ings is that us­ing com­put­ers for prac­tic­ing skills takes up time that could be more ef­fec­tively spent on tra­di­tional teach­ing meth­ods.

By con­trast, teach­ing time ap­pears to be used rel­a­tively pro­duc­tively if com­put­ers are used to search for in­for­ma­tion and ideas.

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