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Computers don't help kids at school: study

A new study suggests computers don’t noticeably improve students’ performance at school and may even hamper them.

“Great technology cannot replace poor teaching,” the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) wrote in its report.

The OECD found that students who use computers “moderately” do better than pupils who use them rarely, but students who use computers “very frequently” suffer, even when accounting for social background and student demographics.

The OECD report looked at 15-year-old students in more than 70 countries, using results from the Pisa (Programme for International Student Assessment) test.

In Korea and parts of China, including Shanghai, where technology use is widespread, computers aren’t used in schools. Only 42 per cent of students in Korea and 38 per cent in Shanghai reported using computers at school, yet those same students were among the top performers in the digital reading and computer-based math tests.

“In contrast, in countries where it is more common for students to use the Internet at school for schoolwork, students’ performance in reading declined between 2002 and 2012, on average,” the OECD report found.

Across OECD countries, students spend an average of two hours a day online. In Australia, Denmark, Estonia, Norway, the Russian Federation and Sweden, that number jumps to four hours a day online (not including school).

In Canada, 98.9 per cent of students have a computer at home. That’s slightly above the OECD average of 95.8 per cent and a 0.3 increase from 2009. Students in Canada are right on average when it comes to computer use, however, spending about 104 minutes a day online outside of school on weekdays, and 138 minutes online on weekends.

During the school day, Canadian students spend a minimum of 25 minutes online, and there are approximately 2.8 students per computer.

A graph shows computer use for Canadian students compared to other OECD countries.
A graph shows computer use for Canadian students compared to other OECD countries.

When it comes to performance, this country’s 15-year-olds are above average. Canadian students had a mean score of 532 in digital reading, compared to the OECD average of 497. And when it came to computer-based math, Canadian students had a mean score of 523, compared to the OECD average of 497.

A graph shows test results for Canadian students compared to other OECD countries.
A graph shows test results for Canadian students compared to other OECD countries.