OECD Report on Computers and Learning – Nothing New

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) released a report titled “Students, Computers,\ and Learning: Making Connections“. The conclusions are not surprising.

At the international level:

Over the past 10 years, there has been no appreciable improvement in student achievement in reading, mathematics or science, on average, in countries that have invested heavily in information and communication technologies for education. In 2012, in the vast majority of countries, students who used computers moderately at school had somewhat better learning outcomes than students who used computers rarely; but students who used computers very frequently at school did a lot worse, even after accounting for the students’ socio-economic status.

“School systems need to find more effective ways to integrate | technology into teaching and learning  to provide educators with learning environments that support 21st century pedagogies and provide children with the 21st century skills they need to succeed in tomorrow’s world,” said Andreas Schleicher, OECD Director for Education and Skills. “Technology is the only way to dramatically expand access to knowledge. To deliver on the promises technology holds, countries need to invest more effectively and ensure that teachers are at the forefront of designing and implementing this change.”

The United States:

The socio-economic divide in Internet access in the United States has not yet closed. In 2012, about one in five (20.2%) disadvantaged students – those among the bottom 25% in socio-economic status – did not yet have a link to the Internet at home. In the same year, 97% of the remaining students (those among the more advantaged 75% in socio-economic status) had access to the Internet at home.

Fifteen-year-olds in the United States perform above the OECD average in the PISA tests of digital reading (511 points on the PISA digital reading scale). They are also better than average in evaluating which links can lead them to relevant pages as they read on line. When looking for information on the web, only 11% of students navigate in an unfocused way, if at all – compared to 15% of students, on average, across OECD countries.

In 2012, schools in the United States serving 15-year-olds had about five school computers available for every nine students. The students-per-computer ratio of 1.8-to-1 is one of the lowest among the 34 OECD countries.

A particularly obvious and significant finding:

The report found that the gap between advantaged and disadvantaged students in digital reading was very similar to the differences in performance in the traditional PISA reading test, despite the vast majority of students using computers whatever their background. This suggests that to reduce inequalities in digital skills, countries need to improve equity in education first.