Technology may be infiltrating today’s classrooms, but a recent report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) indicates that school computers are delivering no noticeable improvements to education on a global level -- and, in many cases, have come to serve as impediments for students.
The report looked at the performance of 15-year-old students in math, science and reading in 31 different countries and concluded that students who use computers “very frequently” at school do much worse than those who use them rarely.
This would seem to run counter to admonitions from tech companies, like Microsoft, who strongly urge educators to adapt new interactive products -- even as studies show that reading and writing with physical objects improves memory and retention.
Classroom tech has not only come to serve as a distraction, OECD education director Andreas Schleicher told the BBC, but can result in students cutting and pasting their assignments from the web.
And given that many digital skills, such as web navigation, can be taught using standard reading lessons, focusing on such baseline proficiencies “will do more to create equal opportunities in a digital world than solely expanding or subsidizing access to high-tech devices and services,” according to the report.
While the OECD is not advocating that schools remove tech from classrooms, the organization says that “countries need to invest more effectively and ensure that teachers are at the forefront of designing and implementing this change.”
"If you look at the best-performing education systems, such as those in East Asia, they've been very cautious about using technology in their classrooms," Schleicher added. While students in Singapore boast the best web-browsing acumen worldwide, for instance, schools there tend to have a relatively smaller percentage of students using computers (70 percent) in comparison with other countries.
Today, annual global spending on classroom tech amounts to roughly $27 billion, according to the BBC.