The Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) has recently published data that suggests that computers don’t help learning. This concept is an interesting one, but the controversial headline hides a more important conceptual shift.
Now computer technology is not just a tool, but a conduit for our lives, the boundaries between educational and everyday use have become blurred, and it is only natural that the benefit curve has levelled off.
Technology is improving the lives of people all over the world, while at the same time it is becoming increasingly embedded into every aspect of society including education.
Since the first implementation of digital learning into schools in the 1980s and 1990s, the world and the role of computers have changed dramatically. Rather than being or occasional focussed use, these are now everyday tools whose use needs to be carefully managed in an education environment.
The OECD study suggests that those that use computers frequently do not achieve as much in terms of education, and that investment in ICT for education has no positive impact. In isolation, these stats are concerning, and may encourage a step away from digitally focussed learning.
Nowadays digital skills are the outputs that our economy requires: learning digital skills is not optional for children who will rely upon them throughout their lives. The OECD report talks about wasted investment in educational IT, and this will have happened in some institutions.
Instead of looking at technology as a replacement for traditional methods, it should be seen as a supplement and targeted investment. We agree with the findings of the report that
“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.
Therefore schools need to look closely at where they focus IT investment, both internally and externally, rather than simply relying on software to educate in the place of traditional methods.