Reading between the lines – “Computers ‘do not improve’ pupil results, says OECD”

Last week, this eye catching headline and article got plenty of press and created some interesting debate. At first look it made you think…. did the OECD really say that?

Computers ‘do not improve’ pupil results, says OECD (BBC)

The article was based on a just published OECD study looking at students, computers and their learning which brought together several large surveys. These included PISA test results, online reading assessments and surveys of technology provisions in schools and in student’s homes. The report attempted to find correlations in the data to determine if increased access is helping close the digital divide in countries achievement in the core areas of maths, science and reading. The press release headline on the OECD website was an interesting juxtaposition to the BBC article.

New approach needed to deliver on technology’s potential in schools (OECD)

The second headline is far more pleasant and not quite the same scare mongering as the BBC. I think the BBC and the particular author is reading far too much into the data and links between increased provision of devices and achievement in mathematics, reading and science. Sure, schools would be impressed if technology directly lifted student academic performance but I don’t think this is the best proxy for success. I think the lead OECD author Andreas Schleicher was unfairly made to look and read like someone who would like to put a stop to the use of technology in schools. Dig a little deeper into the report and his presentation, and he is a far more moderate voice

 Screen Shot 2015-09-22 at 9.35.18 pm

The majority of schools I have worked with are far more interested in the intangible skills such as creativity, innovation, collaboration, communication and critical thinking and I am not sure this study managed to quantify anything in this area. The OECD’s attempts to evaluate digital skills through a test of accessing information, making a chart and using an online calculators is a crude measure at best. Technology has huge potential in the area of 21st century skills and the OECD is correct to highlight that there is still huge progress to be made.

“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.

Our school is looking closely to see if our use of technology has helped amplify certain pedagogies which we already know underpin quality learning experiences. These learning principles could include providing opportunities when all learners are appropriately challenged, are provided with goal directed feedback and have opportunities to take ownership of their learning. Using these principles or other meta-studies from the work of John Hattie, could help focus the use of technology and integration efforts in schools.

My recent analysis of our technology surveys suggests that technology is helping amplify these essential teacher pedagogies, which in turn will enhance student learning. I look forward to exploring this area in more depth this year and plan look at what kind of soft data would capture changes in the 21st century skills. My hope is that a series of classroom walkthroughs and exit interviews with our graduating students and leaving teachers will point to some bigger changes.

Screen Shot 2015-09-22 at 10.07.55 pm

UWCSEA – iLearn MS/HS Survey Results (May 2015)

If you are a little geeky like me, the 200 page OECD report is an interesting (skim) read with lots of supplementary resources and presentations to explore if this topic is of interest.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s