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Does educational technology help students learn? A new meta-analysis

Are classroom devices promoting richer learning? The Reboot Foundation (2019) has recently published an analysis of the connection between digital devices and learning, seeking to answer this question. They analysed two data sets - the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) and the 2017 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

Their findings confirmed those of the 2015 OECD report 'Students, Computers and Learning.'

"Specifically, when students report having access to classroom computers and using these devices on an infrequent basis, they show better performance. But when students report using these devices every day and for several hours during the school day, performance decreases dramatically. In the US, this trend holds irrespective of the students background... and also holds regardless of the teachers background and preparation in technology-based instruction."

"Most worrisome, we found clear evidence that the use of tablets in class was associated with poorer performance among elementary (primary) students." Those who used technology 'in some classes' compared to 'never' had slightly lower reading scores, but those who used tablets frequently in class scored a whole year level lower in reading assessment."

"Experts have recommended limiting the use of technology for younger children. Health agencies have warned against early exposure to computer technology, both inside and outside the classroom. Elementary schools should be particularly careful, and leaders making policy for schools that enrol younger children should be wary about flooding them with technology."

This is an interesting and balanced paper to read, touching on the pros and cons of educational technology in the classroom. They also review what tools seem to work well, the importance of context and end with some research-based ideas for best practise.

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