Computers at Home: Educational Hope vs. Teenage Reality is the headline of a column in the New York Times today. It cites recent studies questioning whether providing home computers enhances student achievement.
I’ve already written about one of the studies discussed in the article, and you might want to read My “Take” On Recent Study Saying Home Computer Usage Can Lead To Lower Test Scores. In that post I state that I’m not surprised with the result of that study because, without training or some system of accountability, what else would you really expect? I also share in that post what we have done at our school to ensure that students using home computers receive that training and have a level of accountability. I do not support schools providing home computers without that kind of support.
I’d say the same thing about a Romanian study on a program giving home computers to students.
The third study cited in the Times article is interesting in several ways. It discusses a $20 million program in Texas that provided laptops to students in 21 middle schools. Even though the column suggests that some scores went down in the Texas schools, my read on the study is that, basically, they scored the same as the control schools.
However, my conclusion after reading the study is also that they way they set-up that Texas program was exactly the way NOT to set up any kind of new program — much less an ed tech one.
Schools were informed just before the school year started that they would participate in the program, and the laptops were given to students at the same time they were given to teachers. And then computer use when down each of the subsequent years. That lack of preparation does not bode well for initial success, and when people don’t have initial success, of course they’re going to try using it less and less. What were the initiators of the program thinking?
But it appears that there was at least some minimal level of training and accountability, and scores remained comparable, and did not go down like in North Carolina and in Romania. I wonder what would have happened if schools in Texas had a year to plan their use of the laptop program?
If you’re reading this post, and were involved in that Texas program, or have more knowledge of it, please leave your thoughts in the comment section. Of course, I’d love to hear other people’s reflections, too.