Saturday 20 January 2018

Black mark against the digital classroom

David Tucker

according to the OECD, investing heavily in school computers and classroom technology does not improve pupils' performance.

The think tank says frequent use of computers in schools is more likely to be associated with lower results, with its education director Andreas Schleicher saying school technology had raised 'too many false hopes'.

The report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development examined the impact of school technology on international test results, such as the Pisa tests taken in more than 70 countries and tests measuring digital skills.

It says education systems which have invested heavily in information and communications technology have seen 'no noticeable improvement' in Pisa test results for reading, mathematics or science.

'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,' said Mr Schleicher, 'those students who use tablets and computers very often tend to do worse than those who use them moderately.'

According to the OECD report:

• Students who use computers very frequently at school get worse results

• Students who use computers moderately at school, such as once or twice a week, have 'somewhat better learning outcomes' than students who use computers rarely

• The results show no appreciable improvements' in reading, mathematics or science in the countries that had invested heavily in information technology

• High achieving school systems such as South Korea and Shanghai in China have lower levels of computer use in school

• Singapore, with only a moderate use of technology in school, is top for digital skills '

'One of the most disappointing findings of the report is that the socio-economic divide between students is not narrowed by technology, perhaps even amplified,' said Mr Schleicher.

The OECD report was published a few days after County Wexford-born Walter O'Brien, the founder and chief executive of US-based Scorpion Computer Services, addressed Wexford Business Expo via videolink, and during his talk touched on the state of our technology, both in and out of the classroom, saying that technology in schools was key to the future.

Asked by chamber member Karl Fitzpatrick how he would bring foreign direct investment into Wexford, Mr O'Brien said: 'I don't know what your current curriculum is in the schools.

'I don't know who sets those curriculums. By curriculum, I mean the technical one. I don't know what languages the kids are graduating in, what level they're at or having a qualified teacher who is good enough at teaching this technology.

'If they aren't, fire them and find one that is. It is too big a sacrifice to turn out 30 kids a year who only know the 'C language' and the teacher only knew that from 15 years ago. That's killing your own community.' he said.

'I'd personally have to understand the advantage of the educational system in Ireland and try and rank that against that of other countries. I'm very grateful for being born and educated in Ireland.

'The education wasn't modern and wasn't around technology at the time, but it did teach you how to think and it taught me how to learn.

'When I moved to the States and ended up being exposed to people educated from other countries, I had a huge advantage, I understood the basics of physics and biology applied physics and so on that other countries didn't have the same broad exposure.

'English being the first speaking language in Ireland is a huge advantage. Ireland's political standing where everyone likes someone who's Irish compared to other countries who have lots of different enemies.'

Mr O'Brien said that Internet and wireless is not good enough in Ireland and is not near where it should be in its availability. The fact that his video-link crashed during the talk served to underpin his remarks.

He said that in South Korea over 10 years ago, the government paid for 'bandwidth, massive bandwidth to every major school, every major city and area. Now it has a booming economy full of kids who are extremely technical. A big part of it is Internet was free and fast'.

'Figuring those things out for the Wexford area, improving them and measuring them and ranking them would help with foreign investment because now we're making an argument to say 'Look our kids are better educated, they know the latest languages so you can keep your curriculum cycling fast enough to have teachers that can teach them the latest languages.. and at least we might attract to innovate and develop the product so people do less outsourcing to other countries'.

Wexford People

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