Do Children Benefit from Laptops in the Classrooms?

New research on student learning with technology and computers.

If you have kids, you might already be familiar with computers being used as a core teaching tool in the classroom. But even if you don’t, you might still be wondering about the effectiveness of today’s technology obsession when it comes to education.

You’re not the only one who’s skeptical about the merits of having laptops in the classroom. At least one teacher thinks that the majority of computer apps don’t really add much value to student learning. And a recent OECD report showed that reading and math scores haven’t improved in the countries that have invested the most in technology. The issue, says the aforementioned teacher, is that too many learning programs just take information kids could find in books and animate it. So, the underlying learning mechanism being relied upon is simple memorization. However, coding may be a more effective technological learning tool, because it engages the student in the process of figuring out how things work.

But a recent study by Michigan State University suggests that the results of technology in teaching might actually be a bit more complicated. They found that students who participate in comprehensive, “one-to-one laptop” programs actually did have better learning outcomes than their peers. There were improved scores on standardized testing, but also a deeper writing and research process. The key however, is strong teacher involvement, buy-in, and support, as well as thoughtful integration with the existing curriculum.

Technology doesn’t just come into play in traditional educational settings, but also educational settings on the job. Lawyers are using technology more and more during trials. While that combination used to be an anomaly, judges are now getting used to seeing screens during trial, and in some ways have even come to expect them. So, studying how technology works in student classrooms matters to more than just parents and kids.

The simple answer to whether your child should be using technology in the classroom seems to be, “Yes, if…” Clearly, it depends on the resources of your school, as well as the creativity that’s being used to draw students into the technology exercises.

Image: PANTA ASTIAZARAN / Staff (Getty Images)

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