Friday, July 23, 2010

Study Shows Computers Lower Grades, But May Boost cognitive ability

I recently heard on NPR's "Hear and Now" an interesting story about a study on families who received computers verses families who did not in Romania.  The study was researched by a team from Chicago.

Many people assume that a computer in the home will help students in school and help prepare them for the work world.  However, this particular study had mixed results showing that the students who received computers showed big drops in academic achievement.  On the other hand,  the students did show improvement in cognitive ability.  This raises many questions.

One conclusion of the study was that parental involvement really mattered.  Students with parents who set strict rules about computer use, showed less decline in academic achievement compared to the students who basically had free reign on the computer (probably just playing games all the time).  As a teacher, this part of the study is almost common sense -- knowing how parental involvement makes such a difference in the students that I see.  

The positive in this study is the increased cognitive ability, and perhaps another issue one might raise could be what are schools there actually measuring when they assess "academic achievement" ?  Perhaps schools are not measuring "real life skills" i.e. "cognitive ability"  that students really need.  

The author agrees that this study has mixed results. However, it does give educators and especially me as a technology facilitator something to think about in relation to some assumptions about computers in the home. 

Here is a copy of the study: