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Computers Aren’t the Answer to Student Learning? Lessons from The National Bureau of Economic Research Study

May 24, 2013

While it seems you can find a study to back almost any educational opinion, a just released study from the National Bureau of Economic Research, certainly piqued our interest. The study,  titled ” Experimental Evidence on the Effects of Home Computers on Academic Achievement Among Schoolchildren”, set out to see whether giving students a computer in their home environment measurably effected their academic performance in school. In order to gain insight into this issue, the NBER conducted the largest ever field experiment of its kind. The study followed 1,123 sixth to tenth graders, all of whom did not have access to computers. Randomly, half of the group were selected to be given free computers (the majority had internet access) and the other half (the control group) remained computer free. After a year with computer access, researchers found, ” No effects on any educational outcomes, including grades, test scores, credits earned, attendance and disciplinary actions.”

While this study is by no means the final word in this regard ( in fact students with computers were not given any additional support or training—which certainly undermines the potential educational impact of this computers) these are certainly striking findings in this age of MOOCs, endless student facing websites, and buzzy educational technology. At BetterLesson we believe that the teacher remains ( and will remain, even in the changing landscape of education) at the heart of the learning experience. A thoughtful, talented teacher serves as the facilitator and orchestrator of learning. Teachers are central to student learning, and while computers certainly have the ability to enhance and facilitate education, they can not replace a dedicated educator.  By working with dedicated teachers through Master Teacher Project, BetterLesson hopes to highlight great ( Common Core aligned) teaching around the country. Our Master Teachers thoughtfully incorporate technology to drive student learning. As curators of their students’ learning experiences, they make careful decisions about how and when to integrate educational technology in their classrooms.

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