Information technology and schools

 

Sir, – Mark Brown, director of the National Institute for Digital Learning at DCU, warns against a “moral panic” in response to an OECD report that found that greater use of technology in classrooms is often associated with poorer student performance (“We must avoid ‘moral panic’ over technology in schools, expert says”, September 16th). Given his position, is his statement at all surprising? Labelling the response, or in this case the anticipated response, of others as “moral panic” short-circuits discussion and debate.

As a teacher myself, I have found the benefits of many classroom technologies, even when substantial, to be routinely oversold.

The only panic I’ve observed has been in the constant push to fill classrooms with new devices and the devices with new software. – Yours, etc,

FRANK GAVIN

Toronto,

Ontario.

Sir, – The OECD report released on the impact of technology in education is not surprising (“Low use of internet in Irish schools may be educationally advantageous”, Front Page, September 15th). The ICT in education sector is littered with hardware-focused, well-intentioned but ultimately futile initiatives. Until education drives the technology choice, and not vice versa, that will not change.

When the educational outcome is defined and measurement is rigorous, specific educational results are achieved. For example, the Greenshoots technology project in Cape Town has improved maths grades by 26 per cent over three years.

So let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater, rather let’s learn these lessons and use technology to deliver a better education that is so badly needed. – Yours, etc,

JOHN FITZSIMONS,

Camara Education,

Chapelizod

Industrial Estate,

Dublin 20.

Sir, – At last the penny is dropping among educationalists that technology in the classroom can be a hindrance to learning.

A study by the London School of Economics in 2014 found that schools that banned pupils from carrying mobile phones to school showed a sustained improvement in exam results, compared to schools that allowed students to carry mobile phones.

The improvements in education standards, by eliminating the distraction of phones, was most pronounced in disadvantaged schools.

A Norwegian study (Journal of Education Research (March 2013) found that students comprehend what they are reading on a sheet of paper far better than when they read on a computer screen.

An American study (Mueller & Oppenheimer, 2014) found that college students who wrote class notes on paper learned more and got better exam results than those who used electronic devices to take notes.

No doubt the computer industry will still keep up the pressure on gullible schools to keep buying “educational” devices.

The tech sector should please leave schools alone, unless it has proof that its products work. – Yours, etc,

JOHN DEVLIN,

Dublin 2.

Sir, – I read in one section of your newspaper the revelation that Irish teenagers are ranked sixth in Europe in terms of proficiency in using the internet (“Irish teens among best at using internet”, September 15th). I assume that this is considered a positive attribute.

On the other hand, I also note the report that Irish students do better because our schools are by and large not internet equipped.

I am not sure how to connect these two revelations. Can any of your readers advise me? – Yours, etc,

DEREK MacHUGH,

Foxrock,

Co Dublin.