‘Lack of computers in schools may be a blessing – OECD report’

The above is an Irish times headline from Tuesday September 15th 2015. Certainly one to catch the eye. Aren’t computers supposed to be making us smarter?

This article is based on the findings from a PISA study in 2012 and fifteen year old me was chosen as one of the objects of this study. Funnily enough, I remember completing all of the questions asked on paper because, ironically, we probably didn’t have enough computers in our school for everyone to complete the tasks.

I don’t remember much about the study apart from that I went into it thinking I’d be asked to attempt leaving cert standard maths (still not having finished third year) but instead was given very manageable maths and English comprehensions and a LOT of questions about my computer use. I remember ticking the lowest box for almost every question.

Using computers in conjunction with my education was something I barely knew was a possibility as a third year. In a school setting, computers were for teachers and not students as far as I was concerned and at that most teachers avoided theirs like the plague anyway. Doing maths in particular on a computer was a concept I couldn’t even imagine (bare in mind this was before I was exposed to the joys of Project Maths). Pen and paper was the only way. It’s interesting that the results that the OECD present for Ireland reflect a similar sentiment. The computer use in the Irish school system is very low compared to our International peers.

However, our maths ability is quite high, so the traditional way in which we are teaching our students maths is working. Or so it would seem to suggest. In my opinion, whether or not technology is an aid depends entirely on the people using it. We used to think everyone learned in the same way but have since discovered some people are visual learners, others auditory, others kinaesthetic etc. Some people may work well with technology and some may not. It certainly has its place in a learning environment but it will show varied effects among students, especially among our generation who spent at least the first ten years of our lives without access to computers at all. Maybe the next generation.

The article from the Irish Times is here.

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