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Reboot Foundation research questions the use of educational technology

Jun 12, 2019 by

Reboot Foundation questions the use of technology in education

A mounting body of evidence indicates that technology in schools isn’t boosting student achievement as its proponents had hoped it would. The latest research comes from the Reboot Foundation, which released a study in June 2019 that shows a negative connection between a nation’s performance on international assessments and 15-year-olds’ self-reported use of technology in school. The more students used technology in schools, the lower the nation ranked in educational achievement.

In the United States, the results were more complicated. For younger school children, the study found a negative tie between the use of tablets in school and fourth-grade reading scores. Fourth-grade students who reported using tablets in “all or almost all” classes scored 14 points lower on the reading portion of a test administered by the federal government than students who reported “never” using classroom tablets. That’s the equivalent of a year of education or an entire grade level. Meanwhile, some types of computer usage among older students could be beneficial. Eighth graders who reported using computers to conduct research for projects had higher reading test scores than those who didn’t use computers for research.

“We see a lot of spending everywhere on tablets, computers, counting the ratio of computers per student,” said Helen Lee Bouygues, who founded the Reboot Foundation in 2018. Bouygues wants schools to pay more attention to how they are using technology.

“Technology is not bad in general,” she said, “although I would argue for younger children, it’s questionable whether it has benefits.”

Reboot aims to increase the teaching of critical thinking in schools and by parents at home. Bouygues said she started the foundation in reaction to the rapid spread of fake news on the internet and the inability of citizens to distinguish reliable sources from propaganda. She said she wanted to learn if technology was a problem for younger students and commissioned data analysts at an outside research firm, the Learning Agency, to conduct this quantitative analysis.

The study found that the more hours American students spent daily on computers doing English language arts, the lower their reading scores. That was true for both fourth-grade and eighth-grade students and across school poverty levels. Math scores didn’t deteriorate as much as computer usage increased. Previous research has generally shown more promise for education technology in math than in reading.

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