Back to Basics?

, Deborah Lambert, Leave a comment

Are computers making kids smarter? According to some recent studies, the answer is no.

But how could this be? After all, years of heavily funded research indicated that children of low income families would benefit from improved computer access that would lessen the “digital divide between the haves and have nots.” But now the facts show just the opposite is true, says Marybeth Hicks of The Washington Times.

A recent study by professors from the University of Chicago and Columbia University shows that access to home computers by low-income students has a negative, not a positive effect on their learning.

In fact, says Hicks, this is hardly an earth-shaking event, since most parents know that their children need to spend less time on the computer, not more.

It all comes back to theory vs. reality.

In theory, access to home internet use would appear to be beneficial in reducing the “digital divide,” and would “encourage children to be self-directed learners.”

But this year, when two Duke professors measured test scores of students in low-income neighborhoods against their level of home computer access, they concluded that students would achieve lower test scores “if/when they gain access to home computers.”

The reason? Not surprisingly, the effectiveness of technology in the home has a lot more to do with consistent parental monitoring of children than it does with income level.

Jamshid Ghazi Askar, writing in the Deseret News, was not surprised by these results, saying that “not only has the obscene amount of money spent by school districts in an attempt to bridge the digital divide by getting laptops into the hands of poor kids been unnecessary, but it has actually been detrimental to student learning.”

Deborah Lambert writes the Squeaky Chalk column for Accuracy in Academia.