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Is Technology Good or Bad for Student Learning? Conflicting Studies Make It Hard to Tell

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We really, really want to know if all that technology we’re investing in for today’s schools is going to actually improve student learning, and we definitely want to know if it’s going to hinder it.

Of course, it’s universally understood that technology cannot replace the very important role of a teacher as a guide and mentor throughout the learning process. But numerous conflicting studies over the years leave enough room for doubt if technology hurts student progress more than it helps. We’ve compiled some of the studies we’ve written about in the past few months for you to be the judge.

Students Who Hand Write Notes Do Better Than Students Who Type Them

Researchers: Princeton University and the University of California at Los Angeles

Study: The researchers placed students from the group of 67 into different groups where one used pen and paper to take notes and the others used a laptop.

Results: Students who used handwritten notes performed better on subsequent tests. The researchers speculated that typing notes got in the way of students absorbing and processing information as they hurried to take down verbatim notes.

Students Who Use Technology Get Worse Grades

Researchers: The United States Military Academy

Study: One-third of the economics sections were permitted to use laptops during lecture while one-third was permitted to use tablets and the other was not allowed to use technology at all.

Results: Both laptop and tablet users performed worse than students who did not use technology at all. The differences in scores was even more significant for the class’ best and brightest students, who researchers think overestimated their ability to multitask.

Research Supports Benefits of One-to-One Initiative on Student Learning

Researchers: Michigan State University

Study: Researchers gave students his or her own laptop and then tested them in science, writing, math and English.

Results: Students who used the laptops approved their learning achievement. Students used the laptops to do more than just note-take, however, and the researchers said there is significance in that. h

Social Media Use Through Technology Helps Students Learn Better

Researchers: Dr. Richard J. Light of Harvard School of Education

Study: "Student research participants who studied in groups, even only once a week, were more engaged in their studies, were better prepared for class, and learned significantly more than students who worked on their own," which Light says is facilitated by social media use. 

Results: Light’s report found that social media’s cool value attracts young learners as helps students engage thanks to “virtual study groups.”

"Social media platforms enable many engaging classroom activities, including 'communities of practice' where learners can interact and share ideas. 'This group learning format appeals to younger, socially conscious learners and is built around the notion that 'many minds are better than one,' the report stated.


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