[LINK] Rudd's laptops send standards backwards

Jan Whitaker jwhit at melbpc.org.au
Mon Jul 20 15:41:17 AEST 2009

At 02:46 PM 20/07/2009, David Boxall wrote:
> > Jacob Vigdor, of Duke University, North Carolina, has conducted what
> > is probably the world's biggest study on the effect on maths and
> > reading scores of gaining a home computer. He finds "statistically
> > significant" evidence that it sends them backwards.

I would have to read the full study to understand what he's actually 
finding. I would test a hypothesis that it's a 'time on task' effect. 
Students with the computers are spending their time engaged with the 
computer -- learning It [the computer], rather than spending time on 
their homework. We all know what a distraction 'new and shiny' can 
be. If you found something you could actually use and have fun with, 
wouldn't you rather do that than math drills or reading what is 
measured on standardised tests?

So to have this make any sense, one needs to go back to the 
beginning: what is the purpose for providing the computers in the 
first place, particularly to low SES students? Is it to provide 
modern skills to interact with the world? Are they learning Different 
skills than math and reading? Are the tests testing the reading that 
students are doing in order to use the tool or are they still asking 
'white bread' questions designed from the 1960s and 70s? Are the 
topics culturally relevant?

Math isn't generally needed to work with a computer. So if the 
students are provided with activities that use the computer to do 
maths skills development, of course there won't be improvement. See 
time on task interference above.

This is one of those sound-bite interpretations [the article] that 
needs further exploration. One of the reasons I got out of 
educational 'experimental' research was because it was so confused 
most of the time. IF the results are that skills aren't improving, 
then what are the factors that are causing that, what are the 
benefits that are resulting from the provision of the tools [possibly 
life skills for better jobs??? Like keyboarding? Like manipulating 
software? Like engaging online?], and how can those benefits be kept 
while mitigating the losses. IF the school curriculum is NOT 
incorporating these now available tools, shame on them.


Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
jwhit at janwhitaker.com
blog: http://janwhitaker.com/jansblog/
business: http://www.janwhitaker.com

Our truest response to the irrationality of the world is to paint or 
sing or write, for only in such response do we find truth.
~Madeline L'Engle, writer

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