Two weeks ago the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) published a report on technology and learning that made big news. The BBC, CBC, and the Wall Street Journal – to name only a few – ran headlines like “Don’t bother buying computers for schools, says OECD report” and “Computers ‘do not improve’ pupil results, says OECD.” It was more or less the same story everywhere: big investments in classroom technology haven’t paid off with better education results. Nor have they meaningfully closed the skills gap between rich and poor students.
It sounds pretty damning and sensational. But anyone who cares about technology and learning should stop for a moment and take a deep breath. Then we should dig a little deeper, because beyond the headlines there are some very useful conclusions in, and from, the report.
The best way to understand those conclusions is to listen carefully to Andreas Schleicher, the OECD Director for Education and Skills. Andreas’s directorate conducted this study and published the report. I know Andreas well enough to say, with certainty, that he does not believe technology is inherently bad for education. In fact, he says in this BBC interview, it is a fantastic and perhaps necessary way to engage today’s students.
What Andreas does believe is that we all have a lot more work to do if we want technology to truly change education. “Schools simply haven’t become good enough at the kind of pedagogies that make the most of technology,” he tells Jordan Shapiro in a Forbes interview. In his introduction to the OECD report itself, Andreas encourages education policy-makers to provide better support for teachers as they learn and practice new pedagogies. When teachers are confident they can adopt new ways of teaching, he seems to say, students benefit more from new ways of learning with technology.
I couldn’t agree more. Here at SMART, we see it with real teachers and students all over the world. That’s why we’ve designed our latest education products to support teachers as they evolve their ways of teaching. SMART amp, for example, is great for teachers who want to increase and improve their use of project-based learning, whether they are just starting out with PBL or have been using it effectively for years.
Modern pedagogies depend on the natural curiosity and creativity of young learners. Most students today find it very natural to use technology to collaborate and create in a learning activity. In fact, I believe they find it a little strange, and not very engaging, when their teachers involve them in new ways of learning without using technology. What the OECD report really tells us is that the decision to invest in technology for schools should always start with this question: How do we really want to change teaching and learning, what must we do to enable teachers to make this change, and which technology solution will help us do all of that?
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- The Real Story of Classroom Technology in the OECD Report - September 30, 2015