School & District Management

Learning Gains From Computers Still Elusive, Study Says

By Debra Viadero — June 15, 2010 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Efforts to close the “digital divide” and boost student achievement by supplying students with home laptops have been getting a lot of attention in recent years. What’s still unclear, though, is whether that sort of thing could make a difference.

In an effort to get a handle on that question, researchers Jacob L. Vigdor and Helen F. Ladd studied statewide data on North Carolina students from 2000 and 2005—a period of time when computer access expanded noticeably and many areas of the state were just getting access to high-speed internet service. The study focused on students enrolled in 5th through 8th grades.

The researchers were able to figure out which students had computers at home because North Carolina students fill out surveys asking them about computer use and ownership in tandem with the state exams they take every year. To determine whether areas had internet access, the researchers relied on zip code data and Federal Communications Communication reports on the rollout of Internet services.

The news was not good, though: The researchers found that students who gain access to a home computer between 5th and 8th grade tend to experience a slight—yet persistent—decline in reading and math scores. With regard to the introduction of Internet access, the researchers found that the technology had a more negative impact on some students than others—possibly because parents of those students exercised less control of their activities on the Internet.

“For school administrators interested in maximizing achievement test scores, or reducing racial and socioeconomic disparities in test scores, all evidence suggests that a program of broadening home computer access would be counterproductive,” the study concludes.

One caveat the researchers offer, though, is that this study does not look beyond test scores. For instance, computer-literacy could pave the way to better job opportunities for some students. We’ll never know from this report.

You also need to know that this is another one of those working papers from the National Bureau of Economic Research. By the way, a commenter recently asked me why I report these findings since they don’t come from a peer-reviewed journal. My thinking is that people in the trenches need to know what the research says now, not a year from now when academic journals get around to publishing it. And NBER working papers are the next best thing. They’re more of a finished product, anyway, than many of the the presentations that researchers make in conferences. So, if a study has interesting findings and seems to incorporate reasonable research methods, I let you know about it. I figure you are smart enough, in the end, to sort it all out for yourself.

Related Tags:

A version of this news article first appeared in the Inside School Research blog.


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Leadership for Racial Equity in Schools and Beyond
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reveal systemic racial disparities in educational opportunity, there are revelations to which we can and must respond. Through conscientious efforts, using an intentional focus on race, school leaders can
Content provided by Corwin
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Evaluating Equity to Drive District-Wide Action this School Year
Educational leaders are charged with ensuring all students receive equitable access to a high-quality education. Yet equity is more than an action. It is a lens through which we continuously review instructional practices and student
Content provided by BetterLesson

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management How 'Vaccine Discrimination' Laws Make It Harder for Schools to Limit COVID Spread
In Montana and Ohio, the unvaccinated are a protected class, making it tough to track and contain outbreaks, school leaders say.
4 min read
Principal and District Superintendent Bonnie Lower takes the temperature of a student at Willow Creek School as the school reopened, Thursday, May 7, 2020, in Willow Creek, Mont.
Bonnie Lower, a principal and district superintendent in Willow Creek, Mont., checks the temperature of a student as Willow Creek School reopened for in-person instruction in the spring.
Ryan Berry/Bozeman Daily Chronicle via AP
School & District Management Opinion 'Futures Thinking' Can Help Schools Plan for the Next Pandemic
Rethinking the use of time and place for teachers and students, taking risks, and having a sound family-engagement plan also would help.
17 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
iStock/Getty
School & District Management Opinion The Consequence of Public-Health Officials Racing to Shutter Schools
Public-health officials' lack of concern for the risks of closing schools may shed light on Americans' reticence to embrace their directives.
5 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
School & District Management Opinion Best Ways for Schools to Prepare for the Next Pandemic
Being better connected to families and the community and diversifying the education workforce are some of the ways to be ready.
14 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
iStock/Getty