OECD report about technology

Why Technology in Classrooms Doesn’t Always Boost Education Results

A recent Wall Street Journal Article is attracting attention. It found (gasp) using computers doesn't give you better test scores. Technology in classrooms means little. Here's why:

“The report suggested that “we have not yet become good enough at the kind of pedagogues that make the most of technology; that adding 21st century technologies to 20th century teaching practices will just dilute the effectiveness of teaching.”

Report results are based on an assessment in 2012 that tracked students in more than 40 countries and surveyed them on computer habits and conducted both written and digital tests.

On average, seven out of 10 students in countries surveyed use computers at school and students average at least 25 minutes a day online. In some countries, like Turkey and Mexico, about half of the students don’t have access to a computer at home.

The survey found that students with more exposure to computers do better, on average, than those with little exposure to computers, but the OECD cautioned against drawing conclusions based on that result. The data could simply reflect that school systems that invest in technology also invest in better teachers and draw on students from a higher socio-economic class, who tend to do better in school.”

The Wall Street Journal, “Technology in Classrooms Doesn’t Always Boost Education Results, OECD Says”


[callout]How do you teach with tech? WHAT DO YOU DO WITH IT? [/callout]

You can't get smarter just rubbing Einstein’s head. If he were still alive, you'd have to talk to him. You'd want to interact to improve.

Technology in the Closet

Before I became a high school teacher, I taught teachers how to use technology. I'll never forget my discovery about edtech.

I was lost in the building. I opened the door to the closet instead of the conference room. The closet was full from bottom to top with computers in boxes.

I had just been working in a poor school with few computers. But this closet was full. When I asked if the teachers could have them, I was told they stockpiled them at the end of the fiscal year. They would figure it out. Over a year later when I went back and peeked, the closet was still half full. Nobody figured it out.

I discovered that HAVING technology means nothing. You have to:

  1. Have technology in the classroom,
  2. Students must have access, and
  3. Teachers must know how to teach with tech.

Using Technology in Ways that Improve Classroom Learning

[callout]It is not about what you HAVE but what you DO with what you HAVE.

Unless you HAVE NOTHING — and then you don't even HAVE a chance. And that is unfair.[/callout]

Technology is here. It can make a massive difference if you HAVE the know-how to teach with it effectively.

Edtech Professional Development Must Amp Up

I went to a recent professional development about differentiated instruction. It was one day of lecture. I couldn't believe it.

[callout]We need PD! But teacher training must model what we're teaching. [/callout]

  • When I teach collaborative writing, we write collaboratively.
  • When I do a workshop on global collaboration, we collaborate globally.
  • When I do a workshop on differentiation, I differentiate.

To do otherwise is not only hypocrisy, but it is also a waste of money.

And that is where we are.

A gulf yawns between the haves and HAVE NOTS.

I would argue this.

[callout]Good Technology Access + Good Technology Pedagogy = Improvement [/callout]


[callout]Good Technology Access + Bad Technology Pedagogy = No Improvement[/callout]


[callout]No Technology Access = No Improvement[/callout]

And the latter two in this list aren't much different. It is more than technology access. It is how we teach with what we have.

It would be like giving new customer care reps an awesome new system and not training them. But it happens each and every day in our schools. This report is no surprise. It just validates what many in education technology have been saying all along.

If you've got the technology, let's talk about good teaching with it.

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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Stephen Hesketh September 25, 2015 - 11:19 pm

Hello Vicki,

I totally agree with your comments and thought the same thing when I read the OECD report!

Thinking about my own school situation, I find it is a problem for teachers to invest in learning of new technologies and then integrate them for better learning outcomes, the reason being that our workloads are so heavy, it becomes very tricky to add complexities to the lesson as this puts pressure on the teacher, both from a time perspective and cognitively. This is where I think a school edtech coach is of great importance, one that can model and join hands with the teacher to produce amazing lessons!

Thanks for a great post!


Vicki Davis September 26, 2015 - 9:50 am

Yes Stephen! I wish more schools had edtech coaches! The ones who do can get so much done! Once things are part of a toolkit and a teacher’s methodology- you just keep using it. That first time takes so much energy though!

Rick Gavin September 26, 2015 - 7:44 am

Great insights as usual Vicki. It’s so true what you see with technology dropped into classrooms without consideration for the professional development of teachers so that they can effectively integrate them. We know with any other tool we bring into classrooms (Literacy programs, math manipulatives, science equipment, etc) that if we don’t in service teachers on how to effectively use them to support and enrich student learning, most teachers won’t find the time to do so themselves. Teachers are extremely busy and we need to provide them with time to learn, collaborate and implement.

Vicki Davis September 26, 2015 - 9:48 am

Well said Rick!! You are spot on!

Bailey October 12, 2015 - 2:01 pm

Thank you for sharing this information with us Vicki. I completely agree with your thoughts on technology in the classroom. Having the software, device, and technology in the classroom can only get the students and teachers so far. More attention needs to be provided to the growth and development of well implemented technology professional developments. However, it cannot end there. Technology is constantly changing and it is important for teachers to be in tune with the progress of their students to continue elements that are working and be quick to change things that aren’t so effective. It is about taking time to learn, explore, and grow with the technology as well as not being afraid to change a system or program that is not working for the students. I agree with your statement, above all students need access and efficient time on the devices for growth and progress to even occur.

I enjoyed reading your thoughts and look forward for more to come.



Vicki Davis October 12, 2015 - 2:18 pm

Thanks for sharing Bailey! Well said!


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