Friday, January 1, 2016

US Students Lead in Browsing

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development is the group that administers that nifty PISA test-- the one that periodically leads to breathless headlines of "Oh Nos!! Our students don't test as well as Estonia!" But the OECD is more than just a test (and attendant PR)-- they've also been taking a look at technology in education.

Back in September they published Students, Computers and Learning: Making the Connection, a report about the importance of digital learning. If you follow the link, you can order the book, because the OECD apparently has a delicious sense of irony.

The information in the report is from the 2012 cycle of PISA, for which ICT awareness questionnaires were distributed, except not in the US, so there is less information about us in the report than their might be.

Back in 2012, one in five of students in the bottom quartile of income did not have internet at heom. Among the other 75%, only 3% didn't have internet.

Back in 2012, we had one of the lowest student-to-computer ratio in schools among the OECD nations. Pretty sure that this is old news after three years of frantic computer deployment, though it might be interesting to note how many students have access to computers for activities other than taking standardized tests.

But here's an interesting factoid-- our teens are among the world's leaders in web browsing.

No kidding. US fifteen-year-olds were ahead of the OECD average for digital reading. They are better than average at evaluating whether or not a link will lead something useful. And we are below average in the percentage of students who browse aimlessly.

So, yay?

Meanwhile, reporting on their own findings, the OECD demonstrated that (like many folks) they don't really have a clue about what a useful role for technology in education might be.

"School systems need to find more effective ways to integrate | technology into teaching and learning  to provide educators with learning environments that support 21st century pedagogies and provide children with the 21st century skills they need to succeed in tomorrow’s world,” said Andreas Schleicher, OECD Director for Education and Skills. “Technology is the only way to dramatically expand access to knowledge. To deliver on the promises technology holds, countries need to invest more effectively and ensure that teachers are at the forefront of designing and implementing this change.”

The first part of that quote translates roughly to "Blah blah blah jargon blah twenty-first century skills." The second part translates to, "I do not understand the distinction between knowledge and information."

And all of it translates as, "The OECD is either unaware of or prefers not to discuss the body of research suggesting that reading from screens results in less comprehension than reading from paper (here and here and here)." It's all up to debate, but you can't debate what you choose to ignore.

Still-- leading the world in web browsing! Take that, Estonia!


  1. And elementary schools with full time media specialists? At an all time low. If anyone was responsible for teaching the difference between information and ideas it was the media specialist/school librarian. I cannot find any numbers on enrollment in media specialist programs, but I'm going to assume folks aren't breaking down the doors to apply to be trained for positions that are almost nonexistent.

  2. It is not just elementary school. My district has been without a media specialist for nearly eight years. The testocracy does not value learning in depth. It does not value independent reading. It does not value multiple perspectives. It is so bad that our high school principal sees the library as a space to charge devices! We are being led by fools to the lands of corporate profit.