New study shows importance of technology in educationSaturday, August 29, 2020
WASHINGTON (CMC)— A new study has found that technology can help narrow the mathematics learning gap in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) if leaders and educators include teacher training and well-focused tools in their programmes.
The Washington-based Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) said that technology is taking centre stage in teaching during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, with millions of students depending on computers and the internet to acquire the knowledge they need.
According to the new study titled “Learning Mathematics in the 21st Century, Adding Technology to the Equation,” students in the region perform poorly in math, language and sciences, with math scores coming in at the bottom.
The study notes that 63 per cent of 15-year-olds fail to attain a basic, level 2 in math competency scores, compared with 50 per cent in science and 46 per cent in languages.
The authors identify multiple reasons for the gaps, including a lack of adequate learning materials, reduced support for kids outside of the classroom and a limited use of teaching techniques use of math to solve real world problems.
“Computer assisted learning could help both students and teachers, and this is even more urgent in the era of COVID-19 pandemic,” said Elena Arias, a senior education specialist at the IDB.
“Nonetheless, we cannot take a simplistic approach toward technological solutions. We need to use technology to promote critical thinking among our students. Technology cannot be an end in and of itself.”
Julián Cristia, an IDB economist who specialises in education, said that “the main message for educators is that they need to design programmes that utilise the comparative advantages of technology, such as its ability to give instant feedback and shore up student motivation.
“In this sense, the book is a guide for policymakers, education specialists and teachers to identify and use the best practices to make a difference in this challenging context,” he said.
According to the IDB, the authors have identified 10 key characteristics of programme models that have a positive impact in learning, from the types of technologies to the kinds of training that teachers need.
The study includes examples of successful programmes in Chile, Colombia and the United States, which tend to support teachers and students at an individual level, by using games, explorations and visualization techniques.
It states that a well-known example of the gap between expectations and reality is the One Laptop per Child Programme, which seeks to improve education outcomes in some of the poorest regions of the world.
The IDB said the programme was rolled out globally but was especially popular in Latin America and the Caribbean, where more than two million laptops were distributed.
“The programme had some positive outcomes in general and digital cognitive abilities but produced no measurable improvements in math and reading comprehension,” the IDB said, recommending utilising programmes that “clearly guide participants on the use of technological resources that promote the best academic outcomes.”
The IDB said a programme is considered guided if it includes clear objectives, the software that will be used, and the time spent per week in the programme.
The report recommends that governments vigorously evaluate education programmes to determine what works.
“They should do this even for guided programmes, as often they do not achieve the expected results. Countries in the region have made large investments in educational technology, and access to computers and tablets is widespread across urban public schools.
“It is important to design and implement models that can make effective use of available technologies, generating significant benefits at a low cost,” the study noted.
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