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now i see it

macrumors 603
Original poster
Jan 2, 2002
Interesting article at The Register about a study by MIT correlating computer use in the classroom with (less) learning.


This thread could be seen as a troll, since I posted it here in the iPad forum. But I shared it here because there is (or was) a push by some school districts to get an iPad for every student.

Makes one wonder..

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macrumors 65816
Jul 24, 2002
The Village
Ehhhhhhh..... As somebody in the education space, this seems typical - "apply hardware, don't think about software". I'm not surprised that technology lowers scores when it's not properly integrated. "What? You can't just throw a tablet at a kid an expect them to learn better?"

Read some of the interviews with teachers who were participating in the iPad programs - they were (in general) given iPads but not taught how to use it in the classroom. Some had very good ideas while others used them for web surfing and writing papers.

If you look at programs where they actually integrated solutions, not just hardware, the results were better - not because of the iPad, but because hardware was just an enabling tools to facilitate education.


macrumors 604
Sep 7, 2010
Say what you will, but I've been a high school science teacher for almost 10 years now and I encourage the use of laptops, tablets, and even smartphones in my class. They are powerful tools and a major part of the world we live in.
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macrumors 65816
Jul 24, 2002
The Village
One of the most powerful learning experiences I had was in high school and involved Apple technology. As part of an after school science club, we decided to build a prairie. In the fall, we gathered seeds from local prairies, and used Newton MessagePads to write field notes along with Digital Cameras (Kodak DC50) to take pictures of the plants. We used the notes And pictures to catalog our collection. We spent the winter researching the plants and designing the prairie, keeping people up-to-date by publishing a Newsletter using our PowerBook Duo. We even did some photoshop work to build what we thought the prairie would look like. In the spring, we cleared out the spot and did our planting. Over the summer, the prairie flourished, and it's still there today.

I just think about this project and how technology, like iPads, could facilitate education and awareness.
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Jul 18, 2011
At the end of the day, the iPad is a tool like any other teaching material. What the students get out of it depends on how much the teacher is willing to integrate it into their lessons and how effective the integration is.

As a teacher in a school with a 1-to-1 commuting programme, I will say that laptops in the classroom tend to magnify both good and bad teaching practices. Done well, it can really augment a lesson, like when you use a mind mapping app like Popplet to help pupils better see the connections between characters in a literature text. Have poor classroom management, and you get more problems from students visiting inappropriate websites and doing all sorts of funny things online when they are supposed to be completing assignments.

And if the network decides to crap out on that day, you may well have just wasted a whole lesson trouble-shooting problems with no teaching done.

Pros and cons, but in this increasingly-connected world, I think we do our kids a greater disservice by not exposing them to such technology.


macrumors 68040
Aug 28, 2012
Between the coasts
I'm suspicious of any news report of this sort. As soon as the headline turns out to be at odds with the body of the article (and especially the quotations in the article), I have to wonder, "What else have they left out or misinterpreted?"

I like this quote (from the study) in particular:
We want to be clear that we cannot relate our results to a class where the laptop or tablet is used deliberately in classroom instruction, as these exercises may boost a student’s ability to retain the material . Rather, our results relate only to classes where students have the option to use computer devices to take notes.

We further cannot test whether the laptop or ta blet leads to worse note taking, whether the increased availability of distractions for computer users (email, facebook, twitter, news, other classes, etc.) leads to lower grades , or whether professors teach differently when students are on their computers.
Contrary to the headline, I would not consider note-taking "assistance" from the computer. The computer wasn't being used in an instructional or interactive role. They could just as well have been using typewriters or stenotype (shorthand) machines, instead of computers. Some might have turned on speech-to-text and taken a nap.

How many of those college students were transcribing the lectures (or substantial portions thereof), rather than summarizing them (as handwritten note-taking would demand)? How many were touch-typists, how many were hunting and pecking (I'd consider hunt-and-peck a serious distraction)? It also seems likely that the more voluminous the notes, the less likely they'll be reviewed in their entirety. So many alternate hypotheses to test in the follow-up studies!


Jan 1, 2011
L.A. (Lower Alabama)
Technology itself is not the answer. I'm a tech support teacher, and see every day, how little most teachers know how to use the technology they're given. Ongoing training is a must if it's expected to produce results, and that's the same for the students.

I will not provide hardware to a teacher unless he/she can justify the need. I had a teacher come to me last week asking about getting a new laptop. "What is the problem with the one you currently have? Is something not working?" "No. The kids said it was old." Grrrrrrrrr!!!!!!

If students are not shown directly how to use their technology, they can't do anything more than they can without it...other than cheating by looking up every answer on Google.
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Jessica Lares

macrumors G3
Oct 31, 2009
Near Dallas, Texas, USA
Looking at the actual study:
  • Final sample was 726, only 456 were in the two treatment groups with technology allowed
  • Only 40% (of 208) in the second treatment group had ever used a tablet
  • 20% (of 248) in the first treatment weren't using computers that semester
  • 59% (of 248) in the first treatment used the laptops even though they had the choice of using tablets
  • 133 students weren't using computers that semester other than in this first treatment group
  • It didn't effect essay scores
  • It in particular hurt the students that had the top GPA/ACT scores more than the others, but the entire study is made up of students that have GPAs between 2.7 to 2.9
  • They said the results were different to another study because economics deals more with graphs and analyzation vs word for word note taking where students were hurt considerably more
So, 146 students were using laptops, 310 were using iPads (125 of them for the first time). In both groups, the grades were equally low. But what was also very close in numbers was the amount of students not using a computer in the semester, vs those who'd never use a tablet (and by the way, these were iPads they were testing with).


macrumors P6
Mar 21, 2011
Australia, Perth
Understandable article since students could get side-tracked... But if you try and limit tech in school (or no tech) to try and help people get a passing grade or concentrate more, it doesn't really help anything, because if they play games instead of study they not going to do it during class..

They'll do it outside. and still fail... So, doesn't really matter what happen. Persistence may pay off.
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macrumors 68040
Oct 25, 2008
I would much rather see the study of how mobile devices dumb down youth.

To the OP, its the content and function of computers in the room that need to be measured not the hardware. I wish there was some real detailed study and even as usual conjecture and so called quantitative analysis.
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