Do computers really boost student achievement?

Last week USA Today published an article presenting research which questions whether putting computers and laptops in front of students actually increases achievement. It’s no secret, according to the article, that laptops for students are “political gold” when it comes to politicians wanting to show they support education. However, studies that are now being conducted show mixed results for the benefits of computers for every student.

“About 37% of the children say they stare at the screens for more than three hours a day; a few report more than five hours a day. Parents help kids with homework more often and students’ grades benefit slightly, but teachers report more classroom distractions as students check e-mail. And students actually feel distracted: In the first year, their grade-point averages rose modestly, but when Lei and a colleague asked them to estimate their GPAs, students actually believed they dropped.” –Greg Toppo, USA Today

I put up a link to the full article on the forum last week to see what other teachers here in the community felt. Not surprisingly, many said it came down to whether or not you have an effective teacher. If you haven’t read the article yet I highly recommend it as it isn’t too long and provides a really good conversation starter for the classroom. I also shared the article with my students, since I teach in Michigan’s Freedom to Learn program, a program which provides laptops to 6th graders for one-to-one computer learning environments (the program has since been expanded in recent years to include other grades).

While I must admit I did a little prompting before showing them the article (many of them didn’t realize there were skeptics when it came to paying for laptops for every student), many of my students were surprisingly honest about how they thought the computers helped, or hindered, their learning. Some of their blog entries were simply rants about not wanting their laptops taken away, but many of them pointed out several learning tools and projects we’ve done on the laptops that they wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise.

Here are a few of the blog entries that I thought were rather well written (better than most that is). Some of them even bothered to use proper grammar and spelling for the assignment (they still rely too heavily on spell check) and quoted parts of the article. Feel free to look through the other blogs to see what some of the others wrote as well.

J-baby’s Laptop Debate

The Hangout and Laptops

Cutie17’s Thoughts

Gold Shire’s Computer Problems

Miss Firebel makes a Difference


  1. No, thank you Chris. My kids got excited when they heard that I would be posting links to some of their blog entries on my blog and sharing it with other teachers. Of course, I’m not sure that made them any more aware of their grammar and spelling, but I’ve encouraged them to be casual with their blogs as I didn’t want to turn blogging into an exercise in proof reading and editing (I do enough of that when they write for me in Social Studies and Sciene).

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