NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

How Much Do Children Benefit From The Internet In Schools?

June 19, 2000

Initiatives to wire schools for the Internet are highly popular, particularly among politicians who have made a national commitment to connect every classroom to the Internet by the end of this year -- at a cost of some $5 billion a year in federal, state and local funds.

But there are few studies evaluating just how much computers help children learn. Without evidence of the technology's potential benefits, or its drawbacks to learning, we may be wasting resources.

  • After studying standardized test scores of 13,373 fourth- and eighth-grade students, Harold Wenglinsky of the Educational Testing Service found that those who used computers at least once a week in school fared worse on tests than those who didn't use them that frequently.
  • The only eighth-grade computer users who boosted their test scores were those who used the machines to work out complex problems -- but most teachers didn't offer challenging assignments.
  • New York University education specialist Diane Ravitch says that computer technology can devour school districts' budgets and reinforce the culture's emphasis on gimmicks and quick fixes.
  • In fact, she suggests that school officials buy musical instruments and require students to learn to play them -- such a requirement would encourage practice and concentration which, she says, American children "don't get enough of."

One reason computerizing schools has become so popular is that half of all new jobs which employ workers without a college degree require daily use of computers. Moreover, the income gap between those who use computers on the job and those who don't continues to widen.

Source: Bob Davis, "The Internet in Schools: A National Crusade Backed by Scant Data," Wall Street Journal, June 19, 2000.


Browse more articles on Education Issues