School starts amidst Internet debate

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Norwegian students were heading back to schools all over the country this week, most of them armed with portable computers and other high-tech gear. They rank tops in the world in access to the Internet at school, but a new study suggests it isn’t necessarily boosting their academic progress.

“It happens that class hours are taken up entirely by computer games,” researcher Marte Blikstad-Balas at the University of Oslo (UiO) told newspaper Dagsavisen. Entertainment, she warns, is not education.

Filmed laptop use
The study, conducted by UiO’s institute for teachers’ education and school research, involved use of small cameras attached to students’ headbands, giving Blikstad-Balas precise information on where the students were directing their attention. She also interviewed students and gathered texts they’d written.

It all revealed that laptop computers were open and in use while teachers were lecturing, with students reading newssites, Facebook and blogs and playing games. Students taking notes on what the teacher was saying proved to be the exception, not the rule.

Students were allowed to decide themselves how they used their laptops, and claimed class instruction was superfluous because they could find teachers’ Power Point presentations, for example, later and study them on the schools’ digital platform.

Call for discipline
“Instead of following along in class, the students often choose to cram on what they need to know right before exams,” Blikstad-Balas told Dagsavisen. They opted for entertainment during class hours, over education, and were rarely stopped by teachers.

Some schools are now restricting laptop use, and students admit they really don’t need them for educational  purposes. “Unfortunately the PCs aren’t integrated into the studies,” she said. One administrator said the teachers must take more responsibility for PC discipline in the classroom.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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