Granting freshmen computers does not guarantee their success

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Students and teachers must take advantage of the benefits of technological advances in a new effective educational ecosystem.

Many times Latin American governments endow public schools with tablets or computers. It seems acquiring technological devices represents modernizing education. Is teaching effort considered in the success of this innovating process? A recent study revealed that providing computers to university students does not influence their success in college, nor does it improve their employment expectations.

The "National Bureau of Economic Research," based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, conducted an experiment in which they randomly gave computers to students from public universities —who were receiving financial aid. For seven years, they analyzed both academic performance and their first years in the job force. At the same time, a control group of university students with the same socioeconomic characteristics was chosen —who did not receive a free computer. The result of the comparison showed no evidence that giving a free computer to a student increases their probability of completing a university degree. Nor was it demonstrated that having a computer early in his career can improve his job income. That is, the two groups studied at the end of the research showed similar outcomes in school performance and technological skills.

At a recent conference held in the city of Monterrey, Mexico, Jennifer Groff, educational engineer of the MIT Media Lab, in a talk on educational innovation and learning, noted that many government agencies or educational institutions deliver computers or tablets to students to innovate education. However, after a few months, these devices are left off and do not improve the teaching activity and neither enrich the educational experience of the student. Groff says: "The problem is that they expect tablets will improve everything magically... we should not think of redesigning teaching only by adjusting small pieces and thinking that this will fix the past, but to look forward, to design education for the future."

Technological devices are essential tools for the future of education. Nevertheless, educational innovation should not be based solely on the use of technology. A profound transformation of educational programs is necessary; Students and teachers must take advantage of the benefits of technological advances in a new effective educational ecosystem.