PISA Results Cast Doubt on Heavy Use of Computers in the Classroom

Published February 1, 2005

Researchers Thomas Fuchs and Ludger Woessmann of the CESifo Economic Research Organization in Munich, a joint project of the University of Munich’s Center for Economic Studies (CES) and the Ifo Institute for Economic Research, analyzed test performance and background data from the 2000 PISA study and found that students using computers performed “sizably and statistically significantly worse” than those who used them less often.

OECD PISA data initially found a positive correlation between student achievement in math and reading and the availability of computers both at home and at school. Fuchs and Woessmann realized, however, that a greater number of computers in a household generally was evidence of a more affluent family, and more computers in schools was evidence of extra school resources.

So Fuchs and Woessmann factored affluence and school characteristics into their analysis. Once the researchers accounted for affluence, they found the more computers there were in a student’s home, the worse the student’s math performance. Similarly, the researchers noted that when school characteristics were factored into the analysis the relationship between computers and student performance changed from positive to negative.

When students used the computer in constructive ways–for Internet access, e-mailing, and educational software, for example–Fuchs and Woessmann found a positive effect on student achievement in math and reading. The researchers speculate that when the computer is used for educational purposes, student achievement goes up.