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3. Making the most of new technologies in initial education in Latin America

Abstract

This chapter investigates Latin American students’ use of digital devices and how technology use relates to students’ performance. Results show that the way technology is embedded in teaching and learning practices is crucial to raise student outcomes. In this context, teachers in Latin American countries report high levels of openness to innovation in their school, similar to those observed among OECD countries. Yet Latin American countries still show margin for improvement in the integration of ICTs in initial education.

    
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Summary of the main insights

  • Whether in science, reading or mathematics, the mean performance of Latin American 15-year-olds in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) assessments is below that of OECD countries. Data from PISA (2015) show that all Latin American countries display shares of low-performing students (below the baseline level of proficiency) well above the OECD average. In science, the share of low performers in Latin American countries ranges from 35% of students in Chile to 86% in the Dominican Republic, in contrast to 21% on average across OECD countries. Shares of low performers are equally high for the reading and mathematics assessments.

  • When technology is blended into innovative teaching and learning practices, it can enhance student performance. To be successful, however, digital technologies need to be introduced into schools as part of a comprehensive approach that aligns technology use with curricular needs, and includes teacher training and information and communications technology (ICT) support. This sort of comprehensive approach is essential to ensure that innovative uses of new technologies support teaching and learning practices. High-quality digital tools need to be in line with teacher and curricular needs. Teacher training and ICT support are also essential to enable innovative uses of new technologies that support teaching and learning practices.

  • Technology use should not be the objective but rather a tool to leverage more innovative pedagogies. Simply delivering content through technology, substituting teaching by using computers or reproducing traditional pedagogies using ICT is unlikely to result in better outcomes. The way technology is integrated in teaching and learning activities is crucial to enhance student outcomes, and when these pre-conditions are missing, students’ performance may not improve or even be hindered. Gamification, flipped instruction or blended learning are some examples of innovative practices that can rely on digital technologies and show great potential for improved learning.

  • Teachers in Latin American countries with available data report high levels of openness to innovation in their school, similar to those observed among OECD countries, and hence of readiness to adopt new technologies in schools. Most teachers, in between 71% in Chile and up to 80% in Brazil, report being open to change and similar shares also declare to search for new ways to solve problems in the classroom.

  • A comprehensive approach is needed to make the most of new technologies in initial education in Latin America. Teachers are a cornerstone of this approach. Accounting for curricular needs and teachers’ objectives is key when introducing digital technologies in schools. Similarly, providing ICT support and high-quality training to teachers on both ‘when’ and ‘how’ to integrate technology in their teaching are essential to ensure that technology is used at its best potential in the classroom. Those digital tools that reach schools and classrooms need to be of high quality, carefully designed and tailored to benefit teaching and improve student learning. In many Latin American countries, there is still scope for a more efficient and innovative integration of digital technologies in teaching and learning practices to allow everyone to reap the benefits stemming from the digital revolution.

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How do Latin American students use digital devices?

New technologies hold great potential for skills development in initial education. They open up the opportunity of more personalised instruction and student feedback in school, enhanced access to learning resources and materials available on line at any time or better student engagement using innovative methods such as gamification. The use of digital devices and tools in schools can also foster the development of digital skills and thereby prepare students for the skills requirements of digital societies.

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Figure 3.1. Students’ frequency of digital devices uses
Mean index
Figure 3.1. Students’ frequency of digital devices uses

Note: The figure displays the mean index of ICT use at school, at home for schoolwork and at home for leisure, by country and year.

The index of ICT use at school measures how frequently students make a variety of digital device uses at school: playing simulations; posting one’s work on the school website; practicing and drilling (such as for foreign languages or mathematics); downloading, uploading or browsing material from the school’s website or intranet; chatting online at school; using email at school; doing homework on a school computer; using school computers for group work and communication with other students; browsing the Internet for schoolwork. The frequency of use goes from never or hardly ever (1), once or twice a month (2), -once or twice a week (3), almost every day (4), every day (5).

The index of ICT use at home for schoolwork measures how frequently students make a variety of digital device uses at home: doing homework on a computer or digital device, browsing the Internet for schoolwork, downloading learning apps on a device, communicating with students or teachers about schoolwork, etc. The frequency of use goes from never or hardly ever (1,) once or twice a month (2), once or twice a week (3), almost every day (4), every day (5).

The index of ICT use at home for leisure measures how frequently students make a variety of digital devices uses at home for: playing one-player or collaborative games, participating in social networks, browsing the Internet for fun, downloading music, etc. The frequency of use goes from never or hardly ever (1), once or twice a month (2), once or twice a week (3), almost every day (4), every day (5).

Source: OECD calculations based on OECD (2015[1]), PISA 2015 database, http://www.oecd.org/pisa/data/2015database/.

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934135490

Chapter 2 showed that connectivity remains an issue in many Latin American schools and homes. In spite of a more difficult access to digital technologies, data on the frequency with which digital devices are used show that Latin American students use digital devices with similar frequency as their OECD peers do (Figure 3.1). The index of ICT use summarises the frequency in the use of digital devices, irrespective of the digital device on which 15-year-olds perform each activity. Students may use their own mobile phone or the phone of a colleague, the school infrastructure or a laptop they bring from home, especially as many programmes in Latin America have sought to address connectivity gaps by providing laptops for schoolchildren. At school, for instance, Latin American students use digital devices as frequently as OECD students do and tend to use them even more frequently at home for schoolwork. Latin American students who have access to and use digital devices are likely to use them with relatively higher frequency.

In addition, Latin American students who use digital devices with a rather regular frequency (at least weekly) often use digital devices in a similar way (Figure 3.2) and for comparable purposes as OECD students do. One notable difference is in the use of digital devices at home for schoolwork and in particular for doing homework, which is more widespread across students in Latin America than among their OECD peers. Investments in the provision of ICT infrastructure to schoolchildren have been extensive in many Latin American countries, with one laptop per child type of programmes allowing students to take their computers home. Such laptops often provide access to digital learning resources, activities or textbooks that students are likely to be required to use for their homework, or as additional learning materials.

While the average intensity in the use of digital devices is comparable between Latin American and OECD countries, the digital divide between those who can access and use digital technologies and those who are excluded from them is considerably more pronounced in Latin American countries. The digital divide in access to ICT infrastructure in Latin American countries (Chapter 2) appears to be paired by a digital divide in use. Students who have access to and use digital devices in Latin American countries use them with relatively high frequency, which further amplifies existing digital inequalities.

Contrary to evidence in several OECD countries, students from low socio-economic backgrounds in Latin America make a substantially less frequent uses of digital devices at school, at home for schoolwork or for leisure (Figure 3.3) than those from more advantaged backgrounds. At home, disadvantaged students are less likely to have access to digital devices or Internet connection in the first place (Chapter 2) or maybe have digital devices of a lower quality (older mobile phones or computers). In addition, even if many investments have been made in Latin American countries to bridge divides in access between advantaged and disadvantaged students, differences may remain in how students use ICT at home. Disadvantaged students may use their digital devices for fewer activities, while advantaged students can go online for recreational purposes, to do their homework, read news or obtain practical information. Differences in Internet uses matter because they tend to reproduce non-digital inequalities (Van Deursen et al., 2017[2]). If students from low socio-economic background, less educated or who perform worse in school use digital devices more for entertainment rather than learning, then the use of new technologies may even amplify existing divides.

The socio-economic status gap is less sizeable, however, when it comes to using digital devices at school. This shows that, despite the fact that access to and use of digital devices correlate strongly with students’ socio-economic status, schools in Latin America are able to narrow the digital divide to some extent. Effectively integrating new technologies in teaching and learning practices can help all students develop the mix of skills they need to thrive in a digital world.

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Figure 3.2. Digital devices uses at school and at home for schoolwork
Share of students
Figure 3.2. Digital devices uses at school and at home for schoolwork

Note: Students who make a given digital device use at least weekly are students who make a specific use once or twice a week, almost every day or every day. “LAC minimum” refers to the minimum value among LAC countries with available data. “LAC maximum” refers to the maximum value among Latin American countries with available data. The name of the country associated with the minimum or the maximum among LAC countries is displayed on the graph.

Source: OECD calculations based on OECD (2015[1]), PISA 2015 database, http://www.oecd.org/pisa/data/2015database/.

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934135509

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Figure 3.3. Students’ frequency of digital devices uses, by students’ socio-economic status
Mean index
Figure 3.3. Students’ frequency of digital devices uses, by students’ socio-economic status

Note: The mean indices are defined in the note under (Figure 3.1).

Source: OECD calculations based on OECD (2015[1]), PISA 2015 database, http://www.oecd.org/pisa/data/2015database/.

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934135528

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How does technology use relate to student performance in Latin American countries?

Skills are crucial for individuals to thrive in a changing world of work, but also in societies. Without a good level of skills, people are locked out from the benefits of new technologies (OECD, 2019[3]). Latin American countries are lagging behind OECD countries in terms of their population’s skills. Whether in science, reading or mathematics, the mean performance of Latin American 15-year-olds in PISA assessments is below that of OECD countries (Figure 3.4). All Latin American countries display shares of low-performing students (below the baseline level of proficiency) well above the OECD average. In science, the share of low performers in Latin American countries ranges from 35% of students in Chile to 86% in the Dominican Republic, in contrast to 21% on average across the OECD countries (Figure 3.5) (OECD, 2015[1]). Shares of low performers are equally high for the reading and mathematics assessments.

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Figure 3.4. Student performance in science, reading and mathematics
Mean score in PISA 2015
Figure 3.4. Student performance in science, reading and mathematics

Note: CABA (Argentina) refers to the Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Source: OECD calculations based on OECD (2015[1]), PISA 2015 database, http://www.oecd.org/pisa/data/2015database/.

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934135547

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Figure 3.5. Low performers in science
Share of students
Figure 3.5. Low performers in science

Note: CABA (Argentina) refers to the Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Source: OECD calculations based on OECD (2015[1]), PISA 2015 database, Table I.2.2a, http://www.oecd.org/pisa/data/2015database/.

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934135566

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Box 3.1. Drop- outs and performance: Are we overestimating PISA scores in LAC?

Enrolment in secondary education has been on the rise in many Latin American countries, but school dropout rates remain substantial (Josephson, Francis and Jayaram, 2018[4]). Since PISA covers 15-year-olds who are enrolled in school and have completed at least 6 years of formal schooling (OECD, 2016[5]), students who dropped out or who did not reach level 7 of schooling by the time they were old enough to be eligible for the assessment, are not included in the PISA sample. Many Latin American countries with available data in PISA 2015 display lower coverage rates of their 15-year-old populations (from 62% in Mexico to 75% in Colombia) in comparison to most OECD countries (OECD, 2015[6]). If students excluded from the sample perform less well than those participating in the assessment, then the observed performance levels of students in these countries, already very poor, are likely to be overestimated.

In addition, inequalities due to socio-economic status, immigrant status or living in a rural area are also potentially underestimated in countries with lower coverage if students from such backgrounds are less likely to be included in the sample (OECD, 2016[5]). At the same time, expanding enrolment also means that more low-performing students take the assessment and hence, thereby potentially undervaluing advances made by education systems. Evidence from PISA 2015 shows, however, that in the Latin American countries that have experienced the largest rise in access to schooling, there has not been a trade-off between equity and quality (OECD, 2015[6]).

Source: Josephson, K., R. Francis and S. Jayaram (2018[4]), Políticas para promover la culminación de la educación media en América Latina y el Caribe. Lecciones desde México y Chile. http://scioteca.caf.com/handle/123456789/1246; OECD (2015[6]), Skills in Ibero-America: Insights from PISA 2015, http://www.oecd.org/pisa/sitedocument/Skills-in-Ibero-America-Insights-from-PISA-2015.pdf

Technology can be part of the solution to developing students’ skills as it brings many new and flexible learning opportunities. In particular, technology can complement students and teachers in the performance of educational activities, increasing their efficiency (e.g. for instance, if students find information faster by going on line rather than by searching through a large number of books). Technology use can also substitute more routine or repetitive tasks.

Technology use, however, should not be the objective but rather a tool to leverage more innovative pedagogies. Analyses based on PISA 2015 show that in many OECD and Latin American countries a too frequent use of digital devices at school is associated with lower student performance.1 Results suggest that simply delivering content through technology, substituting teaching by using computers or reproducing traditional pedagogies using ICT is unlikely to result in better outcomes. The way technology is integrated in teaching and learning activities is crucial to enhance student outcomes, and when these pre-conditions are missing, students’ performance may not improve or even be hindered.

To be successful, the introduction of digital technologies in schools needs to rely on a comprehensive approach. High-quality digital tools need to be in line with teacher and curricular needs. Teacher training and ICT support are also essential to enable innovative uses of new technologies that support teaching and learning practices. Chapter 5 examines in detail Latin American teachers’ use of new technologies and self-efficacy in supporting student learning using new technologies.

Beyond cognitive skills and academic performance, the use of new technologies could equally facilitate the development of other types of skills. Labour markets increasingly reward collaboration and socio-emotional skills more generally, as technologies replace workers in the performance of routine and manual tasks and complement them in the performance of other tasks (OECD, 2019[3]; Deming, 2017[7]). The PISA 2015 assessment examined the extent to which 15-year-old students were able to collaborate in order to solve problems (OECD, 2017[8]).

Unfortunately, evidence shows that students in Latin American countries that participated in this assessment performed less well than students in all OECD countries (with the exception of Turkey). In Brazil and Peru, more than 60% of students are low performers in collaborative problem solving (below level 2) and less than 1% are top performers (level 4).

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Figure 3.6. Proficiency in collaborative problem solving
Percentage of students at different levels of collaborative problem-solving proficiency
Figure 3.6. Proficiency in collaborative problem solving

Note: The PISA 2015 assessment and analytical framework (OECD, 2017[9]) describes proficiency levels as follows: “at level 4, students can successfully carry out complicated problem-solving tasks with high collaboration complexity” and “at level 1, students can complete tasks with low problem complexity and limited collaboration complexity”. As for students performing at below level 1, “the PISA 2015 collaborative problem-solving assessment was not designed to assess either elementary collaboration skills or elementary problem-solving skills. Hence, there were insufficient items to fully describe performance that fell below level 1 on the collaborative problem-solving scale” (OECD, 2017[8]).

Source: OECD (2017[8]), PISA 2015 Results (Volume V): Collaborative Problem Solving, http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264285521-en.

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934135585

At the same time, new technologies increase the scope of collaboration: they allow individuals, students and teachers to connect from anywhere and at any time, to easily communicate and exchange, and thus work jointly on projects or solve problems. Analyses based on PISA 2015 suggest again that there is little relationship between students’ performance in collaborative problem solving and their self-reported ICT competence (Figure 3.7) (OECD, 2017[8]) and exposure to ICT does not seem to be associated with better student performance in collaborative problem solving. Other policies, such as those that increase diversity in classrooms, foster positive relationships at schools (e.g. through teacher training in classroom management or the organisation of social activities at school) or even physical education can be more beneficial to students’ collaborative skills (OECD, 2017[8]).

The following section will discuss how Latin American countries can make the most of ICT use in initial education.

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Figure 3.7. Index of ICT use at school and performance in collaborative problem solving
Figure 3.7. Index of ICT use at school and performance in collaborative problem solving

Note: Only the United Kingdom subnational entities of England, Northern Ireland and Wales participated in the ICT questionnaire. The index of ICT use at school is defined in the note of Figure 3.1. Countries are ranked by the mean score of students in the bottom quartile of the index of ICT use at school.

Source: OECD (2017[8]), PISA 2015 Results (Volume V): Collaborative Problem Solving, http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264285521-en.

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934135604

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In Latin American countries, there is scope for more efficient integration of ICTs in initial education

Access to digital tools for learning is, alone, insufficient to raise student outcomes

Empirical results based on PISA show that in Latin American countries, as in OECD countries, connectivity is not enough for improved academic outcomes. Merely adding and using more computers or educational software in classrooms does not automatically translate into better performance. The same holds for investing in access at home. Evidence on the increase in ICT access at home, though more scarce than evidence related to ICT in schools, indicates that expanding access is unlikely to result in improved educational outcomes (Bulman and Fairlie, 2016[10]). While there is leeway for enhanced connectivity in many Latin American countries and particularly for disadvantaged students (Chapter 2), channelling investments only on expanding access is insufficient to make the most of new technologies for learning. Even in many OECD countries with almost universal access to ICT in schools and at home, the potential of digital tools for learning has not been reached yet (OECD, 2019[3]).

Indeed, increased access to ICT in schools (and at home) tends to be associated with more time spent using these devices (Leuven et al., 2007[11]; Malamud et al., 2018[12]; Bulman and Fairlie, 2016[10]). By investing in ICT availability, students are provided more opportunities to become acquainted to digital tools, thereby potentially enhancing their digital competence and increasing their awareness of the risks associated with new technologies (e.g. cyberbullying, safety and privacy issues, and excessive use). Few studies measure, however, the direct impact of technology use on students’ digital skills, as the focus is generally on academic outcomes. Among those who do, some find positive effects on digital skills (Malamud and Pop-Eleches, 2011[13]; Malamud et al., 2018[12]). Evidence from PISA 2012 indicates the presence of a hill-shaped relationship between computer use at school and student performance in digital reading, quality of students’ navigation on line or computer-based mathematics, whereby moderate uses are more positively related to student performance than no or extensive uses (OECD, 2015[14]). Interestingly, contrasting students’ performance in digital versus paper-based assessment shows that students’ performance is weakly associated to high levels of computer use. The relationship between computer use and digital skills vary, however, by type of use and country. For instance, in Australia, even high frequency browsing is associated with higher skills in digital reading (OECD, 2015[14]).

As technology is constantly changing, the definition of digital competence is also evolving. The availability of digital tools in schools can enable children to learn how to use a computer or specific software. However, when students focus too much on acquiring specialised digital skills, the risk that those skills become quickly outdated can emerge, especially in light of the rapid pace of technological progress (OECD, 2019[3]). Developing digital literacy more broadly, one that enhances students’ digital skills, their digital resilience and capacity to make a critical use of new technologies can lead to larger dividends, ensuring that students are not locked up by their narrow knowledge of specific digital technologies (Bell, 2016[15]). Schools can play a leading role in this respect, either through the innovative integration of ICTs in the curricula, or by shifting the focus of ICT classes from developing specific digital skills to broader digital literacy and competence (Box 3.2).

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Box 3.2. Digital skills and digital competence

The Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development – a joint initiative of the International Communication Union and UNESCO – regards digital skills as a continuum from basic to advanced skills (Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development, 2017[16]):

  • Basic functional digital skills allow people to access and use digital technologies (e.g. understanding basic ICT concepts, being able to manage computer files, use keyboards or touch-screen devices).

  • Generic/intermediate digital skills allow people to use technologies in meaningful and beneficial ways (e.g. using work-related software, creating online content, evaluating online risks).

  • Advanced skills are those needed by ICT specialists (e.g. programming, app development).

Generic/intermediate digital skills are often at the core of national digital strategies or policies that seek to develop the population’s digital literacy or competence. For instance, the digital competence framework of the European Commission defines digital competence as “the confident, critical and creative use of ICT to achieve goals related to work, employability, learning, leisure, inclusion and/or participation in society” (Ferrari, 2013[17]).

Source: OECD (2019[3]), OECD Skills Outlook 2019 : Thriving in a Digital World, https://dx.doi.org/10.1787/df80bc12-en.

The quality of educational technologies matters

Much focus has been put on expanding and documenting increases in access (e.g. through the number of computers per student in schools), but the quality of digital devices is rarely measured in a systematic way (Bulman and Fairlie, 2016[10]). Shortages or inadequacies of digital instruction are equally likely to shape the extent to which technology use in schools can be associated with better performance. If students waste time because the Internet connection is slow, computers do not function properly, or software is outdated, technology use risks being detrimental to student performance. Perceived shortages or inadequacy of digital technologies are considerable in Latin American countries (Chapter 2), hence the quality of ICT infrastructure or lack thereof could also drive the absence of positive associations between student performance and digital devices use. The availability of technical support staff for ICT who can help maintain digital tools and prepare them for class, so that teachers do not waste time trying to fix computers or wait until they are turned on during class, can also be of consequence. Such support staff can be crucial, especially if teachers themselves are not fully proficient in the use of digital tools and require assistance with newer software or technologies.

The quality of educational technologies also raises the question of their evaluation. Certain types of interventions, such as expanding access to computers or computer-assisted instruction, have been more frequently evaluated through rigorous methods than others, although countless technology-based opportunities for learning have emerged (e.g. interactive whiteboards) (Escueta et al., 2017[18]; Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab, 2019[19]). More evidence is needed to identify which components of educational technologies, rather than tools or products, are most beneficial to learning (Escueta et al., 2017[18]; Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab, 2019[19]). In addition, it is often easier to invest in hardware or scale up educational technology programmes rapidly than devote time and resources in evaluating them or collecting data to assess their link to student performance. Pilot projects can be run before scaling up programmes and rethinking measurement options could be rethought in order to obtain metrics on the relationship between technology and performance faster. Cost-benefit analyses would also allow understanding whether investments in some technologies crowd out other types of investments, especially as the introduction of technologies in schools is likely to be associated with additional costs related to their maintenance or update (Bulman and Fairlie, 2016[10]).

The way technology is integrated in teaching and learning activities is crucial to enhance student outcomes

Technology use at school

In Latin American and OECD countries alike, if not well developed, the frequent use of digital devices at school may distract students or substitute more efficient instructional practices (OECD, 2019[3]). If technology merely replaces learning or teaching activities that could have been done equally efficiently otherwise, then the use of technology may not have been necessary in the first place and thus, their use will likely result in no impact on performance. More troubling, if technology replaces more efficient educational practices, it can be detrimental to students’ outcomes.

The way technology is used and the quality of the instruction it may substitute matter. The overall effect of technology use for learning activities in schools depends on how it complements or substitutes traditional instruction (Bulman and Fairlie, 2016[10]), meaning how technology is integrated into pedagogical practices and whether it substitutes more or less motivated and trained teachers (Banerjee et al., 2007[20]).

Evidence shows that, while ICT investment has very little or no positive effect on student outcomes on its own, educational software or computer-assisted instruction displays more promising results, although more in mathematics than in reading (Bulman and Fairlie, 2016[10]; Escueta et al., 2017[18]; Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab, 2019[19]). Unlike broad ICT investments, educational software can be more easily individualised and targeted at the specific needs of students. Some of the programmes that were found to be effective, were so as they provided feedback to students and sent information about students’ performance to teachers as well (Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab, 2019[19]). In developing countries with lower teacher quality and large heterogeneity in students’ skills, computer-assisted instruction can have beneficial effects on student outcomes especially as this can enable to provide instruction at a level adequate to each student (Kremer, Brannen and Glennerster, 2013[21]; Muralidharan, Singh and Ganimian, 2019[22]).

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Box 3.3. Technology use and student outcomes- some research evidence from Latin America

Technology at school

In Colombia, an evaluation of the “Computadores para Educar” programme found that the programme only increased the time spent by students on computers, with no statistically significant effect on students’ test scores and other outcomes (Barrera-Osorio and Linden, 2009[23]). The programme, initiated in 2002, was based on refurbishing computers from the private sector in order to give them to public schools and training teachers, thanks to a partnership between schools and a local university. Using a randomised experiment involving a sample of schools associated with the University of Antioquia, the evaluation shows that there is no effect of the programme on students’ test scores, grades, probability to like school or to talk to a teacher outside of class. A follow-up questionnaire unveiled that students’ computer use at school had increased for computer science classes but not for Spanish classes, although the latter were the focus of the programme. Outside of ICT classes, the programme failed at supporting the integration of computers into pedagogical practices.

Assessments that are more recent have provided more positive evidence on the effectiveness of “Computadores para Educar” (OECD, 2019[24]). In particular, participation in the programme appeared to be associated with lower dropout and reduced repetition rates, as well as with higher transition rates to tertiary education. These effects were nevertheless dependent on a satisfactory level of training for teachers. Teacher training, but also training of parents, has been one of the important features of the programme. By 2016, around 50 000 teachers and more than 150 000 parents had benefitted from training (OECD, 2019[24]) in ICT-skills and the use of digital technologies for educational purposes.

In Chile, the programme “ConectaIdeas” was developed to support learning in mathematics among students from disadvantaged backgrounds. The novelty of the programme relied on several gamification strategies in order to enhance student motivation. Based on a randomised experiment in public primary schools attended by low-income, low-skilled students in Santiago, an evaluation of the programme found positive effects on students’ maths achievement (Araya et al., 2019[25]). Observed effects were four times larger than the effects of two other interventions related to: (i) the extension of the school day from four to seven hours, and (ii) the provision of lesson plans and materials to teachers. While the programme had a positive effect on students’ preference to rely on computers for maths, it also led to higher anxiety associated with the field and made students less willing to collaborate.

Technology at home

A randomised experiment examined the short-term impact of One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) XO laptops provided at home in Peru (Beuermann et al., 2015[26]). Around 1 000 primary school children from Lima received laptops to use at home. The intervention successfully increased children’s exposure to and use of computers at home. The largest increases in time spent on the laptop were due to playing games, although OLPC designed these games with educational purposes. Students’ proficiency in using OLPC XO also increased. However, no effect was found on self-reported skills for Windows or Internet use, on maths and reading grades or cognitive skills measured by the Raven’s Progressive Matrices Test. Moreover, using information on teachers’ perceptions, the evaluation provided evidence that students who benefitted from the programme made fewer efforts at school.

A further evaluation of the same OLPC XO provision in Peru focused on the effects of increased Internet access at home on a range of student outcomes (Malamud et al., 2018[12]). In contrast to Beuermann et al. (2015[26]) who examined short-term effects, this secondary evaluation, conducted using follow-up data collected after a longer time, found positive effects on students’ computer literacy as reflected by their proficiency in a Windows-based test. Internet and computer proficiency of children improved following the intervention. There were no effects, however, on maths and reading achievement, school grades or cognitive skills measured by the Raven’s Progressive Matrices Test. In addition, using log data, the evaluation showed that students were using the computer and the Internet more for entertainment rather than for learning activities.

Source: Araya, R. et al. (2019[25]), Does Gamification in Education Work?: Experimental Evidence from Chile, http://dx.doi.org/10.18235/0001777; Barrera-Osorio, F. and L. Linden (2009[23]), “The use and misuse of computers in education: Evidence from a randomized experiment in Colombia”, Impact Evaluation Series No. 29, Policy Research Working Paper No. 4836; Beuermann, D. et al. (2015[26]), “One laptop per child at home: Short-term impacts from a randomized experiment in Peru”, American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, http://dx.doi.org/10.1257/app.20130267; Malamud, O. and C. Pop-Eleches (2011[13]), “Home computer use and the development of human capital”, The Quarterly Journal of Economics, http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/qje/qjr008.

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Figure 3.8. Use of ICT with high frequency, by subject
Share of lower-secondary teachers with high ICT frequency, by subject in target class
Figure 3.8. Use of ICT with high frequency, by subject

Note: High ICT frequency use occurs when ICTs are used frequently or nearly in all lessons for students’ class work or projects. The sample for LAC includes: Buenos Aires (Argentina), Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Mexico.

Source: OECD calculations based on OECD (2018[27]), TALIS 2018 Database, http://www.oecd.org/education/talis/.

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934135623

Indeed, while new technologies hold great potential for innovative uses across many subjects, they continue to be used mostly in areas where they are expected to be present, such as technology or ICT classes (OECD, 2019[3]). In a similar vein to in OECD countries, Latin American teachers use ICTs with higher frequency in subjects that are already traditionally associated with the use of new technologies (Figure 3.8). The share of lower-secondary teachers who let their students use ICT frequently (or always) is highest in subjects such as technology, science, practical and vocational skills. Evidence on the effectiveness of ICT use for student learning shows, however, that innovative uses of technology in mathematics can lead to enhanced student performance (Bulman and Fairlie, 2016[10]). Yet, less than half of mathematics teachers let their students use ICT for projects or class work (Figure 3.8).

When technology is integrated into innovative teaching and learning practices, it can enhance student performance and engagement (OECD, 2015[14]; Paniagua and Istance, 2018[28]; Peterson et al., 2018[29]). Simply delivering content through technology, substituting teaching by using computers or reproducing traditional pedagogies is unlikely to result in better outcomes. Technology use should not be the objective, but rather a tool or a complement for more innovative pedagogies. Gamification, flipped instruction or blended learning are some examples of innovative uses that can be performed with the use of digital technologies and show great potential for improved learning (Peterson et al., 2018[29]; Araya et al., 2019[25]; Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab, 2019[19]).

Teachers and their pedagogies are essential to ensure that technology is used at its best potential in the classroom. Pedagogies can rely on technology to encourage active learning and collaboration, while also supporting students’ digital literacy and ensuring that they have the prerequisite skills to use digital tools (Paniagua and Istance, 2018[28]). Many children are passive consumers of new technologies and pedagogies are key to support children in developing their critical thinking with respect to new technologies and taking an active role in relation to digital content (e.g. by analysing or creating content rather than simply using what is available) (Burns and Gottschalk, 2019[30]).

Technology use at home

At home, making the most of opportunities brought by new technologies for learning depends heavily on parents’ involvement and digital competence. Many children first enter into contact with technology in the parental household, whether through the presence of a computer or parents’ smartphones. Parents and families have a crucial role in how children interact with technology outside of the school premises. For instance, digitally proficient parents are also more likely to encourage their children to explore and learn using new technologies, while also building their digital resilience (Livingstone et al., 2017[31]). Apart from policies to develop adults’ digital competence, technology-based nudges, such as text messages, can also have positive effects on parental involvement and behaviour related to their children’s digital activity (Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab, 2019[19]). In Chile, a randomised intervention sent more than 7 000 parents weekly SMS messages informing them about their children’s Internet use and/or encouraging and assisting them to install parental control software (Gallego, Malamud and Pop-Eleches, 2018[32]). Messages were effective at influencing parents’ behaviour and reducing children’s Internet use.

The role of schools and teachers

Latin American countries perform poorly in terms of their population’s skills and inequalities are pervasive, with respect to both the access and use of new technologies for learning at home. This enhances the role of schools and teachers in helping bridge digital divides and ensuring that students, irrespective of their background, are able to make the most of new technologies to develop their skills. In turn, schools and especially teachers need to be able to integrate technology in their activities.

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Box 3.4. Computer-assisted instruction in mathematics - two promising programmes

Several evaluations of the ASSISTments web-based homework support have found large positive effects on students’ performance in mathematics (Escueta et al., 2017[18]). Among these evaluations, Roschelle et al (2016[33]) perform a large-scale randomised experiment with seventh-grade mathematics students in Maine. ASSISTments is a platform for maths homework that relies on “formative assessments”. Based on data derived from students’ work, it provides feedback, guidance and allows teachers to rely on the data to adapt their own instruction methods to the specific needs of their students. (Roschelle et al., 2016[33]; Escueta et al., 2017[18]). Roschelle et al. (2016[33]) found that the use of ASSISTments was associated with a large increase in students’ maths scores. The estimated improvement in learning outcomes is significant considering the limited amount of time (a few minutes per day) devoted by students to its use.

Muralidharan, Singh and Ganimian (2019[22]) examine the effect of a personalised computer-aided after-school programme in India. Through a lottery, middle-school students from low socio-economic backgrounds in urban areas can enter the programme and attend after-school centres where they use the Mindspark software. They benefit from a blended learning experience that combines individual activities using the software and instructional support from an assistant. One of the key features of the software is that it allows personalising the material proposed to students based on their initial level and rate of progress. The evaluation of the programme finds strong positive effects on students’ mathematics and Hindi score. Moreover, the programme is associated with absolute gains for all students, irrespective of their baseline scores, gender or socio-economic status, which reflects the effectiveness of its personalised instruction feature that adapts to each student’s needs.

Source: Escueta, M. et al. (2017[18]), “Education technology: An evidence-based review”, NBER Working Paper, No. 23744, http://www.nber.org/papers/w23744; Muralidharan, K., A. Singh and A. Ganimian (2019[22]), “Disrupting education? Experimental evidence on technology-aided instruction in India”, American Economic Review, http://dx.doi.org/10.1257/aer.20171112; Roschelle, J. et al. (2016[33]), “Online mathematics homework increases student achievement”, AERA Open, http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/2332858416673968.

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Figure 3.9. Teachers’ views on their colleagues’ openness to innovation
Percentage of lower secondary teachers who “agree” or “strongly agree” with each statement
Figure 3.9. Teachers’ views on their colleagues’ openness to innovation

Note: CABA (Argentina) refers to the Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Source: OECD calculations based on OECD (2018[27]), TALIS 2018 Database, http://www.oecd.org/education/talis/.

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934135642

In many cases, educational technology polices or reforms fail to translate into the desired outcomes because too little focus is put on their implementation (Viennet and Pont, 2017[34]). To be successful, the introduction of digital technologies in schools and classrooms needs to properly engage all relevant stakeholders and in particular teachers. Teachers in Latin American countries with available data report high levels of openness to innovation in their school, similar to those observed among OECD countries (Figure 3.9). The teaching profession is at the core of the integration of ICTs in classrooms and its skills, attitudes and beliefs are key determinants of the extent to which new technologies can support better learning outcomes. For innovation to happen, teachers need support.

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Note

← 1. The pattern holds for all subjects traditionally assessed in PISA, namely science, reading and mathematics and is consistent across several PISA rounds (OECD, 2015[14]) and holds also when looking at digital devices at home for schoolwork.

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