Charlene E. Ghaedi
February 4, 2001
Reference: Kirkpatrick, H. and L. Cuban. "Computers Make Kids SmarterRight?," TECHNOS Qtrly, 7(2): (7 pps.), 1998.
Principle: This article attempts to reassess whether computers do make kids smarter by comparing the computer-using classroom kids with non-computer classroom kids.
Design: Single studies and meta-analyses were utilized on primary students, secondary students and higher education students in classrooms that use computers and in non-computer classrooms. The meta-analyses were performed in such a way that the researchers take the findings from single studies and calculate a way to compare them with each other. The goal was to synthesize the data statistically and find out what the studies revealed when they were examined together. The single studies had to meet predetermined criteria, which attempted to make sure that the results were rigorous and carry more weight than dozens of single studies by themselves. It eliminated the problem with small sample size and required control groups for each single study. The studies compared a computer-using class (experimental group) with a non-computer-using class (control group). The meta-analyses also required that the studies be free from methodological flaws. There were ten meta-analyses done between 1977 and 1995, and these provided the data for this reassessment in 1998. Meta-analyses numbered from 16 to 254 studies. Each meta-analyses reported on student achievement outcomes by reporting the efficiency of computer use, students' attitudes, and effectiveness by type of use. Differences of subject matter, age groups of the students, and aptitude levels of the students were inconclusive.
Independent Variables: A computer-using class in primary, secondary, or higher education was the experimental group.
Dependent Variables: A non-computer using class in primary, secondary, or higher education was the control group.
Procedures: Single studies were performed on primary, secondary, or higher education kids. A control group was studied in each single study. There was no real mention in detail of how exactly the studies were done and what procedures were utilized, except that results of standardized tests were used. This report stated that an attempt was made to prevent methodological flaws, but there was no mention of how this exactly was done. Meta-analyses were used by comparing batches of the single studies. In some of the studies, the same teacher taught both the experimental group and the control group.
Results: This research received many critical reviews. The lack of teacher controls, lack of details on environment, short duration of the studies, the use of inappropriate standardized achievement tests for data collection, and the small size of the single studies made it impossible to determine whether computers in classrooms have made kids smarter as was hoped. While positive results were mainly obtained, it is not conclusive if the computers made the kids do better or if it was another influence, i.e. the teacher. Vast criticism was received because there was a lack of determining what skills were being measured by standardized achievement exams.
Comments: The need to determine whether or not computers will be used in classrooms is obsolete. Computers will be and are being used in classrooms today. A determination of exactly what skills relevant to computer use needs to be made. This report was interesting, but failed to determine the principle of reassessing whether kids are smarter because of their computer use. I, along with the authors, did not find that the method and procedures of research were effective or appropriate for such a determination.