Regular use of computers can have an effect on student performance on standardized tests, according to a new study by
researchers at Boston College and the University of Massachusetts at Lowell.
Analyzing test performance and computer uses of 986 fourth grade students from 55 classrooms in nine Massachusetts school
districts, the study found that the more regularly students use computers to write papers for school, the better they
performed on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment Systems (MCAS) English/Language Arts exam. This positive effect
occurred despite the fact that students were not allowed to use computers for the test.
Conversely, the study found that students' recreational use of computers to play games, explore the Internet for fun, or chat
with friends at home had a negative effect on students' MCAS reading scores. Similarly, students' use of computers to create
PowerPoint presentations was also negatively associated with MCAS writing scores.
This study of students' MCAS performance is part of the "Use, Support and Effect of Instructional Technology" (USEIT) study
conducted by the Technology and Assessment Study Collaborative of the Lynch School of Education at Boston College. Funded by
the US Department of Education, USEIT is a three-year assessment of educational technology that occurred across 22
The MCAS achievement component of USEIT is the most sophisticated analysis of the relationships between students' computer
use and test performance conducted to date. Building on several shortcomings of past research on this topic, this study
collected detailed measures of a variety of student uses of computers in and out of school, controlled for differences in
home learning environments, separated effects of teachers' instructional practices, and controlled for differences in prior
achievement by using third grade MCAS scores.
In addition to analyzing the effect of a variety of uses of computers on students' total MCAS scores, this study also
examined the sub-scores provided by the MCAS test.
At a time when standardized testing is playing an increasingly important role in shaping the learning experiences of students
and instructional practices of teachers, the researchers believe this study provides evidence that students' computer use
does have an impact on student achievement as measured by tests like MCAS. More importantly, they say, the study demonstrates
that different uses of computers have different effects on student learning.
"Specifically, this study finds that students' use of computers throughout the writing process had a statistically
significant positive effect on MCAS writing scores," said the study's director, Michael Russell of BC's Lynch School of
Education. "Using computers simply to type in final drafts of essays, however, had no effect on students' test performance.
These findings are consistent with past research and demonstrate the importance of allowing students to use computers to
produce rough drafts, edit their papers, and to produce final drafts."
This study also indicates that using computers for recreational purposes had a negative effect on test performance,
particularly for reading scores. The authors speculate that this occurs because students who spend more time using computers
for recreational purposes at home may spend less time reading at home.
Similarly, the study found that use of computers in school to create presentations was negatively associated with writing
test scores. According to the researchers, this negative relationship may result from students spending less time writing
during class time and more time creating and revising multimedia projects that contain relatively small amounts of written
work. In essence, time spent creating presentations may detract from time available during class to develop students' writing
"These findings are important for two reasons," said Russell. "First, at a time when schools are under increased pressure to
raise test scores, yet are also facing budget shortfalls, this study provides evidence that investments in computers can have
positive effects on student achievement. Second, it shows that teachers and students must be thoughtful about how computers
are used and what types of learning they expect to impact."
"When examining the effect of computer use on student learning, it is important to consider how well a specific use is
aligned with the measure of learning," added the study's lead author, Laura O'Dwyer of the Graduate School of Education at
UMass Lowell, formerly a researcher at Boston College. "While this study found that use of computers to create presentations
was negatively associated with writing scores, it does not mean that students should not be creating presentations with
computers. Creating presentations may be a positive learning experience, but such effects are not captured by a test like
MCAS that measures reading and writing skills."
Adds BC researcher Damian Bebell, the study's third author, "Although this study finds some interesting effects of students'
use of computers, teachers in this study generally did not use technology to teach. As more and more schools, districts, and
states provide teachers and students with their own laptops, it will be interesting to see if teachers are able to use
technology more in the classroom and if these uses add to the effects of student technology use."
Study Director Michael Russell, Boston College: 617-552-0889
Study Lead Author Laura O'Dwyer, UMass Lowell: 978-934-4633
Study Third Author, Damian Bebell, Boston College: 207-326-8328
When there is computer in my room , its like i have to sit in front of it even though i do nothing. its a must i cant help it. and those days that electricity is gone im so happy i just lye down on my bed and chill , read books and i wish to not pay the electric bill for the next 3 days. and also those days i wish to hand phone was not invented so i could be totally free of the technology
i couldn't control myself from facebook so i was behind in my project
posted by Lepani Bataba on 28 Apr 2012 at 11:53 pm
most of the time i asked my father to use the computers to type my project and do some research, but i spend of the my time on facebook. i couldn't control myself from facebook so i was behind in my project.
Just Self-discipline.. Re: How computers affect student performance, the good and the bad
posted by Laurice on 3 Mar 2012 at 4:21 am
There is nothing really bad with computers!.. It actually helps us most of the time, specially to students who is doing some research papers. I think it's all about self-discipline. If we know how to control ourself, we will be able to use this technology always for good! am I right?
One of the "bads" is the ignorance computers have caused. Before computers, people understood grammar and knew how to write properly, with the addition of computers, grammar skill and writing has decreased exponentially.
posted by aljilen hernandez on 7 Sep 2011 at 5:27 am
in my opinion, computer have good and bad effect especially to the students, how? (bad effect)- some of the students spent more time in using computer than studying their lessons, and "some" of the students having their own computer or laptop abuse using, while those students using computer in a cafe spent their money to be able to use it the problem is what if the money they are using is for the school needs?....(good effect)- students who use computer for additional knowledge gain knowledge!!! with the use of computer student can easily search in order to eliminate confusion,,, what do you think?
Adds BC researcher Damian Bebell, the study's third author, "Although this study finds some interesting effects of students' use of computers, teachers in this study generally did not use technology to teach. As more and more schools, districts, and states provide teachers and students with their own laptops, it will be interesting to see if teachers are able to use technology more in the classroom and if these uses add to the effects of student technology use."
For me too, computers have both a negative and positive effects. They r good coz they keep us in touch with every one and everything that's happening in the world around us. Computers can serve us a lot and in too many ways. In one sense, much of our life is dependent upon to the extent that each one of us should have a computer alone. They r bad according to my point of view because they make us lazy to some extent. BUT what I would like to say here is that we should cope with all that's new otherwise we will be left out .
Computer is bad and good both. Because once the computer is on lots of sight is there. The person one who operates the computer automatically goes to the sight and due to curiosity she/he children/all/will open the sight and see which suppose not to see or not for him or she. Instead of studying or entertaining he may start negative things to do. All are or all may not mature enough to handle the some of the negative effect of the sight.
Some may use it for some illegal and bad purpose which is happening very much in this world. What can u do good change for this? World is changing equally but the bad part is more as we hear in the news. I feel it .I think we all need respect love and proper standard of life but we are losing it. : The standard of harmony peace and beauty of life we are losing why. Is it because of computer? Or there may be other reason. TODAY WHY THE HARMONY AND THE LIFE OF FAMILY IS RUINED. IS IT COMPUER DOING THIS? OR OTHER REASON.: The beauty and standard of real love and life we are losing why.......
'How computers affect student performance, the good and the bad'
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