APCUG Web Site
Index for this issue
Default font size|
Large font size
Evidence to the ContraryAnd I particularly liked the response from Carl Davidson:
Professor Fisman mentions (but quickly dismisses) the evidence that contradicts his thesis: Evidence that shows having a home computer and Internet access improves children’s learning and success in school.
This evidence comes from many places: Researchers at Michigan State University found that the more often low-income middle-school students used the Internet at home, the better their GPAs and standardized test scores.
Economist Robert W. Fairlie and his research team at UC-Santa Cruz found that teens with home Internet access were 6 to 8 percentage points more likely to graduate from high school.
My organization, Computers for Youth (CFY), in conjunction with ETS, found that students actively and regularly used their home computers and the Internet for learning and that their computer use was associated with increased success in school. More specifically, students’ engagement and home computer use, particularly their home Internet use and computer use for self-regulated learning, explained 14% of the variance in their math test scores over and above the prior years’ scores. 
CFY helps low-income children succeed in school by improving their learning environment at home. Since 1999, we have provided more than 15,000 low-income families in the U.S. (NYC, Philadelphia, and Atlanta) with a computer-based home learning center - a suite of engaging educational software loaded on a free refurbished computer. Families that participate in our program must attend a free workshop on how to use the computers to support children’s learning.
CFY has conducted research for over five years and has examined test scores as one of many indicators of children’s success. We have also considered school engagement, improved family relationships, perceptions of increased confidence and curiosity due to home computing as indicators of positive impact.
Our data show that home computing is associated with persistent and positive outcomes. They also show that lower-performing students may derive more benefits than their high-performing peers.
CFY welcomes the opportunity to share evidence about the other side of this story.
REFERENCES  Jackson, L.A., von Eye, A., Biocca, F.A. (2003). Does Home Internet Use Influence the Academic Performance of Low-Income Children? Findings from the HomeNetToo Project. First Latin American Web Congress (LA-WEB’03).
 Beltran, D.O., Das, K.K., and Fairlie, R.W. (2006). Are computers good for children? The effects of home computers on educational outcomes. Available on-line at: http://ideas.repec.org/p/auu/dpaper/576.html
 Tsikalas, K.E., Lee, J., Newkirk, C. (2008). Home Computing, School Engagement, and Academic Achievement of Low-Income Adolescents: Findings from the CFY Intervention. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, New York, NY. Available from author.
It’s hard for a student alone to get into trouble going through the encyclopedia. And as every kid knows, you can turn an internet linked computer into your own private porn movie house with about four mouse clicks, not to mention the problems with chat rooms.
But a decent teacher helps and, your assertion notwithstanding, there are plenty of them in the inner city, as well as a few who should retire.
In my afterschool computer workshop at an inner city school, I had a young woman student come in and ask, ‘Mr. Davidson, I need help with my English paper on MacBeth.’ Did you read it?’ I asked? ‘Yes.’ ‘Tell me what stuck in your mind?’ ‘Well, I didn’t like Lady MacBeth. She seemed like a fourth witch to me.’ OK, I said, lets see what we can find. So I show her how to do proper searches of Google, and lo and behold, all sorts of learned books and papers pop up with Lady MacBeth as the fourth witch. She was hooked, and did very well.
I had a young nineth grader, who came to the lab, and only looked up TV ‘wrestling.’ Do you like this stuff?, I asked.
Yes, then he filled me in on his favorites. Do you know about other kinds? No, he didn’t, so the Google lesson again, and now he’s engrossed in Greco-Romam, and the entire history of the sport over the centuries, opening a wider world.
Students need a guide with these tools, just as we had teachers in wood and metal shop when I was a kid. It would have been a mistake to give us the run of all that equipment with no supervision or instruction.
I can’t speak for all computer refurbishing groups, but HelpingTulsa (http://helpingtulsa.org/) has provided a number of computers to childen, both through donations to At Risk schools, after school programs, daycare centers, and low income Tulsa Housing Authority facilities, and HUD Section 8 facilities. We even developed a special Children Image (http://helpingtulsa.org/images/children.htm) with educational programs for grades 1-6. Anything can be misused, but I am convinced that a child can benefit from having access to a computer, and I applaud groups that are working to refurbish old computers and make them available to children that cannot otherwise afford them.
And if your group refurbishes computers, but is not aware of the Google Regurbisher group, go to http://groups.google.com/group/refurbishers?hl=en.