Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Finland's boys read better online

Computers find very little use in Finland's schools, well behind the OECD average for classroom use, although Finnish students always score highly on the PISA tests.  Most of the ITC experience of students is leisure at home.

A study of students' reading showed that this out-of-school experience produces different reading results for boys and girls, according to an article in the Finnish Journal of Education.
Girls in Finland, like most other countries, come out on top in reading scores in international PISA tests.  However, the results were reversed when the reading was online with hypertext links rather than hard copy material.

Meri-Tuulia Kaarakainen, a researcher at the University of Turku, speculated that boys are playing computer games at home and they seem to be learning from these, despite the general feeling that they are bad.  She said "we found that boys who were very active internet users and who studied computer programming performed best of all on hypertext reading. "

Practice makes a difference, not surprisingly.  Enough research has shown that the brain organizes itself around the uses that are made of it to expect that the students whose use of computers is consistent with what is being tested will do better than those who use them in different ways.
Boys who were judged by teachers to be below average readers in hard copy tended to do better with online reading.  Girls who were better readers, performed less well reading the digital resources.  Boys and girls seemed to use the digital environment differently.

The researchers are concerned that girls not be left behind in ability to perform in the information society. 
Followup research is planned by Kaarakainen:  pupils will "set their own problems and find the solutions because this is what life on the internet is like." 

This is an assessment that would send a powerful message about valuing the student role in taking control of their own learning.

Reference:  Times Education Supplement, TESPro, March 1, 2013

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