The 2018 PISA, released last week, showed students globally spend three hours online outside of school, and almost 3½ hours online on weekend days. This was an hour longer than they reported in 2012. It is recommended that young people spend no more than two hours a day sitting in front of a small screen.
“Today, 15-year-olds report reading less for leisure and more for practical purposes,” the OECD’s report said.
“They read fewer books, magazines or newspapers, and use online formats such as chats, online news or websites containing practical information.
“Furthermore, in 2018, more students said they considered reading a ‘waste of time’ (up 5 percentage points on average across OECD countries) and fewer students read for enjoyment (minus 5 percentage points) than their counterparts did in 2009.”
Amanda Third, an expert on young people’s technology use, said time online figures were not a good measure of engagement and there was clear literature showing good use of technology enhanced student learning.
“There are a lot of forces that demonise technology and pit it against learning outcomes,” the University of Western Sydney Associate Professor said.
“Most teachers are attuned to the possible problems associated with distraction in the classrooms,” she said. “What’s more difficult for teachers to do is not only regulate but also create value to the learning process.”
Pasi Sahlberg, professor of education policy at the Gonski Institute for Education, said an OECD report on 2015 PISA data found there was “actually slight negative correlation between computer use and learning.”
“This is, as they explain, probably due to inappropriate use of computers for learning.”
A study by the Gonski Institute this year found three of five teachers in Australia said there had been a clear decline in students’ readiness to learn, and four of five teachers reported that technology was a growing distraction to students.
“I think we need much more detailed and specific research, consideration and conversations about how the rather heavy use of media and digital technology among young people today changes their readiness and ability to learn well in school complex concepts and issues as mathematics, science and complicated texts,” Professor Sahlberg said.
Associate Professor Third said adults needed to model good reading practices.
“When adults read the paper or a book on a device it’s not always clear to children that they are reading. We need to be explicit with kids about what we are doing on our device.”
Madeleine Heffernan edits The Age’s Monday education page