Quantity and Quality of Computer Use and Academic Achievement: Evidence from a Large-Scale International Test Program

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ABSTRACT

This study looked at the effect of both quantity and quality of computer use on achievement. The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2003 student survey comprising of 4,356 students (boys, n = 2,129; girls, n = 2,227) was used to predict academic achievement from quantity and quality of computer use while controlling for demographic differences such as gender, race, and socioeconomic status. A weighted ordinary least squares hierarchical multiple regression approach was utilized. Both the quantity and quality of computer usage were found to be significant predictors of achievement. Implications were discussed. This study differs from past research in that it investigates the simultaneous effect of both quality and quantity of computer use on academic achievement in context of a large-scale probability sample which allows projection of our analytical results to the entire population of 15-year old high school students in the U.S.

Keywords: Information communication technology; ICT; Program for International Student Assessment; PISA; computer use; academic achievement

INTRODUCTION

Studies looking at the impact of information communication technology (ICT) tools, such as use of computers, on achievement have shown that not only the quantity but also the quality of such use is important (Lei & Zhao, 2007). Quantity or frequency of use is akin to more practice. The more experience one has with an ICT tool, the shorter is the time required to accomplish repeated tasks and the lower is the probability of making mistakes (Carrasco & Torrecilla, 2012; Henderson, Klemes, & Eshet, 2000; Lahtinen, 2012). The quality of technology use can be thought of as how and why that technology is used (Lie & Zhao, 2007). Although both computer use by teachers (computer assisted instruction [CAI]) and computer use by students have been shown to have a direct and generally positive effect on academic achievement, this study focuses on the latter use. For examples of research that evaluates the effect of CAI on academic achievement we refer the interested reader to applied studies such as Chandra and Lloyd (2008), Kulkarni (2013), and Park, Khan and Petrina (2009).

With the widespread availability and use of personal microcomputers at homes and schools, a large body of literature has emerged during the last two decades suggesting that computer use can have a positive effect on academic achievement. In this respect academic achievement is usually understood to mean performance on both standardized and non-standardized assessments (such as grade point average [GPA]) in general areas of literacy such as reading, science, and mathematics (House, 2010; Junco, 2012; Wiebe & Martin, 1994; Wit, Heerwegh, & Verhoeven, 2012). Prior research has suggested that technology can be used in a number of ways but not all of those ways contribute to academic achievement. For instance, while using the internet as a homework support medium is expected to raise achievement, spending time playing non-educational computer games is likely to have no effect or perhaps even a negative effect on achievement as it distracts students from learning. The effect of educational games is not similar for all domains of the curriculum. For example, Kebritchi (2008) found that integration of educational games in the curriculum had a positive effect on achievement in mathematics while Wiebe and Martin (1994) found that such integration had no effect on achievement in geography. Thus, the effect of I CT tasks on achievement depends not only on the frequency with which those tasks are performed, but also on how such tasks are defined. A broad classification separates ICT use into two distinct categories: entertainment/non-educational related routine usage versus specific educational usage. Thus, the use of computer to chat with friends or family would fall under the former category while using a spreadsheet as a support tool to help with a specific homework problem would fall in the latter. …