One measure of how much more prevalent computers are in schools is the way that teachers and students have been surveyed about their use. Distilling insights from the National Center for Education Statistics, eSpark looked at how computer use in public schools has changed over the past decade, including how the COVID-19 pandemic affected computer use in classrooms.
In 1983, there was one computer per 125 students enrolled in public schools, according to an article in Education Week. Some were being used for career guidance, not in the classroom. By 2009, the National Center for Education Statistics asked whether computers were available in the classroom, most of which were shared, and whether teachers occasionally brought in other computers for students to use. Computers are far more ubiquitous today, and the metrics available focus on whether each student is assigned their own computer and if they can take it home with them.
Some critics say the emphasis on the number of computers in schools fails to address how they’re being used. A study in Peru, albeit looking at laptops for children at home, found no effect on academic achievement or cognitive skills.
When schools closed during the COVID-19 pandemic and students relied on remote learning, racial and socioeconomic disparities widened. Even a year into the pandemic, children were falling behind because of uneven access to computers, poor home internet connections, and a lack of direct instruction from teachers.