When I was a kid technology in the classroom usually meant something like a language lab. Once or twice a week, my Spanish class would be shuffled down the hall to a stuffy windowless room full of little cubbies, each housing about 15 pounds of tape recorder and a set of headphones clearly retired from use in an air traffic control tower. For twenty minutes we would sit and listen to the gravelly audio of a man from 1950 reciting common phrases (from 1950) and the Spanish translation, as we obediently echoed back each phrase.

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It’s not like I was being taught in a one-room-schoolhouse. I’m not that old! But the classroom looks a bit different today. Technology is everywhere. The average 9-year-old has access to a smart-board and shared tablets and is way too good with Netflix. Technology is in the classroom, and the kids sure know how to use it. 

But is it working? According to a new study, just having technology in a classroom might not be enough. The Organisation for Economic Co‑operation and Development (yeah it’s a mouthful!) examined technology in the classroom in its 34 member-states, mostly in the US and Europe. And the results were shocking!

Basically, just having technology in the classroom isn’t enough— And it might even be hurting students. The OECD study showed that when kids use technology and the internet during school, their reading performance drops!

While 96% of high-school kids in OECD countries have access to computers at home, it seems the best performing countries keep them there. In Korea and China, countries that lead the board in digital reading and computer-based math, fewer than half of all students use computers at school! Internationally, 72% of students use computers or tablets in school. But the countries with more technology in schools tended to have worse reading scores.

So, what does all of this mean? Should we ban computers and start handing out clay tablets and abaci? No! But it does mean we need to rethink the way technology is used in school. The harsh reality is that apps for learning will never be more entertaining than games and Netflix. 

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One great option to build responsible technology habits is the Learn & Earn App for Math. Focused on grades 1-4, Learn & Earn is a motivational platform connected to Amazon and iTunes. Kids select a reward to work for, and parents set their expectations— "If my child does 5 minutes of math a day for a week, I’ll spend $10.” Then, parents just sit back and watch the progress. One thing is sure— With kids spending up to an hour a day using technology at school, and even longer at home, it’s about time someone released an app to keep them on track!

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