Use computers at your peril

Perhaps the most influential change in society in recent years has been the vast involvement of technology in our everyday lives; such as mobile phones, digital cameras and the many practical uses of computers, such as data compiling, e-mailing and so forth. This has reached such a level that some see no reason for physical copies of music, such as records and cds, or even books on printed-paper. In California there hasbeen a move away from having school libraries, the reasoning being that all resources students could possibly need are there on the net. Within education the concept of e-learning (electronic learning) has become quite a buzzword, with a forceful body of opinion promoting its usage. Already examination scripts are scanned, downloaded and marked on line and there are many who see the next logical progression as being the majority, if not all, learning occurring via computers. There are those of us, generally older members of society, for whom computer usage does not come easily. I personally put down my ability to function better using traditional pen and paper methods as a product of being taught to use such materials at an early age i.e. that you cannot teach an old dog new tricks.But recently some psychological research has emerged that casts doubts as to the value of computer-based learning compared to old-fashioned methods.Pearce (2007) investigated the learning efficiency of material presented to students via either printed-paper (group A), a film of the printed-paper (group B), or displayed on a computer screen (group C). Quite surprisingly given the positive perception of computer-based learning, group C only recalled 4% of the information, group B recalling 27%, whilst group A recalled a whopping 85% of the information. The reasons why there should be such a huge difference in recall between information learned via printed paper or via a computer screen are not yet certain, but what is clear is that the evidence is suggesting we may be abandoning traditional tried and trusted methods for the brave new world of technology at our peril.