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UML- BC Study Links Computer Usage to Test Performance


LOWELL - A University of Massachusetts Lowell-Boston College study shows that regular use of computers can have a positive effect on student performance on standardized tests.

UML Education Prof. Laura O'Dwyer, the lead author, found that the more regularly students use computers to write papers for school, the better they performed on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment Systems (MCAS) English/Language Arts exam.

"Very often people think of technology use as simply playing games or downloading music," said O'Dwyer.  "This study shows that targeted types of technology use have the potential to improve student outcomes in language/arts education."

O'Dwyer's study - the first to use advanced statistical techniques to look at the relationship between nuanced measures of technology and the use of student's standardized test scores - presents findings that demonstrate the importance of allowing students to use computers to produce rough drafts, edit their papers and create final drafts.  The study analyzed test performance and computer uses of 986 fourth grade students from 55 classrooms in nine Massachusetts school districts.

Conversely, the study found that students' recreational use of computers to play games, explore the Internet for fun or chat with friends at home had a negative effect on students' MCAS reading scores. Similarly, students' use of computers to create PowerPoint presentations was negatively associated with MCAS writing scores. The authors speculate that this could be because such activities decrease the amount of time spent reading and writing.

The study, "Examining the Relationship between Home and School Computer Use and Student's English/Language Arts Test Scores" was published in the Journal of Technology, Learning and Assessment.

The University of Massachusetts Lowell, a comprehensive university with special expertise in applied science and technology, is committed to educating students for lifelong success and conducting research and outreach activities that sustain the economic, environmental, and social health of the region. UML offers its 12,000 undergraduate and graduate students more than 80 degree programs in the colleges of Arts and Sciences, Engineering and Management, and the School of Health and Environment and the Graduate School of Education.  Visit the website at

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