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Teachers on tech in US classrooms: Study

A recent survey by the Pew Internet Project shows how pervasive technology has become in American classrooms. “Laptops and desktops are central, but … mobile technology use has also become commonplace in the learning process,” the Pew researchers write, adding that the 2,462 teachers surveyed feel “digital technologies have helped them in teaching their middle school and high school students in many ways.” Some of the “interactive online learning activities” cited by some of the teachers surveyed were “developing wikis, engaging in online discussions, and editing work using collaborative platforms such as GoogleDocs.”

Here are some key numbers:

  • 45% of the teachers reported that “they or their students use e-readers, and 43% use tablet computers in the classroom or to complete assignments.”
  • Interestingly, 73% of the teachers say “they and/or their students use their mobile phones in the classroom or to complete assignments.
  • 92% “say the internet has a ‘major impact’ on their ability to access content, resources, and materials for their teaching,” but 41% say that “major impact” means it requires more work for them to be an effective teacher, 69% say the “major impact” is on their ability to share ideas with other teachers, 67% say that impact is on their ability to interact with parents, and 57% say it the impact is on enabling their interaction with students.
  • 79% have their students access assignments online and 76% have students submit assignments online.
  • 62% of the teachers surveyed “feel their school does a ‘good job’ supporting teachers’ efforts to bring digital tools into the learning process, and 68% say their school provides formal training in this area.”
  • 85% of teachers “seek out their own opportunities to learn new ways to effectively incorporate these tools into their teaching.”

Digital tools narrowing or widening the digital divide?

But we do need to be thinking about a new-old problem, where schools and tech are concerned: a digital divide. “Teachers see disparities in access to digital tools having at least some impact on their students,” Pew found. “More than half (54%) say all or almost all of their students have sufficient access to digital tools at school, but only a fifth of these teachers (18%) say all or almost all of their students have access to the digital tools they need at home.” Interestingly, though, “asked whether today’s digital technologies are narrowing or widening the gap between the most and least academically successful students, 44% say technology is narrowing the gap and 56% say it is widening the gap.”

There are a lot more insights to be gleaned from the report, including generational differences between how teachers view the impact of digital media, the role of digital tools in teacher’ preparing for classes and professional networking, and teachers’ own use skill levels with the tools. The teachers surveyed – Advanced Placement and National Writing Project teachers – “outpace the general adult population in almost all measures of personal tech use, yet 42% feel their students know more than they do when it comes to using digital tools.” Sounds as if the advent of digital media is turning us all into lifelong learners!

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