Teachers’ use of educational technology

I’m currently working to two deadlines – the first is as response to the Ministry of Education’s current RFP for professional learning and development services, in particular the section on developing e-Learning capability. The second is my preparation for ULearn – the annual event where teachers share the exciting things they are doing in classrooms to improve learning for students using ICTs.

As I do so, my mind is pondering the tension that exists between, on the one hand, an RFP that focuses on the deficit thinking in our system – of how to address the needs of who aren’t achieving etc. – and on the other hand, the coming together of inspiring teachers who are doing inspiring things with students in classrooms across our nation. I’m left with two images – one of high levels of need and under-performance, and the other of high levels of innovation, engagement and achievement.

It’s always difficult to quantify such things – particularly if your primary focus is in just one of those areas. If, for instance, I only focused on the twitter feeds I receive daily from teachers around NZ, or read the blog posts from the same group, it would be easy for me to assume that education in NZ is in good heart. But reading some of the MoE reports and the interpretation of these in things like the current RFP paints a different picture.

So it was with interest that I viewed the infographic that has been created by GOOD and Design Language, in partnership with University of Phoenix, based on a report released earlier this year titled “Teachers’ Use of Educational Technology in U.S. Public Schools,” May 2010 National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education.

The report is actually based on a subset of national data collected from surveys conducted at the district, school, and teacher levels. The data presents results from the teacher level survey, including:

  • information on the use of computers and Internet access in the classroom;
  • availability and use of computing devices and software, teachers’ use of school or district networks (including remote access);
  • students’ use of educational technology;
  • teachers’ preparation to use educational technology for instruction; and
  • technology-related professional development activities

The infographic is interesting at a range of levels (as is the report) – but the thing that stood out for me is what is reported about the % of teachers reporting that their students use ICTs frequently for various activities. At the highest end of reported ICT use was:

  • Learning or practising basic skills (69%)
  • Research (66%)
  • Written text (61%)

In other words, the majority of use is for drill and practice, searching the web (or possibly CD-based encyclopedias?) and word processing. No change here from what we were doing in the 80s – and still struggling to make it to two thirds of the total.

At the other end of the scale I find;

  • Designing and developing a product (13%)
  • Contributing to blogs and wikis (9%)
  • Using a social networking site (7%)

Now I know that this report is from a survey of schools in the US, and not NZ – but it has me thinking all the same. I wonder what the figures would be for NZ? As I prepare for ULearn I look at the number of workshops being run for teachers by teachers on the use of blogs and wikis, and about how the use of social networking tools and applications is now widespread among our student population (at least, out of school that is) -I just wonder how representative this is of what is happening at a system-wide level? I get very encouraged when I view the list of blogs, wikis and podcasts from NZ educators on the NZEdublogs Wiki – but realise this is still just a small slice of our teaching population.

I’m left with the feeling – ICTs represent such a huge investment (in both in terms of $$$ and time), and also such a huge potential (as yet unrealised it would seem). Seems we still have a lot of work to do. Hopefully the fires that are ignited at ULearn will go some way towards tipping the balance.

8 thoughts on “Teachers’ use of educational technology

  1. Scary to think that some classes are still just using computers for word processing and ‘looking things up’. Maybe they’re doing the word processing in the cloud but for many Google Docs are geek speak.

    Some quote about lighting the fire not filling the pail comes to mind.


    See you soon- for those of us from the far reaches of NZ who sometimes feel we are on our own, our PLN and Twitter hold us together throughout the year and ULearn is a real highlight.

  2. It is always interesting when school leaders are asked about the use of ICT in their schools whether they talk about the number of desktops, laptops and IWBs or if they talk about applications beng used to make a difference for learning (and not just student learning). Roll on the day when we all understand it is not the tools but how we use them thar matters.

  3. Hi Derek,

    This is a great post and something that I have been pondering for a while. I a NZ trained teacher, turned eLearning coordinator at an International School in Singapore. We are two years into a 1 to 1 laptop programme and our initial research and anecdotal evidence suggest that the computers are being used in the same way that the US study highlighted. Our students are great at the static uses of the laptops; to create colour coded notes and to store documents, but it i hard to see a significant shift towards more effective use of the technology.

    We have used work by Andrew Church and Blooms Digital Taxonomy, to show teachers the link between skills taught such as analysis and the appropriate digital approaches. Staff enjoyed this approach because it highlighted the learning purpose of blogs/wiki and web 2.0 tools. Laptops are great for developing remembering skills, through games etc, but I think the biggest gains from eLearning will come through scaffolding blooms higher level thinking skills with digital approaches. My initial evaluation of our 1 to 1 programme is here and the data matches your remarks. http://ajmccarthynz.wordpress.com/2010/09/22/evaluating-the-effectiveness-of-laptops-in-the-classroom/

  4. What about the opportunity to share and co-create across class rooms. Technology has the potential to make this happen. Teachers can do this too in the same way.

    1. Hi Anne

      thanks for sharing this – great to see this sort of investigation taking place at a local level – very important in terms of being able to work from an informed basis. Congratulations to you and your team for this work!

  5. Thank you for this post Derek which confirms the “impressions” I have of the under use of the ICT potential, at secondary level and in languages in particular. I would be interested in getting in touch with Anne (Hilton) who has shared the findings of the survey she conducted. I am currently preparing to investigate something similar for languages teachers at secondary level and I was wondering if she would allow me to adapt some of her questionnaire to help me achieve this? I would be prepared to run it pass her and share the source publicly of course. i just don’t seem to be able to comment under her Slideshare, logged in or not and would love to get in touch. Sorry to use your blog comments section as “introduction’ Derek and thanks again for all your work and educated reflections.

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