Just this past week, Pew Internet have released a new study called How Teachers Are Using Technology at Home and in Their Classrooms. It explores how teachers use the Internet for their own professional learning, with their students and for communicating with families.
The study surveyed 2,462 Advanced Placement (AP) and National Writing Project (NWP) teachers in the US.
>With the increasing adoption of ICTs in schools around the country, teachers are under increasing pressure to adopt different approaches to teaching and accommodate different expectations form students (and parents). As with any change, the transition isn't always smooth or easy – with demands being made from all directions for which there isn't often an obvious answer or way of responding that can be drawn from prior experience. Literally, many schools and teachers end up 'making it up as they go' – with variable results.
The Pew study identifies a number of things that shouldn't be a big surprise to most – for instance, the fact that 92% of teachers "say the Internet has a 'major impact' on their ability to access content, resources and materials for their teaching" would be an expected response given the extraordinary adoption of web-based activity that is prevalent among the age group of their students.
One finding that we need to be taking notice of within the education community is the fact that "75% of AP and NWP teachers say the Internet and other digital tools have added new demands to their lives." Almost every day I hear from teachers how the Internet and other digital technologies have required them to learn more and stay up to date with more than just pedagogy – arguably no different from many other professions, however the availability of and access to professional learnin opportunities to help address this is a concern.
Of more concern is the difference in reporting from teachers in high-income schools who said that lack of access to digital technologies is an issue for their students (21%), while 56% of teachers in low-income schools reported this an issue for their students. The issue of a digital divide continuing to exist between the 'haves' and the 'have-nots' is reinforced through the study.
Key findings from the study are:
- AP and NWP teachers bring a wide variety of digital tools into the learning process, including mobile phones, tablets, and e-book readers.
- Teachers worry about digital divides, though they are split about the impact of digital tools on their students.
- 54% of AP and NWP teachers say all or almost all of their students have sufficient access to digital tools while IN SCHOOL, but just 18% say the same is true AT HOME.
- Teachers of the lowest income students experience the impact of digital tools in the learning environment differently than teachers whose students are from more affluent households.
- There are notable generational differences in how teachers experience the impact of digital technologies in their professional lives.
- At times, teachers’ own use of digital tools can run counter to their concerns about and perceptions of student use.
- The internet and digital tools also play a key role in classroom preparation and professional networking.
- AP and NWP 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.
It would be interesting to test these findings out in schools around NZ – perhaps a discussion focus for a staff meeting or similar? It's not simply the findings that are important here – but how the issues identified might be addressed as we hurtle forward into the 21st century, where digital competence must surely be one of the essential life-competencies required.