Monday, May 31, 2010

Teachers’ Use of Educational Technology - A U.S. Dept. of Education Report

A new report released by the US Department of Education, Teachers’ Use of Educational Technology in U.S. Public Schools: 2009. First Look, highlights an issue which any teacher working in a low-income area is aware of - teachers working in low-income / high poverty areas are less likely to use technology for classroom related activities than teachers working in mid to high income areas.

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
Here are some of the key findings on teachers’ current use of educational technology in public schools:
  • Ninety-seven percent of teachers had one or more computers located in the classroom every day, while 54 percent could bring computers into the classroom. Internet access was available for 93 percent of the computers located in the classroom every day and for 96 percent of the computers that could be brought into the classroom
  • Teachers reported that they or their students used computers in the classroom during instructional time often (40 percent) or sometimes (29 percent)
  • Ninety-seven percent of teachers reported having remote access to school email, and of these teachers, 85 percent used this remote access sometimes or often. Eighty-one percent of teachers had remote access to student data, and of these teachers, 61 percent used this type of access sometimes or often
  • Differences were found among low and high poverty schools for the percentage of teachers who sometimes or often did the following: used email or list-serve to send out group updates or information to parents (69 percent compared to 39 percent) or to students (30 percent compared to 17 percent), used email to address individual concerns with parents (92 percent compared to 48 percent) or with students (38 percent compared to 19 percent), used a course or teacher web page to communicate with parents (47 percent compared to 30 percent) or with students (36 percent compared to 18 percent)
Some high percentages in terms of technology being present in the classroom or school environments, but this can be misleading and the many tables in the report do help clarify with a proper breakdown of what this exactly means: e.g. all classrooms in a school may have access to a computer or more, but exactly how many and the ratio of computers to students is what really drives the integration of new technologies into classroom learning and activities.

As indicated by the final bullet point regarding differences "found among low and high poverty schools", the 'access to computers' concern becomes emphasized in low-income areas where a higher percentage of students simply don't have access at home. And while the availability of computers at the local public library may help allay the lack of access at home, it remains a tall order for both students and teachers in these schools to properly compete and develop learning programs which use these technologies.