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Research dispels common ed-tech myths

Among the findings: New teachers aren't more likely than veteran teachers to use technology

Teachers newer to the profession were no more likely to use technology than teachers with more experience.

Teachers newer to the profession were no more likely to use technology than teachers with more experience.

Contrary to popular opinion, newer teachers aren’t any more likely to use technology in their lessons than veteran teachers, and a lack of access to technology does not appear to be the main reason why teachers do not use it: These are among the common perceptions about education technology that new research from Walden University’s Richard W. Riley College of Education and Leadership appears to dispel.

Prepared by Grunwald Associates based on a 2009 survey of more than 1,000 teachers and administrators conducted by Eduventures Inc., the study argues that the more K-12 teachers use technology, the more they recognize its potential to help boost student learning and engagement and its connection to developing key 21st century skills.

There is still considerable disparity in the amount of time that teachers spend using technology as an instructional tool, the study says. Twenty-two percent of teachers reported frequent technology use (31 percent or more of their class time using technology to support learning), 17 percent said they were moderate users (21 to 30 percent of their class time using technology), 26 percent were sporadic users (11 to 20 percent of their class time using technology), and 34 percent were infrequent users (10 percent or less of their time).

Elementary school teachers were much less likely than secondary teachers to be frequent technology users; 15 percent of elementary teachers were frequent users and 43 percent were infrequent users, compared with 27 percent and 29 percent of secondary teachers, respectively. Among secondary teachers, social studies teachers were most likely to be frequent technology users (33 percent), while English teachers were least likely (16 percent).

In a finding that might surprise some people, younger teachers who are newer to the profession were no more likely to use technology than teachers with 10 or more years of experience, the study found. “Newer teachers might very well use technology more in their personal lives, but when it comes to frequency of technology use in classrooms, they don’t seem to have any edge over veteran teachers,” the report notes.

Don Knezek, CEO of the International Society for Technology in Education, said this finding is supported by his own experience in talking with school administrators. Administrators tell him “they don’t have to convince new teachers to check their eMail any more,” Knezek said—but they’re still not integrating technology any more frequently in their instruction.

There could be two reasons for this, Knezek added: Either they are coming out of teacher preparation programs unprepared to integrate technology effectively, or they’re entering a school environment where they’re not encouraged to do so.

Another finding that could surprise some people is that a lack of access to technology doesn’t appear to be the main reason why teachers don’t use technology in their instruction. Only 29 percent of the teachers who said they used specific technology devices less than once a week in their classrooms cited lack of access as the primary reason, while 49 percent said the devices in question weren’t necessary for their lessons.

Infrequent technology users do emphasize so-called 21st-century skills such as problem solving, critical thinking, communication, and collaboration in their instruction, the reports says—but frequent technology users place even more emphasis on these skills and report that technology has a positive impact on these skills in greater numbers.

“The difference between infrequent and frequent technology users’ emphasis on and perceived benefits of 21st-century skills raises interesting questions: Which comes first? Do teachers use technology frequently because they are trying deliberately to foster 21st-century skills? Or are 21st-century skills necessary conditions, byproducts, or logical outcomes of frequent technology use?” the report asks.

“It is not possible to determine causation from the survey results,” the report continues, “but it is clear that frequent technology use is associated with greater emphasis on and perceived benefits of 21st-century skills.”

The close correlation between the degree of emphasis placed on 21st-century skills in the classroom and the perceived effects of technology on these skills was based on a survey question that asked teachers to rate how much of an effect they think technology use has had on their students’ development of 21st-century skills, with 1 being no effect and 5 being the most effect.

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Comments:

  1. nsmith6

    July 6, 2010 at 7:59 pm

    I think more teachers would use tech more often if networks within the school weren’t so locked down and that sometimes the tech is there but not reliable. If I spend 20 min. Of my 30 min plan period setting up a classroom of laptops for an online assignment and then they don’t connect to the wireless system –after multiple times getting burned, I don’t necessarily want to try it. As a media specialist who is called out of my classroom to fix these issues or instruct the teachers you see the frustration and the irritation at having to do something on the fly that they had not prepared to do. Plus word of mouth spreads quickly about tech issues.

  2. nsmith6

    July 6, 2010 at 7:59 pm

    I think more teachers would use tech more often if networks within the school weren’t so locked down and that sometimes the tech is there but not reliable. If I spend 20 min. Of my 30 min plan period setting up a classroom of laptops for an online assignment and then they don’t connect to the wireless system –after multiple times getting burned, I don’t necessarily want to try it. As a media specialist who is called out of my classroom to fix these issues or instruct the teachers you see the frustration and the irritation at having to do something on the fly that they had not prepared to do. Plus word of mouth spreads quickly about tech issues.

  3. dward158

    July 7, 2010 at 10:46 am

    no surprise there…teaching is really hard for rookies…there’s so much to get a grip on. using technology effectively usually equates with giving up some control over the teaching/learning process. most newer teachers are not ready to do that right out of the gate.

  4. dward158

    July 7, 2010 at 10:46 am

    no surprise there…teaching is really hard for rookies…there’s so much to get a grip on. using technology effectively usually equates with giving up some control over the teaching/learning process. most newer teachers are not ready to do that right out of the gate.

  5. sirwin

    July 7, 2010 at 11:16 am

    I’m sure the degree to which a district controls internet access varies from location to location but I don’t believe this is a major contributor to teachers making the decision to integrate digital tools into the classroom in general.

    Technology is not perfect. I believe technical issues play a roll in acceptance and schools must provide classroom teachers with the resources they need to support the use of digital tools…but a teacher’s commitment to creating a student-centered learning environment, and not technical issues, plays a larger roll in teacher acceptance of the use of digital tools in the classroom (beyond basic word processing and internet research).

    The “sage on the stage” mentality exists with teachers regardless of their age or experience. As a teacher do I expect “all eyes on me” at all times? If so, then I am not going to value how digital tools can allow students to share and collaborate….and therefore may see technical issues as another reason why I shouldn’t focus on learning how to integrate digital tools into my curriculum.

    If I truly want to prepare my students for the 21st century then I will continue to work on overcoming technical hurdles as they present themselves.

  6. sirwin

    July 7, 2010 at 11:16 am

    I’m sure the degree to which a district controls internet access varies from location to location but I don’t believe this is a major contributor to teachers making the decision to integrate digital tools into the classroom in general.

    Technology is not perfect. I believe technical issues play a roll in acceptance and schools must provide classroom teachers with the resources they need to support the use of digital tools…but a teacher’s commitment to creating a student-centered learning environment, and not technical issues, plays a larger roll in teacher acceptance of the use of digital tools in the classroom (beyond basic word processing and internet research).

    The “sage on the stage” mentality exists with teachers regardless of their age or experience. As a teacher do I expect “all eyes on me” at all times? If so, then I am not going to value how digital tools can allow students to share and collaborate….and therefore may see technical issues as another reason why I shouldn’t focus on learning how to integrate digital tools into my curriculum.

    If I truly want to prepare my students for the 21st century then I will continue to work on overcoming technical hurdles as they present themselves.

  7. clyoung

    July 7, 2010 at 4:00 pm

    This is an excellent article.

    As long as we don’t confuse “teaching with technology” as “writing and scoring exams with special software, we’ll shoulder on all right, I think.

    As long as teachers and administrators don’t stop learning the new technology, so they can experiment wih ways to employ it in their lessons, we’ll continue to move forward.

    As long as school districts recognize and/or continue to see the importance of 21st century learning skills and information literacy, we’ll be ok.

    As long as states find ways to help schools build the infrastructures to keep even the most basic technology available to teachers and students to use in teaching and learning, we’ll be ok.

  8. clyoung

    July 7, 2010 at 4:00 pm

    This is an excellent article.

    As long as we don’t confuse “teaching with technology” as “writing and scoring exams with special software, we’ll shoulder on all right, I think.

    As long as teachers and administrators don’t stop learning the new technology, so they can experiment wih ways to employ it in their lessons, we’ll continue to move forward.

    As long as school districts recognize and/or continue to see the importance of 21st century learning skills and information literacy, we’ll be ok.

    As long as states find ways to help schools build the infrastructures to keep even the most basic technology available to teachers and students to use in teaching and learning, we’ll be ok.

  9. msteach

    July 8, 2010 at 9:49 am

    I am curious as to the definition of the “technology.” What was considered a use of technology? Checking my email does not impact classroom instruction. Are we talking about more than such an obvious use?

  10. msteach

    July 8, 2010 at 9:49 am

    I am curious as to the definition of the “technology.” What was considered a use of technology? Checking my email does not impact classroom instruction. Are we talking about more than such an obvious use?

  11. jlamaster

    July 16, 2010 at 8:51 am

    As an Educational Technology Coordinator who also teaches Ed Tech to MAT students at a local university, this study resonates with my personal experience. At the university, Educational Technology is a 1 credit hour summer class… that’s it. We race through the big topics and off they go. They are in no way fully prepared to integrate technology effectively into teaching practices with this little exposure. When they are in the classroom, the large urban school district they are assigned to has sporadic access to tools and a tightly locked network. These energetic, bright teachers drop attempts to integrate technology due to frustrations of access, accessibility and pressure to teach to state standardized tests.

    As @dward158 mentions, new teachers are so overwhelmed surviving the first couple of years, higher level integration is put on the back burner. Much as we discuss with our high school users, digital native does not equal integration specialist. Until we start to weave the NETS or Route 21 paradigms into K-20 education, we will continue to focus on tool and not practice. Successful teachers know their educational object and recognize strong practices to help students achieve that objective. That’s what we need to focus on – regardless of teacher age.

  12. jlamaster

    July 16, 2010 at 8:51 am

    As an Educational Technology Coordinator who also teaches Ed Tech to MAT students at a local university, this study resonates with my personal experience. At the university, Educational Technology is a 1 credit hour summer class… that’s it. We race through the big topics and off they go. They are in no way fully prepared to integrate technology effectively into teaching practices with this little exposure. When they are in the classroom, the large urban school district they are assigned to has sporadic access to tools and a tightly locked network. These energetic, bright teachers drop attempts to integrate technology due to frustrations of access, accessibility and pressure to teach to state standardized tests.

    As @dward158 mentions, new teachers are so overwhelmed surviving the first couple of years, higher level integration is put on the back burner. Much as we discuss with our high school users, digital native does not equal integration specialist. Until we start to weave the NETS or Route 21 paradigms into K-20 education, we will continue to focus on tool and not practice. Successful teachers know their educational object and recognize strong practices to help students achieve that objective. That’s what we need to focus on – regardless of teacher age.