Roughly 86 percent of U.S. teachers say computer technology has changed the way they teach at least some, and more than half (55 percent) say it has impacted their instruction “a great deal,” according to a new survey commissioned by CDW-G.

The survey, conducted in February and March of this year, questioned 1,000 K-12 public school teachers. CDW-G employed market research firm Quality Education Data (QED) to conduct the study, which has a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points.

“The use of technology in the classroom is not only here to stay, but it has an increasing presence and an increasing significance in what’s going on in the classroom,” said Deirdre Martel, marketing research manager at QED.

At least three-fourths of teachers surveyed recognized the importance of computer technology in teacher-related functions such as attendance-taking and record-keeping (86 percent), communication (83 percent), research and planning (79 percent), and classroom instruction (77 percent). These figures were up an average of 10 percentage points from last year’s survey.

“It’s important to note that, regardless of function, technology use is growing in almost every area,” said Martel.

Supporters of educational technology greeted the results of CDW-G’s 2005 “Teachers Talk Tech” report as welcome news. They say the survey offers a clear indication that technology is helping to transform instructional practices.

“For those of us who believe that technology can have an impact on education, it’s gratifying to see that so many teachers are reporting that it’s having an impact,” said Keith Krueger, chief executive officer of the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), a nonprofit organization that helps schools make smart and effective use of technology.

“It’s definitely a very positive survey, and teachers are starting to change the way they get information and teach,” Krueger said. “The positive way to look at it is that, almost across the board, teachers say technology is changing what they’re doing.”

Perceived skill level

Perhaps most heartening to ed-tech advocates were the significant gains in how teachers perceived their skills with respect to technology use, just in the last year alone.

Nearly sixty-two percent of teachers surveyed considered themselves at least somewhat advanced users of computers and software applications, and 18 percent considered themselves advanced users. These figures reflect a considerable increase from 2004, when 43 percent of teachers felt they were at least somewhat advanced users, and only 6 percent considered their skills advanced.

Only 3 percent of respondents considered themselves beginners, an encouraging decrease from the 9 percent who reported the same skill level in 2004.

Interestingly, these gains in perceived technology skills appeared despite no significant gains in the amount of training teachers reported receiving since last year.

Thirty-one percent of teachers surveyed said they received no technology training from their schools in the last 12 months, and 42 percent said they received eight hours of training or less. Just 13 percent said they received more than 16 hours of school-funded professional development in the use of technology in the last 12 months.

These figures–which suggest that professional development still lags in the vast majority of school systems–were nearly identical to last year’s. In 2004, 31 percent of teachers said they received no hours of technology professional development, 43 percent said they received up to eight hours, and just 11 percent said they received more than 16 hours.

Access to computers

Teachers would like to see more access to computers in their schools, according to the survey.

Nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of teachers surveyed said they have too few computers in their classrooms, down only slightly from 67 percent in 2004. While the most common place for students to use computers is still the lab (89 percent), three-quarters of teachers say their students have access to computers in their classrooms, and a third say their students have access to portable computer labs.

“The fact that many teachers still want more computers in their classrooms shows how much they value access to technology and want to integrate it into their curriculum,” said Martel.

More than half (51 percent) of teachers surveyed believe that a one-to-one ratio of students to computers is ideal–but only 10 percent say they have such a ratio in their schools. Still, this was a modest increase from last year, when 8 percent of teachers said their schools provide a computer for every student. Seventy-four percent of teachers this year said they have only a few computers that students share or take turns using.

Elementary schools are the most likely to provide classroom access to computers, while middle schools are the most likely to have portable labs and high schools are most likely to provide one-to-one access.

Academic impact of technology

Roughly 61 percent of teachers somewhat or strongly agree that their students’ academic performance has improved with the use of classroom computers, and just over half think computers encourage their students to think creatively and also have enabled teachers to do more one-to-one teaching with students.

These figures are actually down from previous years of the survey. In 2004, 81 percent of participating teachers said classroom computers increase student performance somewhat or a great deal. In 2003, 86 percent of teachers reported the same thing.

Though about 86 percent of teachers surveyed think technology has changed the way they teach, only 58 percent think computers are somewhat or very effective when used to improve performance on standardized tests. About three-quarters (75.5 percent) of surveyed teachers believe computers have helped them when teaching the subjects they personally teach.

“We’re still at the tip of the iceberg” with respect to technology use in schools, Krueger said. “There’s no doubt that the average teacher has significantly changed [his or her] perception of the value of technology, but & we need to do a much better job of helping teachers see what’s possible.”

See these related links:

CDW-G
http://www.cdwg.com

Quality Education Data
http://www.qeddata.com

Consortium for School Networking
http://www.cosn.org