Survey reveals educators’ must-have technologies

Laptops remain the most valuable mobile technology, according to teachers.

Interactive whiteboards are the classroom technology that teachers say they most value, and though tablet-style eReader devices such as Apple’s iPad haven’t been around for long, they’re already considered the second most useful mobile classroom technology behind laptops, according to a national survey of teachers’ digital media use.

Educators are incorporating more internet-dependent technologies into their instruction, the survey also reveals—but shrinking school budgets are prompting many educators to look for free resources.

Deepening Commitment: Teachers Increasingly Rely on Media and Technology,”  a national research report on teacher’s media usage from PBS and Grunwald Associates LLC, found that more than half of K-12 teachers surveyed reported continued cuts to school media budgets, which has led to increased reliance on free instructional content.

Teachers also reported spending 60 percent of their time using educational resources in the classroom that are either free or paid for by the teachers themselves. More than half of K-12 teachers (62 percent) say they frequently use digital media in classroom instruction. Forty-six percent of teachers cited cost as the main barrier to using fee-based digital resources, and 33 percent cited time constraints.

Declining school budgets have contributed to the number of teachers who either find free resources (35 percent) or purchase resources with their own money (25 percent). More than half of teachers (54 percent) said their school budgets have decreased over the past year.

“In many ways, nothing was completely shocking–it’s an ongoing progression,” said Rob Lippincott, senior vice president for PBS Education. “Digital media is a core learning support; it’s a core part of a teacher’s job.”

Teachers are using digital tools more than ever, but “they’re under the constraint of fewer resources and support from districts,” he added, noting one interesting finding indicating that teachers are using more of their own money and time to find effective digital resources.

Mobile technology

When asked to rank mobile technologies with the greatest educational potential, teachers rated different technologies on a 10-point scale. Eighty-one percent of teachers rated laptops as an 8 or above, followed by 53 percent who gave tablets or electronic readers a score of 8, 9, or 10. Cell phones appeared at the bottom of the list, at 11 percent.

Laura Ascione

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