Are students using mobile technology in their daily lives? Undoubtedly yes. Are they using similar tech for learning in the classroom? Not really, according to recent research based on classroom observations.

The new study, conducted by the accreditation organization AdvancEd, put observers inside U.S. and international classrooms for about 140,000 observations during a three-year period. Observations rated lessons using a rubric (outlined somewhat in the research summary) that took into account things like engagement, behavior, and resources used on a scale of 1-4.

Inasmuch as a basic rubric can adequately capture a classroom environment, reported results were not encouraging from a tech standpoint. Half of all classrooms were not using any tech to “gather, evaluate and/or use information for learning,” and even fewer classrooms were observed to use tech for problem solving or collaboration. The study noted the fact that almost half of observed classrooms were using tech for gathering and evaluating information wasn’t particularly surprising since it’s “the most superficial use of technology, most easily implemented and least time consuming.”

Using tech to communicate and collaborate effectively, on the other hand, is usually considered the gold standard of technology use. According to the summary of results, “in 92,190 classrooms (64.6 percent), observers did not see students engaging in this use of technology at all” — which the report said could be partly attributed to students simply never being asked to use their devices in this manner. Similarly, observers noted that the use of tech for research and problem solving was “regular classroom practice” in only about 25 percent of classrooms.

The study didn’t look at classroom access to tech — even though it does cite other research pointing to its prevalence in classrooms. It also didn’t look at teacher training in observed classrooms, but does speculate that the results might be due to “to a broad range of factors related to teacher preparation and training, the impact of technology on school culture, or concerns about the availability of technology at home or out of school that could increase disparities among students from different socio-economic backgrounds.”


About the Author:

Stephen Noonoo

Stephen Noonoo is a former editor of eSchool News. He has served as a consultant for CUE, California’s ISTE affiliate, and as managing editor of its quarterly publication, OnCUE. He has worked as a freelance writer, an education editor for SmartBrief newsletters, and as a staff editor for a well-known publication focusing on education technology.