Teachers: Budgets block classroom technology access

Ninety-one percent of teachers said they have access to computers in their classrooms.

Despite advances in digital learning tools and efforts to close the ed-tech access gap, school budgets remain one of the biggest barriers to classroom technology access, according to a national PBS LearningMedia survey of preK-12 teachers.

Although ed-tech advocates campaign for technology’s seamless integration into instruction, only 22 percent of teachers surveyed said they have the “right” level of technology in their classrooms.

Sixty-three percent of teachers said budgets continue to be barriers to classroom technology access, and in low-income communities, 70 percent of teachers reported budgets are their main obstacle. Aside from funding, teachers reported that unfamiliarity with technologies (8 percent), a lack of knowledge about where to find proper technologies or a lack of training (8 percent), technologies’ incompatibility with current curriculum (7 percent), slow/poor/no internet connection (6 percent), and other various reasons (9 percent) as barriers to classroom technology use.

Socio-economic status also plays a role in other areas: 38 percent of teachers in affluent school districts reported high levels of parental support, compared with just 14 percent of teachers in low-income communities; and 38 percent of teachers in high-income areas have school board support, compared to 21 percent of teachers in low-income areas.

Computer access is not a problem for the majority of teachers—91 percent have access to computers or laptops in their classroom—but access to “newer” technologies is. Fifty-nine percent have access to interactive whiteboards, and teachers in affluent districts are twice as likely to have access to tablets as teachers in middle- and low-income districts.

Ninety-three percent of teachers surveyed said they believe that interactive whiteboards enhance students’ classroom education, and 81 percent said the same about tablets.

The survey also touched on the most frequently-used classroom technology resources: websites (56 percent), online images (44 percent), and online games or activities (43 percent). Teachers reported using classroom technology to increase student motivation (77 percent), reinforce and expand upon content (76 percent), and respond to a variety of learning styles (76 percent).

Rob Lippincott, senior vice president of PBS Education, said it’s evident that “most teachers are embracing technology and need more resources” to help augment classroom instruction and increase student engagement.

“Over the past decade, we’ve seen broadening adoption and deeper integration of digital media in classrooms for all age groups, with teachers enthusiastic about the power of new technologies to foster learning,” he said.

The survey results were released at the 2012 Florida Education Technology Conference in Orlando. The survey included 500 teachers and was conducted in December 2011.

PBS partnered with WGBH and local member stations to launch PBS LearningMedia (www.pbslearningmedia.org), a free resource that features digital assets, including lesson plans, background essays, and discussion questions for pre-K-12 educators that align with Common Core State Standards. The site offers content from NASA, National Archives, and PBS programs such as NOVA, Frontline, American Experience, and Sid the Science Kid.

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