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Survey highlights changing teacher opinions on ed tech

Project Tomorrow's results show that administrators and librarians have the biggest ability to empower students' digital learning aspirations.

A new survey reveals evidence of a major shift in educators’ opinions regarding technology as an educational tool, which might be attributed to the increase in educator and administrator use of ed-tech tools.

According to the latest Speak Up Survey results, more than twice as many educators have a personal smart phone today than in 2008, and there has been a 33 percent increase in the proliferation of teachers who are active Facebook users. There has also been a 50 percent increase of teachers using podcasts and videos as part of their classroom instruction.

Project Tomorrow debuted the second half of the 2010 Speak Up Survey results on May 11, highlighting how teachers, principals, district administrators, librarians, and technology coordinators view the changing role of technology in education.

In fall 2010, Project Tomorrow surveyed 294,399 K-12 students, 42,267 parents, 35,525 teachers, 2,125 librarians, 3,578 school or district administrators, and 1,391 technology leaders in order to gauge their general opinion about the use of technology in teaching 21st century skills.

The report explored how educators addressed student opinions regarding learning around three key trends: mobile learning, online and blended learning, and digital content.

The success of laptop one-to-one programs has prompted a big boost in interest in mobile learning across the education sector. Mobile devices allow for these programs to take place with a much lower overhead cost. The student survey results from Speak Up 2010 demonstrated that students have access to a wide range of mobile devices, with 44 percent of high school students stating that they have smart phone access, up 42 percent in the 2009 results.

However, while teachers have acknowledged that smart phones can be a great new educational tool, many are still concerned that the phones’ potential for distraction could be a negative. In total, 75 percent of teachers who currently use mobile devices ranked “too distracting” as their number one concern for using smart phones in the classroom. Another 25 percent said that their most significant challenge is a lack of knowledge on how to most effectively use these devices in an instructional setting.

“I think the real big difference between teachers and students is in the idea of kids wanting to use their own mobile devices at school and still such hesitancy on the part of the administrators and teachers,” said Julie Evans, CEO of Project Tomorrow. “For several years we’ve talked about this digital disconnect and it’s definitely alive and well when we’re talking about mobile devices.”

In addition, 63 percent of administrators did not approve of allowing student-owned mobile devices in school, citing as their main concern teachers’ lack of knowledge in effectively integrating the devices into the curriculum.

“I think the missing component is we’re not effectively training our teachers on how to use these devices, and I think part of it is we’re still feeling our way out of the jungle in terms of how you really use these devices and where it fits in instruction and curriculum,” said Evans.

Still, administrators have recognized the value of online and blended learning and place a higher value on keeping students engaged in school through online learning, as well as addressing remediation issues in order to increase graduation rates. A major concern administrators have, according to survey results, is the quality of teacher-student interactions and how to evaluate the rigor of online courses. Building staff capacity to support online learning is also a major concern among administrators, despite the growth in teacher interest in online learning.

With the budget challenges many districts are facing, the possibility of using digital content to lower or eliminate the costs of traditional textbooks is an intriguing possibility for many administrators.

“We’re seeing districts all around the country that have thrown up their hands and said, ‘I’m done being dependent on the textbook publishers,'” Evans said.

For librarians, however, the most important factors when recommending digital content to teachers are the content’s accuracy, ease of use, and alignment to curriculum standards.

Based on the survey, it seems librarians and administrators have the largest influence when it comes to bringing to life students’  hopes for using digital technology in the classroom, while teachers are at the fore front of leveraging technologies that encourage curiosity.

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