PDK/Gallup Poll: Public Support for Ed-Tech Growing

By Ian Quillen — August 17, 2011 2 min read
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A recent poll that appears to show negative public sentiment toward teachers’ unions has also shown a growing approval of, and desire for, technology integration in education.

Yet after analyzing the annual poll from educators’ association Phi Delta Kappa and polling firm Gallup, it would appear that the public’s ideas about the reasons for technology use are misguided, at least compared with why ed-tech advocates say it’s important.

While technology has been pushed as method both to individualize student instruction and cut other educational costs, a quarter of about 1,000 respondents aged 18 and older opposed increased ed-tech investment, an increase of 10 percent from a 2000 poll. And nearly three in five respondents opposed an educational model that allowed students to work remotely on computers and spend more time outside of brick-and-mortar campuses.

Even the promising figures for ed-tech advocates weren’t so promising upon further examination. About 91 percent of respondents said student access to the Internet was at least somewhat important, up about 11 points from a poll in 1996. But when considering the vast increase in speed, access, and available content online since then, it’s perhaps hard to fathom how that 91 percent hasn’t inched closer to 100. (Just think about it, in 1996, if you’d clicked this link before you read the top paragraph, this part of the page still wouldn’t have loaded yet. And don’t even think about clicking a hyperlink.)

While online education advocates gripe about outdated policies they say make no sense for educating a student to thrive in a 21st-century world, this data would suggest that you can’t really blame policymakers for being slow to budge. While there may be a small but growing body of research that shows increased personalization and decreased synchronicity in classrooms can actually help students of all abilities learn more efficiently, the public, by these figures at least, appears to favor injecting technology into the “old-world” educational structure.

This may also point to a public view of education separate and inconsequential to the real world at-large.

While 95 percent of respondents felt it at least somewhat important for all students to have access to computer technology, 81 percent felt it was somewhat important for ensuring academic success. In other words, access to a computer may have been viewed as more important for economic or social survival, something that perhaps isn’t considered to run all that parallel to the letters on a report card anymore.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Digital Education blog.