Teachers' Interest in Computers Is High, But Usage Is Low

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Washington--Although most teachers are interested in learning more about computers and in using them in their classrooms, only a few (6.2 percent) now do so, according to an unpublished survey conducted by the National Education Association.

The 54-question survey, sent to 1,200 nea members in a representative sampling last spring, also shows that teachers believe they receive little encouragement from school administrators or communities to use computers in the classroom. Computer-using teachers are also critical of the "software" that is available commercially, though 77 percent of those who work with computers use such computer programs.

Questions Asked

The report, "Computers in the Classroom," warns against using the findings to generalize beyond the nea membership. And for some of the questions asked, the study notes, the number of responses was too small to be statistically significant.

The survey and report were prepared by Carol Norman, a researcher with the nea.

Of the 135 teachers (11 percent) who said they used computers, only 75 said they used them in the classroom. Of those, 34 said they used the computers daily, 28 said weekly, and 13 said monthly.

"The number of users is small when it is compared to the number of teachers who were familiar with another teacher who used a computer (608 or 50.9 percent) and who observed that teacher use a computer (190 or 31.2 percent)," the report states.

Both users and non-users agreed that by 1990 technological learning both inside and outside the classroom will be widespread and that teachers with computer skills will be in great demand.

However, 68 percent of the users and 45.6 percent of the non-users said it was "unlikely" that computers will replace some teachers. Fifty-six percent and 42.5 percent of the groups, respectively, also said that it was "unlikely" that computers would render many teaching skills obsolete.

Most teachers reported that they were not well informed about computers and would not be prepared to use computers for instruction "should they appear on their desks Monday morning," the report says.

The teachers said they knew little about most aspects of technology--from commercial software (65.7 percent) to programming (75.1 percent) and the kinds of hardware being marketed (78.4 percent).

No 'Fear' of Technology

Still, the teachers do not "fear" technology, as some have suggested, the report says. More than half of the respondents indicated an interest in learning about instructional applications, operating a computer, and programming, and more than 80 percent said they would like to take a computer-related course..

Fewer teachers were interested in learning how to use computers in curriculum planning, school policy, establishing computer-user networks, and teaching computer science.

The survey also revealed "significant" differences in the attitudes of users and non-users. Users tended to show great interest in a variety of computer applications--such as drill-and-practice, computer literacy, "enrichment," remedial drill, and simulation--while non-users were uncertain about their preferences.

Whatever the computer is used for, the teachers appeared to think that it is worthwhile.

Noting that there is "little research to date to prove or disprove the benefits or harm that may accrue to students," the report states that teachers feel computers im-prove students' motivation.

However, in two categories--achievement-test performance and social behavior--fewer than half of the respondents felt that computers had a positive effect.

The report indicates that schools usually get involved with technology haphazardly.

Teachers are first exposed to computers as administrative tools--a modern way of storing attendance, academic, and financial records. Later, computer programs may be made accessible to teachers and students, and a push for the use of computers in classes may begin.

Nearly two-thirds of the teachers surveyed work in school systems where computers are used for administrative purposes. But only 24.5 percent of the teachers said they had been encouraged by principals to use computers.

Less Encouragement

They received even less encouragement from local or state associations (14 percent), curriculum specialists (13.4 percent), superintendents (12.6 percent), individual parents (10 percent), school boards (9.6 percent), and community groups (3.5 percent).

Thirty-five percent of the teachers said they were encouraged by colleagues, 21.7 percent said they were encouraged by family and friends, and 18.8 percent said by students.

"This may not be surprising given the experiences teachers share," the report states. "What is surprising is the low percentages of teachers reporting encouragement from the centers of political leadership in local school systems."

Vol. 02, Issue 16

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