States and school districts should stop trying to convince teachers to employ educational technology and start helping them overcome barriers to using it well, say a husband-and-wife research team.
“We don’t give teachers enough credit,” said Loredana Werth, an assistant professor at Idaho’s Northwest Nazarene University."Most understand the benefits and impact of technology. What folks want is training and access.”
That conclusion is based on findings from a survey of 200 Idaho teachers about how they use and perceive more than 30 different kinds of tech in the classroom. Loredana and Eric Werth presented their as-yet unpublished findings at the International Society for Technology in Education’s 2013 conference here.
Among the researchers’ findings:
- 84 percent of teachers surveyed said the pros of educational technology outweigh the cons and are currently using or planning to use tech in their classrooms.
- 60 percent of teachers surveyed used the Internet for lesson planning at least weekly.
- More than one-fourth of teachers surveyed had never heard of online presentation programs like Prezi, and 14 percent had never heard of learning management systems like Moodle.
- 80 percent of teachers surveyed either didn’t know of social media technologies like Twitter, Edmodo, Skype, and online discussion boards or used them rarely or never.
- Just 19 percent of the teachers surveyed used games in their classrooms weekly or daily, and only 21 percent said they use games, simulations, or virtual laboratories monthly.
While learning games and other new technologies are all the rage at ISTE, the research by the Werths suggests they have yet to penetrate deeply into teachers’ practices, at least in Idaho.
Using games “wasn’t a real high desire on the part of teachers, perhaps because they didn’t see the value of it,” said Eric.
The takeaways for administrators and policymakers?
Focus your efforts on overcoming the barriers perceived by teachers.
Encourage innovative examples that do take root.
Expect wide variations in familiarity with different technologies, and provide separate trainings for teachers on opposite ends of the spectrum.
Focus on the devices and technologies that both teachers and students are already using.
And treat ed tech with urgency.
“Although research has confirmed positive impacts of technology on student learning, many teachers continue to use the same teaching techniques with which they began their careers,” reads the Werths’ study. “The ‘digital disconnect’ forming between teachers and students in terms of technology use threatens to separate the educational environment from the world in which students live, potentially endangering the transfer of knowledge from class to life. “
Follow@BenjaminBHeroldand @EdWeekEdTechfor live updates from ISTE 2013.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Digital Education blog.