Equity & Diversity

Teachers in High-Poverty Schools Less Confident About Ed Tech, Survey Finds

By Benjamin Herold — June 27, 2016 4 min read
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Teachers who are most confident about educational technology tend to work in low-poverty and suburban schools, bringing their students a wide range of experiences and potential benefits that other young people may lack, concludes a survey released today by the Education Week Research Center.

For example: These teachers are far more likely than their less-confident counterparts to report daily use of digital curricula, learning management systems, and parent communication tools.

As a result, they report that their students spend roughly twice as much class time using digital tools than the students of teachers with less confidence around ed tech. These highly confident teachers also believe that their students are significantly better prepared to use technology for everything from independent research to collaboration on schoolwork via social media.

The findings, unveiled in Denver at the annual conference of the International Society for Technology in Education, come from an exclusive, not-statistically-representative survey of roughly 700 teachers. The new analysis, titled “Teachers and Technology Use in the Classroom: Exclusive Survey Results,” represents an in-depth follow up to the Education Week Tech Confidence Index, released earlier this month as part of Education Week’s 2016 Technology Counts report.

“We find that teachers’ confidence in educational technology aligns with distinct sets of behaviors, perceptions, and choices in the classroom,” according to the analysis.

Read more about the Education Week Tech Confidence Index.

The finding that teachers who are least confident in educational technology tend to work in high-poverty and urban schools offers yet another reason to worry about the evolving “digital divide” in K-12. From access to high-speed Internet and devices to the ways technology is used and now to teachers’ perceptions and practices around ed tech, researchers have consistently found urban and poor students to be at a disadvantage.

According to the Education Week Research Center, for example, just 17 percent of the least confident teachers report that their students use laptops daily, compared with 50 percent of the most confident teachers.

These teachers are also far less likely to report daily use of a host of classroom technology tools generally associated with the types of “active” technology use and personalized-learning approaches that experts increasingly favor, including:

  • Website creation and editing tools (Just 5 percent of the least-confident teachers, versus 16 percent of the most-confident teachers.)
  • Online videos (10 percent vs. 25 percent.)
  • Web-based collaboration tools (13 percent vs. 23 percent.)
  • Dashboards for student data (16 percent vs. 27 percent.)

And while teachers across the spectrum report that drill-and-practice is the most common purpose for their students’ technology use, those who are least confident in education technology report being far less likely than their counterparts to use ed tech for individual and group student projects, collaborative student work, and research.

On the flip side, the teachers who are least confident in ed tech were far more likely than their more-confident peers to perceive obstacles to effective technology use in their classrooms. Among the barriers they were more likely to identify:

  • Too few devices (64 percent of the least-confident teachers, versus 28 percent of the most-confident teachers.)
  • Lack of teacher training (43 percent vs. 24 percent.)
  • State/district curriculum demands: (43 percent vs. 21 percent.)
  • Lack of guidance from school leaders: (31 percent vs. 11 percent.)
  • Classroom management challenges: (20 percent vs. 7 percent.)

That said, however, these un-confident teachers “are not innovation-averse Luddites who fear or dislike technology,” according to the Education Week Research Center analysis. In fact, just 1 percent of this group of teachers reported being “resistant to new technologies.”

Nor do there appear to be significant demographic differences between teachers with high- and low-confidence in education technology. The two groups of teachers were similar in the grades and subjects they taught, as well as their experience levels. The Education Week Research Center found “no evidence” that the most-confident teachers were “simply youthful Millennials” whose confidence stemmed from greater familiarity with technology.

Instead, the analysis concluded, “perceptions are often affected by environments. And our survey results do suggest that confidence levels vary based on the characteristics of the school settings in which teachers work.”

In other words, the schools and students already at the greatest disadvantage when it comes to technology access and use appear to have yet another challenge to confront.

Photo: Debbie Cruger-Hansen, a 4th grade teacher at Mira Vista School in Richmond, Calif., integrates the teaching of technical skills such as keyboarding and online searching into regular lessons. One lesson had students use their tablet computers to find a document on disappearing honeybees. --Eric Risberg/AP-File

See also:

on Twitter and @educationweek on Instagram for live coverage of ISTE 2016.

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