School & District Management

Young Teachers May Be ‘Digital Natives’ But Need Support in Using Tech, Studies Find

By Alyson Klein — June 24, 2019 2 min read
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Millennial teachers may have grown up with Snapchat and iPads, but that doesn’t mean that they feel prepared to enter the classroom ready to integrate technology into their lessons. And it’s not clear if their student-teaching experience helps them make that happen.

That was the upshot of a pair of studies discussed at the International Society for Technology in Education here.

One study, by Kristin Webber, a professor at Edinboro University in northwestern Pennsylvania, found that students set to teach elementary school were less confident that they knew how to use tech in the classroom when they finished their student teaching than before they began. Prospective teachers who had completed just a literacy field block and early education technology course reported a high self-efficacy score, of 4.35. But those that had taken those courses, and also been through student teaching and had other hands on experience reported a self-efficacy score of just 3.95.

The reasons for the slide in confidence? Often it was their student teaching experience.

“Some cooperating teachers were very resistant to” using technology in schools, and “favored traditional methods. One teacher felt tech was too distracting for special ed students. One was in a class with iPads that were never touched,” Webber said.

She worried that the technology integration class came too early in students’ pre-service training to be effective—students might need a refresher course right before student teaching. And she suggested that schools of education offer a specific special education course on technology.

Similarly, Karla Karr, an assistant professor at Indiana Wesleyan University, wrote a paper as a doctoral candidate at Liberty University, based in part on qualitative interviews with Millennial teachers (aka, teachers between age 25 and 30.) She found that their teacher training in technology didn’t necessarily match the needs of their first job, making it tough for them to “get their bearings.”

They were also frustrated by the “limited shelf life” of some educational technology. What’s considered innovative one year is outdated the next. And generally, they found that student teaching “did not significantly inform their practice in terms of how they can or choose to use technology in their current classrooms.”

The studies’ findings didn’t surprise Elizabeth Ebersole, a doctoral student at Seattle Pacific University who is about to leave her job as a technology lead teacher and librarian in Seattle Public schools, who attended the session.

In her work with teachers and reviewing research, “it’s become very clear that digital native does not mean digital expert in the classroom,” she said. “Technology is just another aspect of teaching that they are new to, just like they are new to teaching their various content areas. ... We need to treat tech as another skill they are learning.”

Image: Getty

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