Teaching Profession

Tech Update

April 25, 2001 3 min read
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Teachers Complain of Little Time To Use Internet

Most teachers are convinced that the Internet is an important tool for their profession and that access to it improves the quality of education, but they complain of having too little time to use it, according to a survey of 600 public and private school teachers released this month.

Some teachers said the survey’s findings ring true for them as well as their colleagues.

“For me, technology has become as much a tool as a pencil or pen would be—it’s become innate to what I do,” said Timothy D. Comolli, an English teacher at the 860-student South Burlington High School in Vermont.

Echoing some of the survey’s findings, Mr. Comolli, who runs a computer-animation lab at his school, said too many teachers must go outside their classrooms to the school library or a special technology lab to get Internet access. And that simply takes too much time, he said.

The survey was conducted by Washington-based Lake Snell Perry & Associates, and the Tarrance Group, an Alexandria, Va., firm. The survey’s margin of error is 4 percentage points.

Among other responses, the poll found that more than 90 percent of the teachers have Internet access in their schools, a finding consistent with surveys by the federal government’s National Center for Education Statistics.

Yet 60 percent of the respondents said they used the Internet in school less than 30 minutes a day.

In addition to reporting they have little time for online activities, about half the teachers cited shortages of equipment, slow Internet-access speeds, or a lack of technical support as hindering their use of online resources. And two-thirds of the teachers said they did not believe the Internet was “well integrated” into their teaching.

Beyond those findings, 55 percent of the teachers reported that they used the Internet for the most part as a tool to conduct research or gather information for lessons. Smaller numbers use the Internet as a professional-development tool (36 percent); to keep their calendars, Web bookmarks, and addresses (30 percent); or to monitor student work (22 percent).

Forty-two percent use it to communicate with other teachers or students, 20 percent go online to communicate with parents, and 18 percent use the Internet to post lessons for students.

The survey also found that 87 percent of teachers now feel comfortable using the Internet for school-related purposes, but only about a third said they feel “very comfortable.”

The survey was commissioned by Netday, an Irvine, Calif.-based group that helps schools use technology effectively.

Data-Driven Decisions: As schools spend more money on technology, they are feeling greater pressure to show results for those investments. But weighing the impact of technology is not simple, concludes a new guide for school leaders published by the North Central Regional Educational Laboratory, a federally financed research center in Naperville, Ill.

For More Information

Order “Planning for D3T: Data-Driven Decisions About Technology,” at no charge, from NCREL. The guide comes with a planning tool on a CD-ROM.

The guide discusses seven critical issues that technology evaluations should take into account. It emphasizes that:

  • The impact of technology infusion into schools is directly connected to the effectiveness of other school improvement efforts.
  • Current practices to evaluate technology should be broadened to include such factors as learning goals, professional training, and home access to technology.
  • Scores on standardized tests are a limited indicator of technology’s effectiveness.
  • Schools must document their technology evaluations in ways that satisfy a diverse set of constituents, from parents and taxpayers to business leaders and state officials.
  • Evaluations of technology should use a common language. For example, terms such as “technology integration” sometimes mean different things to teachers than to administrators and have different meanings in different districts.
  • Teachers play a crucial role in evaluating technology, but the burden of proving its effectiveness is shared with school officials and others.
  • Some school policies need to be changed to match the new needs of schools that use technology. For example, schools need to consider whether they should keep their buildings open after regular hours to offer computer access to students and members of the community.

—Andrew Trotter

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A version of this article appeared in the April 25, 2001 edition of Education Week as Tech Update


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