By guest blogger Sam Atkeson
Younger parents are generally less satisfied with the availability and use of technology in schools than older parents, according to a survey conducted by the Center for the Digital Future at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, and by the Los Angeles-based strategy consulting firm Bovitz, Inc.
While 56 percent of parents agree that technological facilities in their schools are adequate, among Millennial parents (parents under the age of 34) that figure is 51 percent.
When asked whether teachers are adequately preparing students to use those new technologies, 59 percent of parent respondents above the age of 34 expressed satisfaction, compared to a mere 47 percent of their younger counterparts.
The survey asked both parents and students to rate on a 5-point scale how strongly they agree or disagree with statements about the adequacy of technological facilities in their schools, and the use of those technologies by their teachers.
Among students, females are generally less satisfied with the use of technology in schools than are males.
Fifty percent of males said they agree that teachers are adequately preparing them to use new technologies, as compared to 43 percent of females.
In a statement accompanying the survey release, Greg Bovitz, the president of Bovitz, Inc., and director of the Center for the Digital Future, Jeffrey I. Cole, both attributed younger parents' dissatisfaction with K-12 technology to concerns about educators' lack of skill with digital tools.
"It's a clear case of digital adopters teaching digital natives," Bovitz said. "In the current classroom, the students have an innate advantage when it comes to technology."
Cole argued that America can make "great strides in improving education if a new generation of teachers from the Millennial generation—those born into using technology—has the opportunity to shape the next era of instruction."
Education technology advocates have noted that many teachers today, particularly older teachers, are not "digital natives," unlike the students in their classes. As a result, these educators must work to acquire many of the tech skills that come naturally to their students.
But Keith Krueger, CEO of the Consortium for School Networking, says it's an oversimplication to think that schools will become more adept technologically simply because younger classes of teachers are entering the classroom.
Krueger—who agrees with the majority of parents and students arguing that schools can do a better job making use of technology—said "It's a bad policy to say that the only way we're going to improve the system is if teachers retire and we replace them with new ones."
Younger teachers with greater exposure to technology in their personal lives are not always more skilled in using digital tools to enhance classroom lessons, he said, adding that CoSN has found some of the most savvy users of ed-tech to be more mature teachers.
He concluded, "we need a better strategy to empower all teachers—whether they are new, in the middle of their career, or at the end—to see the possiblities of how technology can really transform learning."
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