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Parents Bullish on Ed Tech, Skeptical About Its Implementation, Survey Says

Parents overwhelmingly want their children's school to use more technology, and they believe that devices and digital resources can contribute to a more personalized educational experience. But just 1 in 3 parents think schools are currently doing a good job using ed tech to tailor student learning.

Those are the top-level findings from a new national survey of 1,000 parents, released today by The Learning Assembly, a network funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that includes seven nonprofit educational organizations from around the country. (The philanthropy provides support for Education Week's coverage of personalized learning.)

"Parents don't see technology as a silver bullet," said Phyllis Lockett, the CEO of LEAP Innovations, a Learning Assembly member organization that works with Chicago schools, in a statement.

"But the data suggests that they do see a link between smart implementation of technology and the kind of tailored, personalized education that they want and expect for their children," Lockett said.

The findings are the latest in the ongoing discussion of parents' attitudes and practices when it comes to educational technology. In recent months, for example, the advocacy group Parents Across America has released a series of resources detailing what it describes as the "threats" posed by education technology, while the Pew Research Center released an analysis of adults' "digital readiness."

Some of the most interesting findings from the new Learning Assembly survey aren't directly related to technology. For example: Just 22 percent of parents said they communicated with their child's teacher about academic progress or performance at least once a week, and such communications still happen most frequently in person, the survey found.

Parents also reported being less passionate about personalized learning (defined in the survey as "making sure that students have learning experiences that are tailored to students' individual needs and strengths") than about schools providing access to high-quality teachers, teaching subjects that will prepare children for the future, and robust parent involvement.

Among the other highlights from the new survey:

  • Parents see a growing role for ed tech: 66 percent say use of technology in their child's school has increased in recent years.
  • 93 percent of parents surveyed said they "believe in the use of technology to tailor student learning."
  • Just 1 in 3 parents reported believing that schools are currently doing an excellent job using technology for this purpose.
  • Only 35 percent of parents whose children use devices in school say their children have learned more because of technology.
  • Parents reported a lack of confidence that they understand such terms as "personalized learning" (44 percent said they were confident they understood the term), "competency-based education" (43 percent), "21st century skills" (31 percent), "data-driven instruction" (27 percent), and "differentiated instruction" (21 percent).
  • Parents generally described their child's schools as "good" or "excellent" on various aspects related to personalization, such as "using technology to tailor your child's learning experiences" (74 percent) and "understanding your child's individual needs, strengths, and interests" (71 percent). 
  • Parents were somewhat less positive about the extent to which schools are using technology to give their child more choice—over both "how he/she demonstrates what he/she has learned" (66 percent) and "how he/she wants to learn (56 percent).

The poll was conducted by YouGuv between September 9 and 16.

Learning Assembly members include Citizen Schools, Digital Promise, Highlander Institute, iZone, LearnLaunch, LEAP Innovations, and the Silicon Valley Education Foundation. All told, those groups partnered with 101 schools serving 13,400 students, according to the network's release. 


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