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Survey Gauges Teachers' Views on Ed Tech

An extensive survey released this week by PBS LearningMedia finds that U.S. teachers are hungry for classroom technology—especially interactive tablets and whiteboards—and are generally positive about the ways technology can affect student learning.

The survey, conducted online between Jan. 15 and Jan. 20 by VeraQuest, Inc., is based on responses from 503 self-described teachers in grades pre-K through 12.

According to the findings, teachers with access to technology are using it as much as or more than they were a year ago. Sixty percent of teachers—and 75 percent at low-income schools—indicated they would like to have more classroom technology at their disposal.

Teachers view interactive whiteboards, computers, and tablets as having the greatest potential for enhancing education, the survey found. Nine out of 10 teachers said they have access to computers (PCs and laptops) and 59 percent of teachers have access to interactive whiteboards—the same percentages as in December 2011. When teachers without access to technology were asked what kind of technology they would purchase if they received grant money, about a third of teachers chose interactive whiteboards and a third chose tablets for students. Twenty-eight percent chose computers or laptops for each child.

The number of teachers with access to tablets (including iPads and Kindles) jumped from 20 percent last year to 35 percent. Among those teachers using tablets, "71 percent cite the use of educational applications as the most beneficial for teaching, followed by educational websites (64 percent) and educational e-books/textbooks (60 percent)." Thirty-eight percent said tablets are most beneficial for providing modifications or accommodations for students with special needs.

Teachers who use classroom technology tend to do so at least once a week, according to the survey results. More than half of teachers with access to whiteboards and computers use them daily.

Despite all the bring-your-own device buzz over the last few years, meanwhile, teachers were chillier to handhelds (smartphones and iPod touches—the devices students tend to bring to school) than other tools. While the percentage of teachers with access to such devices went up to 36 percent, from 26 percent a year ago, the tools were rated below other devices (sixth out of a list of eight, even below projectors) on "potential to enhance education."

And in another notable tidbit, while 60 percent of teachers said they wanted more technology (as stated above), only 41 percent of teachers indicated they "have asked for/would you like to ask for more technology."

Teachers' Comfort With Technology Growing?

In general, the survey says, teachers view technology as a "teaching tool used by teachers" rather than an "administrative tool" or a "self-learning tool used by students."

Half of the teacher respondents indicated they are "comfortable experimenting with new technology." Thirty-eight percent agreed with the statement "I like new technology, but I wish I had more direction on how to use it." Only four percent of teachers said new technology "would require too much planning/maintenance."

When asked to rank the benefits of classroom technology, respondents cited the ability "to reinforce and expand on content" and "to increase student motivation" above all else.

The report dovetails (by coincidence) with our recent Teaching Ahead: A Roundtable discussion on teachers' tech-savviness. During the discussion, teacher-panelists described the importance of confronting technology fears and exploring new tools.

The PBS survey also follows upon a much-noted recent report by the National Association of State Boards of Education suggesting that many educators are not yet comfortable using digital tools and may be holding schools back from adopting new instructional approaches.

The survey's release closely precedes the second annual Digital Learning Day on Wednesday, Feb. 6. That initiative was created by Alliance for Excellence in Education to help teachers highlight and share innovative uses of classroom technology.

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