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Technology's Flood into Classrooms Doesn't Necessarily Translate to Productive Teaching

The classrooms of 2017 are a far cry technology-wise from 1997 or even 2007, with more tablets and faster internet in classrooms than ever before. The abundance of technology in America’s classrooms doesn’t necessarily mean it’s being used to its full potential though, according to a new report by Education Week.

The report which looked at K-12 classrooms around the country found that students were using technology in the classroom primarily for “drills and practice” than for more complex tasks, such as research and conducting simulations or creating projects. The lack of building up 21st-century skills in students is of troubling concern for education experts like Richard Culatta, the CEO of the International Society for Technology in Education. "One of my big concerns is that we are simply digitizing what we have always done. That’s not collaborative or empowering students,” said Culatta.

While usage of computers and tablets in the classroom has steadily grown over the last decade, the degree with how they’re used has been more passive. While 58 percent of 4th graders reported using a computer in math class in 2015, compared with 32 percent in 2005, only 15 percent of them reported using technology to make graphs and charts in 2015, compared with 18 percent a decade earlier. The primary purpose of technology use was for more “rote activities.”

The report also noted a divide in the technology accessible by schools serving lower-income areas as well as the capability of teachers to use the ever-changing technology available.

More schools have faster internet than ever before with 88 percent of the nation’s schools meeting the FCC’s minimum internet-connectivity target of 100 kbps per student. However, in Florida and Maryland, less than 60 percent of school districts met the FCC target. “Technology is everywhere today but a digital divide among schools has emerged because quality and equity issues are huge and they need to be confronted,” said Kevin Bushweller, executive project editor of Technology Counts.

The amount of training and knowledge gained teachers reported regarding technology’s use in the classroom was also rather low. Among U.S. math teachers who took professional development training in using technology in the classroom, 15 percent said they learned nothing at all and only 32 percent said they learned a moderate amount. Forty percent reported learning a little bit.

The number of 4th grade reading teachers who said that they had received training on how to integrate technology into their teaching remained mostly unchanged over the course of five years as well. When asked if they had received technology training within the last two years, 61 percent said “yes” in 2015, compared with 64 percent in 2009. Thirty-seven percent answered said they either had not or were already proficient.

“There’s widespread agreement that teachers aren’t coming out of college well-prepared to navigate this new digital environment,” said Technology Counts reporter Benjamin Herold after visiting Pittsburgh area schools. “And for teachers already in the workforce, professional development hasn't kept up with the pace of technological change.”

With the amount of laptops and tablets in schools skyrocketing over 363 percent in the last decade, schools districts will have to rise to the challenge of ensuring teachers have adequate guidance to best utilize such educational tools.


Article by Joel Stice, Education World Contributor

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