There have been lengthy and ongoing discussions about the impact technology is having on society as a whole, whether it is improving our lives, and the ways it may not. As educators are encouraged to use technology in the classroom, we must ask: how does it benefit the student and their ability to learn?
In 2015, the Canadian Teachers’ Federation and MediaSmarts conducted a study of 4,043 K-12 teachers about how they use networked technology in the classroom. The first release of their findings covers the quantitative responses and focuses heavily on how many and what type. They also asked qualitative questions, which begin to give shape to some of the numbers and percentages we are seeing, but are discussed more in later reports.
Five Areas of Study
In reviewing the data, the researchers found five important messages in the results:
- Teachers feel it is important to teach digital literacy and are relatively comfortable doing so.
- The majority of teachers have access to networked technology and use it during their lessons.
- Teachers want more support for technology and more autonomy in how they use it.
- In the majority of schools and classrooms, students are not allowed to use personal devices. But in the areas where it is permitted, teachers incorporate smartphones or mp3 players into their lessons.
- Technology is used in two different ways, either to deliver content to students or for students to create content.
A Closer Look at the Findings
Digital literacy is a broad term that the researchers narrowed down to eight specific skills. These skills are searching for information online, evaluating the credibility of information, staying safe on the internet, appropriate behavior, dealing with cyberbullying, analyzing messages presented online, privacy terms and settings, and understanding how companies collect and use information online. Ninety percent of the teachers surveyed believed it was important for their students to learn all eight of these skills.
Networked technology includes smartboards, desktop computers, and laptop computers. These are the most common forms, and the study found that 97% of teachers have these technologies in their classrooms. Most of the teachers responded that they use the technology frequently.
One area the researchers noted was the use of social media in the classroom. The researchers commented that smartboards, desktop computers, and laptops replace more traditional teaching methods that were already being used in the classroom. On the other hand, social media had no closely related traditional teaching method that is could replace, making it a form of networked technology that has yet to be adopted by a number of instructors.
The support needed includes infrastructure support like improved wi-fi connectivity, software upgrades, and faster response time when something breaks. But teachers also want more support for developing and designing creative ways to engage their students with technology.
The survey respondents were asked if they felt their district provided enough support and training for using networked technology. Fifty-four percent of the teachers said they “strongly” or “somewhat” agreed that their districts do. Many of the teachers wrote in additional comments explaining their need for additional support.
A separate question asked about support for incorporating technology into the curriculum. Again, about 50% of teachers said they have adequate support, and many went on to explain the need for more support.
The researchers broke down the responses by grade level. They reported that kindergarten is a “low-tech zone” when it comes to personal devices. That changes for older students, where almost 60% are permitted to bring and use their personal devices. Where students are allowed to bring and use their own devices, the networked technology changes from smartboards and desktops to tablets and smartphones.
Consuming and Creating Content
The majority of technology use focuses on delivering content to students. Teachers use videos, videogames, graphic novels, and other technology to make content engaging. When it comes to creating content, 38% of teachers have reported that they have their students create videos. Across all forms of content, including blogs, wikis, podcasts, videos, videogames, and graphic novels, students are more likely to use technology to consume content than to create it.