Pew Study Says Technology Use Soaring In US Schools
February 28, 2013

Pew Study Shows Explosive Technology Growth In US Classrooms

Michael Harper for — Your Universe Online

There´s perhaps no better example of how far technology has advanced than tablet computers like the iPad. Small, portable and powerful, these tablets have changed not only the way people perform everyday tasks but the way people work as well. Teachers have often been among the first to use the newest technology in their classrooms, and iPads are no exception.

In a recent survey by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, some 43 percent of Advanced Placement (AP) and National Writing Project (NWP) middle and high school teachers reported using tablet computers to teach in their classrooms.

Though the Internet and Internet-connected devices have helped these teachers reach these youngsters, it has presented its fair share of challenges as well. The study also found that there were “striking differences” in the use of technology between rich and poor districts. Older teachers were also less likely to adopt these new technologies than younger teachers.

In a survey of more than 2,400 AP and NWP teachers, 92 percent stated that the Internet had the largest affect on their teaching and classroom work. These teachers both used the Internet to access content and other materials for their class as well as bringing the Internet into the classroom. A majority of these teachers — some 69 percent of them — also said the Internet had a “major impact” on the way they worked with one another, either through sharing new ideas or communicating with one another. Smaller still was the number of teachers who said the Internet has had a major impact on the way they interact with parents and students, 67 and 57 percent respectively.

Desktop and laptop computers have long been a staple in middle and high schools, going back to the earliest days of the computer lab. These devices are still in use, but the Pew Group found that mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets are becoming increasingly popular in the classroom. Smartphones are the mobile device most often used in the classroom or to complete assignments. Some 73 percent of the surveyed teachers reported that they allow their students to use their smartphones to turn in assignments or complete their work.

E-readers and tablets are also on the rise in classrooms; 45 percent of teachers said they use e-readers in the classroom, while an impressive 43 percent said they allow students to use tablets such as iPads in class. A majority of these teachers feel that their district does a “good job” bringing these devices into the classroom and offering training on these new tools. However, an overwhelming majority of 85 percent said they had to do their own research on different ways to incorporate the Internet and Internet-connected devices in the classroom.

Unsurprisingly, the study also found that schools in higher income areas were more likely to provide teachers with proper resources and support to use these types of devices. Seventy percent of teachers who worked for a “richer” school said they received the proper support to bring these devices into their classrooms. Only 50 percent of teachers in “poorer” schools said they received the same kind of support.

Those AP and NWP teachers surveyed also said students who came from higher income families were more likely to use their e-readers and tablets in class than students from lower income families, 55 to 41 percent, respectively. Some 39 percent of the teachers in low income areas said that their districts were “behind the curve” when it came to implementing new technologies in the classroom.

This study reaffirmed previous research which found that while having these modern tools at their disposal can be beneficial, some students have become a little too dependent on Google to find the right answers for them. According to the Pew study, 76 percent of teachers said the Internet has conditioned students to expect the right answer immediately with a web search, while 83 percent said this access to information is overwhelming for the students.

These numbers are nearly identical to a survey conducted last summer of AP and NWP teachers. Seventy-seven percent claimed the access to these digital tools was having a mostly positive effect on students, while 87 percent were worried that the Internet was creating a generation of distracted youths.