Common Sense Education released their report “The common sense census: Inside the 21st-century classroom” in 2019. Their results were based on a survey of 1,200 US K-12 teachers to explore “what it takes to support teachers and prepare students as schools navigate the growing presence of technology.”
The completed report breaks down how teachers, primarily in elementary and middle school settings, used technology in their classrooms.
The report comprises findings of common technology practices among teachers, which we highlight here.
- Digital citizenship is being taught in a majority of schools.
Almost 60% of teachers used some type of digital citizenship curriculum with their, while about 70% taught at least one type of digital citizenship competency. The most commonly addressed topics were digital drama, cyberbullying, and hate speech. News and media literacy (taken together) was the fourth-most-taught competency.
Ninety-one percent of teachers said their curriculum was at least “moderately” effective in helping students make smart, safe, and ethical decisions online. About 52% said it was “very” or “extremely” effective.
- Teachers worry about their students’ ability to critically evaluate online content.
Teachers’ top technology-related concern, which 35% observed “frequently” or “very frequently,” was that “students lack skills to critically evaluate online information.” The second most common concern, at 26%, was that “technology distracts students from the learning experience and interferes with learning.” The issue became more pronounced as students increased grade level.
- Video is the king of edtech in the classroom.
As we looked at in last week’s blog, about 60% of teachers used video-streaming services (e.g. YouTube, SchoolTube, Netflix) in their classrooms, making it the most common type of digital tool.
- Teachers place a high value on digital creation tools in developing 21st-century skills, but these tools are among the least used in the classroom. In addition, the gap between the edtech products teachers use and what they say is effective is real and cuts across subjects.
Teachers rated productivity and presentation tools (e.g. Google G Suite, Microsoft Office), digital creation tools (e.g. iMovie, Photoshop, Scratch), and learning management systems (e.g. Google Classroom, Canvas, Moodle) as the most effective digital tools for developing their students’ 21st-century skills in communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and/or creativity. But while about half used productivity and presentation tools in their classrooms, only 25% used digital creation tools. They were also more likely to use less effective tools than the preferred ones, though the reasons are not clear why.
- Many teachers are not receiving effective professional development (PD) to support their use of educational technology, and many technology products purchased by schools and districts go unused.
Only 40% of teachers considered the PD they received effective enough to support their use of educational technology in their classrooms.
In addition, about one-third of teachers said that they didn’t use, or practically never used, a technology product provided to them by their school or district. The top reasons for the lack of use were that these products weren’t relevant to students’ learning needs, didn’t engage students’ learning, or weren’t effective for developing students’ knowledge and/or skills.
- Home access to technology continues to be a challenge for teachers and students in schools serving lower-income students, and 29% of teachers said it would limit their students’ learning “a great deal” or “quite a bit” if their students didn’t have home access to a computer or the internet.
Some 12% of teachers reported that the majority of their students (61-100%) lacked home access to a computer and/or the internet. We should note that these teachers were more likely to teach in Title I schools or schools predominantly serving students of color.
Lack of computer and internet access may become a greater challenge as students advance, as teachers at the higher grades were more likely to assign homework at least once a week that required access to digital devices and/or broadband internet outside of school. Data for this digital divide came in at 41% of high school teachers and 34% of middle school teachers versus 23% of grade 3–5 teachers and 20% of K–2 teachers.
So, what do all of these numbers mean? This report came out in 2019, shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic and the switch to all-remote learning. Technology was making inroads into the classrooms at all levels, though perhaps more slowly than some would have liked. Now that we’ve seen what existing technology can and can’t do, and now that we have two years of experience developing a new suite of computer-based learning tools, it’s possible teachers, students, and parents alike will become more accepting of what technology is available and more inventive in the ways it’s utilized in the classroom. Only time will tell.
Teachers: How do you feel about technology use in your classroom? Can you share some success stories and some failures with other readers to help inform our opinion of the topic? Leave your comments in the section below.
 Nagal, David. (May 8, 2019). “How Teachers Use Technology in the Classroom.” thejournal.com. Retrieved from https://thejournal.com/articles/2019/05/08/how-teachers-use-technology-in-the-classroom.aspx.