New study: Students use technology everywhere but school

A Facebook post got a Hall County teen charged with making a terroristic threat, a charge upheld today the state Supreme Court.

A new study finds students use technology and digital tools in every part of their lives — except school.

The study by AdvancED found few students use technology or digital tools in any meaningful way in their classrooms. Yes, teachers have been trained to use whiteboards and many do, but there’s little hands-on use of technology by students themselves, according to observations of students in 144,000 K-12 classrooms.

“Kids use technology outside of school all the time for personal and entertainment purposes,” said researcher Ludwig van Broekhuizen in an interview Wednesday.

“They have never really been pushed or asked to use that same technology inside the classroom for learning,” said van Broekhuizen a former teacher and the AdvancED chief innovation officer.

After analyzing three years of direct classroom observations in K-12 schools across 39 states and 11 countries, van Broekhuizen found:

•In more than half of classrooms, there is no evidence students are using technology to gather, evaluate, or use information for learning.

•In two-thirds of classrooms, there is no evidence students use it to solve problems, conduct research, or to work collaboratively.

•The problem is not that schools lack access. More than eight in 10 teachers (81 percent) have access to personal computers or laptops in their classroom (PBS Future of Digital Learning Survey). Because AdvancED’s own study indicates that there is little variation in availability of technology across different types of schools, it is likely limited use of technology for learning is neither an issue of in-school student access to the tools (tablets, laptops, smartphones, etc.) nor an issue of technology infrastructure (broadband or Internet). Rather, it may be due to a broad range of factors related to teacher preparation and training, the impact of technology on school culture, or concerns about the availability of technology at home or out of school that could increase disparities among students from different socioeconomic backgrounds.

•Whatever the case, it is no longer a question of “whether” but rather “how” to incorporate and leverage the use of technology and digital tools to boost learning inside our K-12 classrooms. Technology has the potential to be the great equalizer as long as all students have access (both inside and outside school time) to these tools. And it is not just about having a smartphone, though according to a recent Pew Research Center survey, 73 percent of teens have them. Devices such as tablets and laptops in all their shapes and sizes provide students opportunities to organize their notes and assignments, explore interests, communicate with their teachers and peers, prepare presentations, work together on projects and connect with experts.

Even as digital tools become more portable, more sophisticated and more ubiquitous, they somehow aren’t becoming more of a force in how students learn on a day-to-day basis. Van Broekhuizen said the point of the study is not to preach that kids can’t learn without technology. They clearly can, he said, “but what we see in many classrooms across the country is that kids are still doing exactly what I did when I went to school and I’m 57. We still see worksheet work.”

Too often, district leaders conflate teacher use of technology with student use. A superintendent of a district where classrooms were being observed told van Broekhuizen she expected to score at the highest level. She was flabbergasted when her system earned a very low score. “How can that be?” she asked. “We have trained all our teachers to use technology.” He told the superintendent, “If our instrument was looking for teacher use of technology, you would have gotten a 3.5 (out of 4). We are looking for technology in the hands of students.”

Why are schools reluctant to advance from teacher use of technology and digital tools to student use? Teachers have understandable fears about losing control of their classes and their students; even professors of social media lament how hard it is to prevent college students from straying when smartphones, tablets and laptops are allowed in class.

But van Broekhuizen said K-12 has never really tried to harness technology to personalize, deepen and better integrate learning across subjects.

“Until we can actually say we have given ample opportunity to see if it works, until we have set policies to make it work and trained teachers to help students and encourage them to use technology for learning purposes and to enhance their learning, until we actually have done all that, you can’t say it is not working,” he said.

Whether schools are ready or not, technology will eventually work its way to the classroom and into the hands of students, said van Broekhuizen. “We can probably do nothing and everything will change anyway. Because at some point the whole use of digital tools will be such an intrinsic piece of our society, by sheer force it is going to make its way in.”

Reader Comments 0

29 comments
eulb
eulb

When students use technology in the classroom, the teacher becomes the troubleshooter -- the IT person -- by default.  If the hardware, software, servers, wi-fi signals, etc were trouble-free, the teacher could spend his/her time teaching content.   But that's not the current state of things and won't be for a good many years.  I don't want teaching to come to a standstill while the class waits for the teacher to resolve one student's problems with a technology device.  I don't even want it to come to a standstill for that one kid whose device is on the fritz. 

weetamoe
weetamoe

But "technology" was supposed to be the magic formula. 

Notice that Downey no longer talks about "critical thinking"?

southerntchr
southerntchr

in my previous school I had my own Chromebook cart for my high school language arts classes, and we used them almost daily.  Now, larger school with more access to finances, and we have two carts to share among 20 teachers.  And, having students use their phones is NOT the answer.  We have no control over what they are actually doing with the phone, the task takes three times as long because they are also trying to play music and text while "researching", and with 20 plus different phones, every app runs differently on different phones and the technical difficulties get in the way.  I can not use what I do not have to use.  I will use mine as much as possible to make things interactive but I will at most get my hands on a cart once every two to three weeks.  I may have missed it in the article above, but did you include the computer to student ratio in all Georgia schools or by district?  That would be interesting.  I think people think there is more available than there is.  If you can come in and show me how BYOLD or BYOT can work effectively for more than one quick activity,(and what you do with those who don't have smartphones - and there are plenty who don't), then I will surely try it. I have tried it many times, but this year, with 50 minutes per class, I am saying NO!

bu22
bu22

In most private and charter schools I am familiar with, the students do use technology extensively.

redweather
redweather

@xxxzzz Oddly enough, many of the students I see in my freshman composition classes don't know how to use Microsoft Word and format a document. I have assumed that's because it's not something one does with a cell phone.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

Papers and pens are technology. Digital communications and and products are technology. They both have their place, but digital for digital's sake only seems to be what many are looking for. As Alice in PA explained, digital lesson creation and implementation is very time intensive. 

Testing looms and the 5,000 things that must be learned for a 100 question test sort of get in the way.

redweather
redweather

Technology has its place, but its use doesn't guarantee student engagement; without engagement, learning is not going to happen.  

Alice  in PA
Alice in PA

There is plenty of research out there raising questions about whether technology really does improve learning.  That research looks to go beyond the hype of "transforming learning" that permeates most mentions of screens.  There is also a growing body of research on how the decrease face to face communication is affecting socio-emotional skills.  Therefore, maybe schools should not be in such as rush to jump all in to more screen time.  


Technology is another tool for teachers and if that tool is chosen, then a carefully designed lesson is needed.  For example, if collaboration is used via Google Docs, then the assignment must be complex enough to actually need that collaboration.  That requires a lot of planning.  What usually happens instead is that the tech is used with some low grade read this, click here and here and then take a meaningless quiz.  The sites abound and are marketed to schools and teachers with very sophisticated marketing campaigns.  Schools eager to not appear as Luddites buy into this easy application of technology.


Add to that the fact that the tech is made to be entertaining and distracting.  Learning is hard work and requires concentration.  using a device that doubles as an entertainment device makes concentrating more difficult.

Another comment
Another comment

I have never understood the whining from teachers that we need training. Maybe because that is beacuse I am an engineer. My staff of engineers just figured out 95% of the new technology stuff by playing with it. Only the most sophisticated and nuanced programs needed training and that was done with a group contract for all. Why can't teachers teach themselves?

E. Douce, Ed. D.
E. Douce, Ed. D.

@Another comment The easiest way to understand the issues is to understand the framework behind technology integration in the classroom. Teachers need to be trained, they need hands-on training on how to integrate, not to use (big difference), the tools to enhance learning and foster higher-order thinking skills. 

I agree, they could teach themselves. However, when you have 5 classes of 30 students to plan lessons for, grade papers, keep up with all the changes in the content area itself in addition to your family and personal life, it is a challenge. I am telling you that because I am a teacher. Nonetheless, I made technology integration the focus of my doctorate study because I am concerned about the issue. I am currently teaching a technology integration course for language teachers. Yet, more needs to be done. Hopefully, that answers some of your questions.

Alice  in PA
Alice in PA

@Another comment As a former engineer and current physics teacher, I understand your confusion.  As E. Douce mentioned, there is the time factor with little time available to play with the device.  But there is more.

Teachers are learning to use devices with and for other people.  And not "normal" people, meaning motivated adults like engineers, but kids who use these devices as a means of entertainment.  Teachers also use devices for purposes different that their original design intentions - education, not entertainment.  Teachers want to know as many ways as possible about how students can "game" the system.

JBBrown1968
JBBrown1968

@Another comment Maybe because I am a Engineer


Maybe because most schools don't have networks able to proved the students or the teacher with quality access or labs!

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@Another comment 

Funny. 

Your crew of highly paid and trained engineers figured it out(that's what they are paid to do if they want to keep their jobs), and 1 teacher can't get 30 random students (who are forced to go to school) to learn and integrate digital technology up to someone's vague standards. 

That's so weird!

JBBrown1968
JBBrown1968

@MiloD Looks like a 20  year old middle school project! Glad see this school is keeping up.

Kent Mitchell
Kent Mitchell

We had to use fountain pens in high school in the '50s even though ballpoints were available . . . but new. And people didn't trust turn signals on autos for a few years after they came out . . . .we'd click the turn signals and still use hand and arm signals, too. It's just a "humman" thing, I guess.

Kent Mitchell
Kent Mitchell

I should add that fountain pens were --and are-- torture for lefties. We can't help but drag our hand through wet ink and smear it. I started over serveral times on term papers because of it.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

I am sure many, many teachers will tell you that at the middle and high school levels many students ARE using technology at school, just not on school activities!

southerntchr
southerntchr

@Wascatlady And therein lies the problem.  Then, if we confiscate their devices, we are liable!!! Exact words from my admin the other day.  

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@southerntchr @Wascatlady Not only that, but, as we have seen here, parents DEMAND that their student have the phone, and have it on and ready for the PARENTS' convenience, at all times!


"You will get my kid's cell phone when you can pry my cold,dead hands off the phone number of my lawyer!"

Kerry Hill
Kerry Hill

Keep Exploring this blog it is absolutely true everywhere except the school Systems that are affluent

D Woods
D Woods

Part of the challenge is not only providing the resources making technology use possible, but also providing the ongoing professional development and teacher interaction that ensures the best use of technology as an instructional tool.

oh Pleese
oh Pleese

Students' use of technology is another of the education industry's magic bullets that will suddenly solve all of our school's problems.  Students who are motivated to learn will learn even if, gasp!, it means they have to read a book (remember them?) or listen to a lecture (heaven forbid!) and take notes on a piece of paper.  Those students who are not especially interested will not do better with technology based lessons than they would have with the old-fashioned methodologies.  This is my experience as a recently retired public high school teacher.

JFM2016
JFM2016

@oh Pleese I understand your sentiments. However, I will add that many educational materials including traditional paper and pencil are not accessible for students with learning and physical disabilities. For instance, students with dyslexia may require the use of reading and writing accommodations in order to meet academic requirements. Assistive technologies such as Speech-to-Text and Text-To-Speech, word prediction software are just a very few of the types of technologies that allow students who otherwise cannot access the same materials as their peers to contribute, share, learn and create.


Let's not forget that General Education is for everyone. All students want to and CAN learn ... but, many learn differently and technology can mean the difference between being able to participate and being entirely left behind.


Thank you!

Tom Green
Tom Green

I provided hundreds of pencils each year out of my money. I could not afford, " I don't have an electronic device."