The use of technology in teaching has revolutionized the education industry. Both students and teachers have access to Internet and it is a fact that the use of Internet technology to gather training materials and student resources has had a positive impact on education.
However, on the other hand, there is still a section of students who do not access to digital technology. These students belong to lower income group and thus, the lack of technology access does create a schism for teachers. The point - how to reach out and teach students who have access to digital technology and who doesn't?
Semantic Case Study by Pew Research
In collaboration with the National Writing Project and the College Board, the Internet and American Life Project led by Pew Research Center conducted one of the largest semantic research studies on the use of technology in study and its impact. They did an online survey in 2012 and 2462 middle and high school teachers participated. The teachers were teaching in USA and its territories. Out of the 2462 respondents, 712 teachers were from National Writing Project (NWP) and the remaining 1750 were Advanced Placement (AP) high school teachers.
The research analysis threw up some interesting observations. Some are given below.
- About 4 out of every 10 teachers use tablet computers (43%) and e-readers (45%) to complete teaching assignments or to teach in classroom.
- 73% of the NWP and AP respondents admitted to a higher use of mobile Internet technology by both students and teachers to complete assignments or in classroom teaching.
- Teachers teaching students from low income families are much less likely to use technology as compared to teachers teaching students from middle or higher income group. Only 35% of teachers teaching low income family students admitted to the use of cell phones to seek information in class as compared to 52% of teachers teaching middle and high income family students.
- About 68% of schools provide aid to teachers for incorporating digital tools in classes and some schools even offer formal training to teachers. Even here, there is a schism between low income and high income family students. When teachers teach high income family students, 70% of the schools support teachers with digital technology as compared to just 50% support received by teachers teaching low income family students.
The Pew Internet Research Project Director, Kristen Purcell, notes: "Digital technologies have become essential instructional tools for the vast majority of teachers in this study. Yet, not all teachers feel that they and their students have the access they need to these tools or the resources necessary to use them effectively. Teachers whose students are from the lowest income households feel they are at a disadvantage when it comes to using the Internet and other digital tools such as cell phones, tablet computers and e-readers to enhance the learning process".
In other words, even though teachers are interested to actively use technology at home and schools for completing teaching assignments and teaching students in classrooms, there is a problem of technology accessibility. Students from higher income families have access to technology whereas the students from lower income families have meager access to the same technology. This difference creates a major challenge for teachers to actively incorporate digital teaching tools within the classroom education framework.
Further the study also highlights the generational differences between teachers in the use of technology. Only 44% of teachers aged 50 and above are comfortable with using digital tools whereas more than 65% of teachers aged below 35 describe themselves as supremely confident with using technology at both home and school.
The Co-Author and Deputy Director of the NWP, Judy Buchanan, notes: "The Internet is changing the very nature of how teachers engage in their profession and collaborate with one another. Because of the Internet, today's educators have access to a wealth of resources and material, as well as broad professional networks to support them in their teaching jobs .The key moving forward is to ensure that all educators have equal access to the vast resources available online, and the encouragement and training to use them in ground breaking ways."
In conclusion, even though teachers are using technology at home and school, a lot of work remains to make technology accessible to students from low income families. Further, steps are needed to make teachers comfortable with using technology. Regular training sessions by respective schools and workshops are necessary.