According to a teacher survey administered by CDW-G, a provider of brand-name technology to educational institutions and government agencies, the “use of computer technology translates into higher student achievement and improved parent-teacher communication.”
Like many survey reports, we are then presented with a laundry list of statistics that describe the tech-opinions of teachers from what seems to be a reasonably random sample. Right off the top, the highest percentage of respondents posting a favorable response were 85% of teachers who said that indeed, “classroom computers improve student performance.” Due to the nature of such a bland prompt, this is score is likely the product of many smaller factors working together. If we are measuring performance based on the many facets that make one successful in life today, this is highly encouraging. However, if in fact we are measuring student performance by the all-consuming NCLB test-score standards, one has to wonder why any other number matters at all.
So how exactly do we arrive at the 85% figure? Well, judging by the scant data presented in the article, we aren’t entirely certain. For example, the next-highest positive response (74%) indicated that teachers feel “computers improve students’ attention in class.” Considering that fact alone, many teachers might be compelled to say yes to the “student performance” question. 63% of respondents said that technology increased their communication with parents. Again, in a very loose sense, this fact could prompt a teacher to claim that this fact too increases student performance. Finally, 58% of teachers surveyed said that posting homework assignments online increased completion rates. And really, this one personally hits home. If I can remember childhood like I think I can, my parents having full access to all of my assignments that were due would have certainly shifted all of those lazy B’s into solid A’s.
However, the plain fact here is that none of those separate issues in question say a thing about “student performance” in regard to actual test scores. Now, I will be the first to speak up for the fact that test scores are certainly not the ultimate measure of student performance. But they are the only thing in this list that actually includes the content that our kids are (or aren’t) learning.
In my opinion, the most important information in the article concerns the feelings teachers have towards training for technology use. 76% of teachers felt that training is the key to increased technology use. In this increasingly complex world of education, this number makes more sense than perhaps any of the others. Digital immigrants need to be ferried over into the land of ones and zeroes. Training is the most important aspect of anything complex.
The final piece of this information contains an interesting tidbit as well. CDW-G also found a correlation between the number of hours of teacher training and their belief in the benefits of technology. What stands out as odd are the three categories which indicate hours of “computer training” in the past year. The three categories are “0”, “1 to 5”, and “more than 5”. 45% of teachers with no computer training felt they were beneficial for student learning, while 60% of those receiving five or more hours of training responded favorable for technology.
If all it takes to win 60% of our teachers is five hours of training in an entire year, then I think we can easily empower all teachers. What if five to ten hours of job-embedded training were built into the yearly schedule of teachers. This number, while still quite small by many award-winning professional development standards, is immediately doable and surprisingly effective.