How some middle/high school teachers use technology

Pew Internet and American Life Project logo“How Teachers Are Using Technology at Home and in Their Classrooms” is the latest report from the always-essential Pew Internet and American Life Project.  Here Pew focused on a subset of middle and high school instructors, those teaching Advanced Placement (AP) classes plus National Writing Project (NWP) teachers.

I’ll note some highlights here, then reflect on the study’s implications.

This is a somewhat unusual population, “educators who teach some of the most academically successful students in the country.”  Even with the watering down of AP classes, these teachers are nearly avant-garde.

Their leading pedagogy: “Teachers most commonly use digital tools to have students conduct research online”.

These teachers love Wikipedia more than other teachers, and most Americans: “AP and NWP teachers use the online encyclopedia tool Wikipedia at much higher rates than U.S. adult internet users as a whole (87% vs. 53%).”

DIY professional development: “85% of these teachers seek out their own opportunities to learn new ways to effectively incorporate these tools into their teaching.” They do that, despite the majority thinking “their school does a “good job” supporting teachers’ efforts to bring digital tools into the learning process”.

Access issues are huge, hitting nearly one half of schools, and a supermajority of homes:

“More than half (54%) say all or almost all of their students have sufficient access to digital tools at school, but only a fifth of these teachers (18%) say all or almost all of their students have access to the digital tools they need at home.”

AP exam_micdsphotos
What does all of this mean for educators in general?

First, the study describes a sizeable chunk of students moving into traditional-age undergraduate education.  Perhaps colleges and universities should adjust their classroom technology support plans to respond to those learners’ expectations and abilities.

Second, these findings are likely to matter more to campuses which draw more AP students.  Related to this: class differences between colleges and universities could deepen.

Third, note the DIY professional development aspect. We can infer that much of this occurs via social media, given the report’s assessment of those teachers’ personal tech habits.  Does this mean leading teachers outpace their institutions’ ability to support their growth? Or are the latter not addressing a larger population than these AP/NWP leaders?

(photo by micdsphotos)

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