Successful use of education technology requires time and support from the school

Among the main findings from our Teaching with Technology report is that teachers are most successful when they have time to become comfortable with new instructional strategies, and have the backing of their school in terms of providing professional development and other supports.

This finding is unlikely to surprise experienced educators and advocates. But it’s still important for two reasons:

1. To our knowledge, no evidence from a survey of this size or with similar methods has documented this finding.

2. Too often, schools roll out technology with limited support, and advocates expect positive impacts in unrealistically short time periods.

Three figures from the report capture these findings.

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First, figure 8, on page 13 of the study shows that survey respondents believe that their teaching practices have changed by using technology, and their responses track closely with their views on whether their students’ engagement and/or academic performance has improved. For example, 20% said their teaching has been transformed, and 18% said that their students’ experience has been transformed. Because the survey does not capture a representative sample of all teachers, this finding does not mean that all teachers using technology are experiencing these outcomes. Nor is it a surprise that the teachers who believe their teaching has been transformed would also believe that their students are benefitting. 

The more useful findings are that the teachers most likely to report successful changes in their teaching practices are those who report 1) being more experienced with technology, and 2) having higher levels of support from their school. Teachers who indicate success with using technology in response to the question described in Figure 8 were likely to have more experience and greater support from their school, compared to teachers who felt that technology had not had much impact. These differences are statistically significant, and suggest that teachers need both significant time (measured in years) and professional development, or other forms of support, to successfully use technology. (Figures 9 and 10 are from pages 14 and 15 in the study.) 

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These survey findings are also reflected in the statements teachers made in our focus groups and interviews. A future blog post will delve further into these ideas.