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Teachers' Tools for the 21st Century: A Report on Teachers' Use of Technology
NCES: 2000102
September 2000

Technology and Instruction

This report investigates teachers' use of technology for instructional purposes. This chapter begins with background information on teacher and student use of technology from the 1992 and 1998 administrations of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Following this are results of the 1999 Fast Response Survey System (FRSS) survey on teacher use of technology. Specifically, three types of technology use are discussed: (1) preparation and administration, (2) classroom instruction, and (3) communication. Included is information that relates technology use to school and teacher characteristics.

Highlights

  • In 1999, among teachers with computer availability in their schools, many used computers or the Internet to conduct a number of preparatory and administrative tasks (e.g., creating instructional materials, gathering information for planning lessons) and communicative (e.g., communication with colleagues) tasks. However, teachers generally used these technologies less frequently for such tasks as accessing research, best practices examples, and model lesson plans, as well as communicating with parents and students.
  • Approximately half of public school teachers who had computers available in their schools used computers or the Internet for classroom instruction. Teachers assigned students to use these technologies for word processing or creating spreadsheets most frequently, followed by Internet research, practicing drills, and solving problems and analyzing data.
  • Elementary teachers were more likely than secondary teachers to use the computer or Internet to communicate with parents at home, use the computer or Internet for classroom instruction, assign projects inside the classroom, or assign students to use computers to practice drills or to solve problems and analyze data. On the other hand, secondary teachers were more likely than elementary teachers to use computers or the Internet for administrative record keeping at home and school, as well as communicating with students at school, assigning projects outside of class, and assigning students to conduct research using the Internet.
  • Teachers in low minority and low poverty schools were generally more likely than teachers in high minority and high poverty schools, respectively, to use computers or the Internet for a wide range of activities, including gathering information at school, creating instructional materials at school, communicating with colleagues at school, and instructing students.
  • Teachers with the fewest years of experience were more likely than teachers with the mostyears of experience to use computers or the Internet to gather information for planninglessons and creating instructional materials at home. They were also generally more likelythan more experienced teachers to use these technologies to access research and best practicesexamples at school and model lesson plans at school and at home.

Technology Use in Schools and Classrooms: Findings from NAEP

NAEP asked both teachers and students about computer use over the past four administrations of the surveys. The data presented in this chapter come from surveys of of public school teachers of grades 4 and 8, and surveys of students in grade 12. The surveys were administered in 1992, 1996, and 1998. The NAEP findings presented in this chapter are based on all public school teachers and come from the 1992 and 1998 surveys. 1

Computer Use for Reading and Writing Instruction

In 1998, teachers of grades 4 and 8 were asked the extent to which theyassigned students to use computers for a number of instructional purposes, including: to practice spelling, punctuation, and grammar, to write drafts, to read stories, and to use software for reading instruction. Teachers of fourth- and eighth-grade students reported that their students used computers for writing drafts most frequently (teachers reported 61 percent of fourth-grade students and 62 percent of eighth-grade students did this to any extent-figure 2.1). 2 This was followed by reading stories and practicing spelling, punctuation, and grammar. Teachers" assignment of activities using the computer varied by instructional level. Teachers of fourth-graders were more likely than teachers of eighth-grade students to report that their students used computers to read stories and practice spelling, punctuation, and grammar.

Between 1992 and 1998, there was an increase in the proportion of teachers reporting that eighth-grade students used computers to write drafts (35 percent in 1992 compared with 63percent in 1998) and practice spelling, punctuation, percent in 1992 compared with 32 percent in 1998-figure 2.2).

Teachers of twelfth-grade students were not surveyed in recent NAEP administrations, though twelfth-grade students were surveyed and asked about their technology use for writing instruction. Seventy-seven percent of twelfth-graders indicated that they used computers to write drafts/final versions of papers, 45 percent used computers to practice spelling, punctuation, and grammar, and 27 percent used computers to write in a log or journal (table A-2.5 table A-2.5 Continued B table A-2.5 Continued C).

Technology Use in Schools and Classrooms: Findings from FRSS

3

Preparatory and Administrative Tasks

In 1999, the 99 percent of public school teachers who reported computer availability in school indicated that they used computers or the Internet at school to accomplish a number of preparatory and administrative tasks. Overall, 78 percent of public school teachers used computers or the Internet at school to create instructional materials, and 59 percent of teachers reported using computers or the Internet at school to gather information for planning lessons (figure 2.3). 3 Public school teachers also used computers or the Internet at school for administrative record keeping (51 percent), accessing research and best practices for teaching (37 percent), preparing multimedia presentations for class (36 percent), and accessing model lesson plans (34 percent). In addition to using computers or the Internet at school for preparatory and administrative tasks, the 82 percent of teachers with computers available at home also used these technologies at home for such purposes. 4 For example, among these teachers with computers at home, public school teachers used computers or the Internet at home to create instructional materials (85 percent), to gather information (67 percent), as well as for administrative record keeping (44 percent), accessing research and best practices for teaching (46 percent), preparing multimedia presentations for class (30 percent), and accessing model lesson plans (42 percent).

Differences by school and teacher characteristics.

Teachers' use of technology for preparatory and administrative purposes varied by a number of school and teacher characteristics. For example, among teachers with computers available in their schools, secondary teachers were more likely than elementary teachers to use computers or the Internet at school for administrative record keeping (62 percent compared with 45 percent), and they were also more likely to do this at home than elementary teachers (50 percent compared with 41 percent- table 2.1 table 2.1 Continued). Moreover, teachers in schools with the fewest students enrolled were more likely than teachers in schools with the highest enrollments to use these technologies at school to gather information for planning lessons (67 percent compared with 56 percent). On the other hand, teachers in schools enrolling more students were generally more likely to use computers or the Internet at school for administrative record keeping (58 percent of teachers in schools with more than 1,000 students enrolled compared with 49 percent in schools with 300 to 999 students) and at home for this task (53 percent of teachers in schools enrolling 1,000 or more students compared with 35 percent of teachers in schools with less than 300 students and 42 percent in schools with 300 to 999 students).

In addition to instructional level and enrollment size, there were a number of differences by school minority enrollment in the percent of teachers reporting that they used computers or the Internet for preparatory and administrative tasks. For example, teachers in schools with lower minority enrollments were more likely than teachers in schools with the highest minority enrollments to gather information for lesson plans using these technologies at school (61 percent of teachers in schools with less than 6 percent, 67 percent of teachers in schools with 6 to 20 percent, and 60 percent of teachers in schools with 21 to 49 percent minority enrollments compared with 46 percent of teachers in schools with 50 percent or more minority enrollments).

Teachers in schools with fewer minority students were also generally more likely than those in schools with the highest minority enrollments to use computers or the Internet at school for administrative record keeping (55 percent of teachers in schools with 6 to 20 percent and 21 to 49 percent minority enrollments compared with 40 percent of teachers in schools with 50 or more minority enrollments) and creating instructional materials (81 percent of teachers in schools with 6 to 20 percent minority enrollments and 82 percent of teachers in schools with 21 to 49 percent minority enrollments compared with 71 percent of teachers in schools with 50 percent or more minority enrollments). Finally, teachers in schools with the lowest minority enrollments (less than 6 percent) were more likely than those with the highest minority enrollments (50 percent or more) to use computers or the Internet at school for preparing multimedia presentations (40 percent compared with 29 percent).

As is the case with teacher reports from schools with varying minority enrollments, teacher reports of whether they used computers or the Internet for various preparatory and administrative tasks varied by poverty concentration of the school, as measured by the proportion of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. For example, teachers in schools with the lowest poverty concentrations were more likely to use computers or the Internet at school to create instructional materials than teachers in schools with the highest poverty concentrations (85 percent compared with 73 percent). In addition, teachers in schools with lower poverty concentrations were generally more likely than teachers in schools with the highest poverty concentrations to use these technologies at school to gather information for planning lessons (65 percent of teachers in schools with less than 11 percent and 63 percent of teachers in schools with 11 to 30 percent of students eligible for free or reduced-price school lunch compared with 49 percent of teachers in schools with 71 percent or more students eligible for free or reduced price school lunch).

Finally, teachers with varying years of teaching experience differed with respect to whether they used computers or the Internet to conduct a number of preparatory and administrative tasks. For example, teachers with the fewest years of teaching experience were more likely than teachers with the most experience to use these technologies at home to gather information for planning lessons (76 percent compared with 63 percent) and to create instructional materials (91 percent compared with 82 percent). Teachers with 4 to 9 years of experience were more likely to use computers or the Internet at school to access research and best practices examples than those with 20 or more years of experience (43 percent compared with 33 percent). Finally, teachers with less than 10 years of teaching experience were generally more likely to use these technologies at school to access model lesson plans than those with 10 to 19 years of experience (42 percent of teachers with 3 or fewer years and 40 percent of teachers with 4 to 9 years of teaching experience compared with 30 percent of teachers with 10 to 19 years of teaching experience) and at home to conduct this task (59 percent of teachers with 3 or fewer years and 47 percent of teachers with 4 to 9 years of experience compared with 37 percent of teachers with 20 or more years of teaching experience).

Communication

The 1999 FRSS survey on public school teachers' use of technology also asked teachers how often they used computers or the Internet either at school or at home to communicate with colleagues, parents, or students or to post homework or assignments. Public school teachers with computers available in their schools used computers or the Internet to communicate with colleagues most frequently (50 percent at school, 48 percent at home), compared to communication with parents (25 percent at school, 19 percent at home), posting homework or assignments (17 percent at school, 13 percent at home), and communication with students (12 percent at school and 14 percent at home-figure 2.4).

Differences by school and teacher characteristics. Teachers' use of technology for communicative purposes varied by a number of school and teacher characteristics. For example, elementary teachers were more likely than secondary teachers to use computers or the Internet at home to communicate with parents (20 percent compared with 15 percent, respectively-table 2.2 table 2.2 Continued). On the other hand, secondary teachers were more likely than elementary teachers to use these technologies at school to communicate with students (14 percent compared with 10 percent). Furthermore, teachers in schools with medium-sized enrollments were more likely than teachers in schools with small enrollments to report that they used computers or the Internet at home to communicate with colleagues (50 percent of teachers in schools with 300 to 999 students compared with 38 percent of teachers in schools with less than 300 students). Teachers in schools with large enrollments were also more likely to use these technologies at school topost homework or assignments (23 percent in schools with 1,000 or more students compared with 16 percent in schools with 300 to 999 and 11 percent in schools with less than 300 students) and at home to conduct this task (19 percent of teachers in schools with 1,000 or more students compared with 11 percent in schools with 300 to 999 and 7 percent in schools with less than 300 students).

Teachers' use of computers or the Internet for communicative purposes also varied by minority enrollment of the school. Teachers in schools with lower minority enrollments were generally more likely than teachers in the highest minority schools to use these technologies at school to communicate with colleagues (53 percent of teachers in schools with less than 6 percent minority enrollments and 62 percent of teachers in schools with 6 to 20 percent minority enrollments compared with 41 percent of teachers in schools with 50 percent or more minority enrollments). Similarly, teachers in schools with lower minority enrollments were also more likely to use computers or the Internet at school to communicate with parents than teachers in schools with the highest minority enrollments (25 percent to 30 percent of teachers in schools with less than 50 percent minority enrollments compared with 14 percent of teachers in schools with 50 percent or more minority enrollments). On the other hand, teachers in schools with high minority enrollments (50 percent or more) were more likely than teachers in schools with minority enrollments of 6 to 20 percent to use these technologies at home to post homework or assignments (19 percent compared with 9 percent, respectively).

Like minority enrollment, poverty concentration of the school is related to teachers' use of technology for communicative purposes. For example, teachers in schools with lower poverty concentrations were generally more likely than teachers in the highest poverty schools to use computers or the Internet to communicate with colleagues. Fifty-nine percent of teachers in schools with less than 11 percent, 55 percent of teacher in schools with 11 to 30 percent, and 54 percent of teachers in schools with 31 to 49 percent of students eligible for free or reduced-price school lunch used these technologies at school for this purpose, compared with 38 percent of teachers in schools with 71 percent or more students eligible for free or reduced-price school lunch. Similarly, 53 percent of teachers in schools with poverty concentrations of 11 to 30 percent eligible for free or reduced-price school lunch used these technologies at home to communicate with colleagues, compared with 40 percent of teachers in schools with 71 percent or more students eligible for free or reduced-price school lunch.

Classroom Instruction

In addition to preparation for instruction, administrative tasks, and communication, teachers may also use computers or the Internet for a number of instructional activities in their classrooms. The 1999 FRSS survey on public school teachers' use of technology asked teachers how often they used computers or the Internet during class time and assigned students to use these technologies for projects and various other activities, including: word processing/spreadsheets, Internet research, practice drills, solving problems/analyzing data, CD-ROM research, multimedia projects, graphical presentations, demonstration/simulation, and correspondence with experts.

General classroom instructional use. Fifty-three percent of public school teachers indicated that they used computers or the Internet for instruction during class time (table 2.3). Elementary teachers were more likely to do this than secondary teachers (56 percent compared with 44 percent), and teachers in schools with smaller enrollments were more likely to do this than teachers in schools with the largest enrollments (56 percent of teachers in schools enrolling less than 300 and 300 to 999 students compared with 40 percent of teachers in schools with 1,000 or more students). Teachers in schools with lower minority enrollments were generally more likely to use computers or the Internet for instruction during class time than teachers in schools with high minority enrollments (56 percent of teachers in schools with less than 6 percent minority enrollment compared with 45 percent of teachers in schools with 50 percent or more minority students). Similarly, teachers in the lowest poverty schools (based on percent of students eligible for free or reduced-price school lunch) were more likely than teachers in schools with 50 to 70 percent eligible students to use computers or the Internet in this way (63 percent compared with 47 percent).

Project assignment. Overall 53 percent of public school teachers assigned projects using the computer or Internet inside of the classroom, and 48 percent of public school teachers assigned projects using the computer or Internet outside of the classroom (figure 2.5). The percent of teachers assigning projects using the computer inside and outside of the classroom varied by the instructional level of the school. Elementary teachers were more likely than secondary teachers to assign projects using the computer inside the classroom (60 percent compared with 37 percent), and less likely than secondary teachers to assign projects using the computer outside of the classroom (41 percent compared with 64 percent).

Instructional activities. Public school teachers assigned students to use computers or the Internet for wordprocessing/spreadsheets most frequently (61 percent did this to some extent), followed by Internet research (51percent), practice drills (50 percent), solving problems and analyzing data (50 percent), CD-ROM research (48 percent), multimedia projects (45 percent), graphical presentations (43 percent), demonstration and simulation (39 percent), and correspondence with experts (23 percent-figure 2.6).

Differences by school and teacher characteristics. Teachers" use of technology for instructional activities varied by a number of school and teacher characteristics. For example, elementary teachers were more likely than secondary teachers to assign students to use computers or the Internet to practice drills (60 percent compared with 28 percent-table 2.4 table 2.4 Continued). In addition, elementary teachers were more likely than secondary teachers to assign students to use these technologies to solve problems and analyze data (54 percent compared with 41 percent). On the other hand, secondary teachers were more likely than elementary teachers to assign students to use these technologies to conduct research using the Internet (64 percent compared with 44 percent).

Teachers in schools with different enrollment sizes varied with respect to whether they assigned students to use computers or the Internet for various instructional activities. Teachers in schools with smaller enrollments were nearly twice as likely as teachers in schools with large enrollments to assign students to use these technologies to practice drills (53 percent of teachers in schools with less than 300 students and 57 percent with 300 to 999 students compared with 28 percent of teachers in schools with 1,000 or more students). Teachers in schools with smaller enrollments were also more likely than teachers in schools with the largest enrollments to assign students to use computers or the Internet to solve problems and analyze data (51 percent of teachers in schools with less than 300 students and 53 percent with 300 to 999 students compared with 39 percent of teachers in schools with 1,000 or more students).

There were also differences in whether teachers assigned students to use technology for various instructional activities according to minority enrollment. For example, teachers in schools enrolling the smallest proportion of minority students were more likely to assign students to use these technologies for word processing and creating spreadsheets than teachers in the highest minority enrollment schools (66 percent in schools with less than 6 percent minority enrollments compared with 53 percent of teachers in schools with 50 percent or more minority enrollments).

Teachers in lower minority enrollment schools were also generally more likely than teachers in the highest minority enrollment schools to assign students to use these technologies for multimedia presentations (49 percent of teachers in schools with less than 6 percent minority enrollments and 48 percent in schools with 6 to 20 percent minority enrollments compared with 36 percent of teachers in schools with 50 percent or more minority enrollments) and CD-ROM research (55 percent of teachers in schools with less than 6 percent minority enrollments and 50 percent in schools with 6 to 20 percent minority enrollments compared with 38 percent of teachers in schools with 50 percent or more minority enrollments). Finally, teachers in schools with smaller proportions of minority enrollments were more likely to use computers or the Internet for Internet research (57 percent of teachers in schools with less than 6 percent minorityenrollments and 52 percent in schools with 6 to 20 percent minority enrollments compared with 41 percent of teachers in schools with 50 percent or more minority enrollments).

Similar to the differences in minority enrollment, school poverty concentration is related to a number of activities for which teachers assign students to use computers or the Internet. Teachers in schools with the lowest poverty concentrations were more likely than teachers in schools with the highest poverty concentrations to assign students to use these technologies for graphical presentations, multimedia presentations, word processing and spreadsheets, research using CD-ROM and the Internet, and corresponding with experts. For example, 52 percent of teachers in schools with less than 11 percent of students eligible for free or reduced-price school lunch assigned students to use these technologies for graphical presentations compared with 37 percent of teachers in schools with 71 percent or more students eligible for free or reduced-price school lunch.


1NAEP findings are provided for contextual purposes only. Due to differences in survey items and sample, NAEP findings are not comparable to FRSS findings.

2All comparative statements in this report have been tested for statistical significance using chi-square tests or t-tests adjusted for multiple comparisons using the Bonferroni adjustment and are significant at the 0.05 level.

3All of the FRSS findings presented in this chapter are based on teachers who reported having computers available in their schools (99 percent) or, for questions about technology use at home, teachers who reported having computers available at home (82 percent).

4The same teachers may be using computers for preparatory and administrative purposes both at home and at school.

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