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

Frequency of Technology Use

This chapter provides findings on the frequency with which public school teachers and students use technology at school and at home. The chapter is divided into three main sections. The first uses the Current Population Survey (CPS) data to provide background information regarding technology use in schools and classrooms. The second section uses Fast Response Survey System (FRSS) and CPS data to describe the frequency of teachers' and students' technology use in schools and classrooms. The final section uses FRSS, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), and CPS data to examine teachers' and students' technology use at home. Each section explores frequency of use by the location and availability of technology in schools and classrooms, as well as school and teacher characteristics.

Highlights

  • In 1999, nearly all teachers used the computers and the Internet when available in theirschools, and most reported that their students used computers and the Internet in theschool as well. Teachers were generally more likely to use computers and the Internet whenlocated in their classrooms than elsewhere in the school, while their students were morelikely to use computers and the Internet outside the classroom than inside.
  • Elementary teachers were more likely to report that their students used computers at school,and secondary teachers were more likely to report that their students used the Internet atschool.
  • Teachers with more computers or more computers connected to the Internet in their classroomsgenerally used these technologies more often than teachers with fewer computers orInternet connections (as did their students). Additionally, teachers with computer or Internetconnections in their classrooms used these technologies elsewhere in the school more oftenthan teachers without such equipment in their classrooms (as did their students).
  • Teachers in schools with lower minority enrollments were generally more likely to reportusing e-mail than teachers in schools with the highest minority enrollments, and teachersin schools with lower minority enrollments and lower poverty concentrations were generallymore likely than teachers in schools with the highest minority enrollments and thehighest poverty concentrations to report that their students used the Internet.
  • Teachers with fewer years of teaching experience were generally more likely than teacherswith more experience to report using computers, the Internet, and e-mail at school to alarge extent.
  • In 1999, nearly all teachers with computers or the Internet available at home used thesetechnologies. Teachers with fewer years of teaching experience generally used these technologiesat home more frequently than their most experienced colleagues. Teachers whoused computers for instruction and who assigned projects that required their students touse a computer were more likely than teachers who did not use these technologies for suchpurposes to use computers and the Internet at home to a large extent.

Frequency of Technology Use in Schools and Classrooms:
1997 to 1998

Internet. According to CPS data on Internet use, this technology has been used somewhat infrequently by public and private school teachers in past years, but use of this technology is growing. For example, in public and private schools, the percent of elementary teachers who used the Internet at work rose from 23 to 33 percent between 1997 and 1998, and the percent of secondary teachers who used the Internet at work increased from 28 to 43 percent (figure 4.1).

Current Frequency of Technology Use in Schools and Classrooms

This section presents recent data on teacher and student use of computers, including e-mail, Internet, and other technologies, from the 1999 FRSS teacher survey of public school teachers' use of technology.

Frequency of Teachers' Technology Use at School.

In the 1999 FRSS teacher survey, public school teachers were asked if computers, the Internet, and e-mail were available to them in various locations, and if available, the extent to which they used them ("not at all," "small extent," "moderate extent," or "large extent"). This section describes the frequency of teachers' use of these technologies by selected teacher and school characteristics and by the availability and location of technology in schools and classrooms.

Overall technology use. Among teachers who reported that computers were available in their schools, 99 percent indicated that they used computers either in their classrooms or elsewhere in the school (figure 4.2). Additionally, among teachers who indicated that computers with Internet connections were available in their schools, 96 percent used the Internet from their classrooms or elsewhere in their schools. Furthermore, at least three-fourths of teachers with email availability used it at school.

Frequency of use by location of technology. The 1999 FRSS teacher survey asked teachers howfrequently they used computers and the Internet in two locations: the classroom and elsewherein the school (i.e., computer labs, libraries, or media centers). 1Of the teachers who reportedhaving computer availability in their classrooms (84 percent), nearly all of them (98 percent) reported using them at least to some extent (figure 4.3). Of the teachers who reported having computers available elsewhere in the school (95 percent), 85 percent reported using them. Teachers were significantly more likely to use computers in the classroom than elsewhere in the school, and they were also more likely to use them to a large extent in the classroom than elsewhere in the school (39 percent compared with 18 percent).

In addition, among teachers with Internet availability in their classrooms (64 percent), 88 percent reported using this technology. Of those teachers who reported Internet availability elsewhere in the school (90 percent), 70 percent indicated using it. Teachers were more likely to use the Internet in the classroom than elsewhere in the school, and they were also more likely to use it to a large extent in their classrooms than elsewhere in the school (20 percent compared with 10 percent). Furthermore, of the 74 percent of teachers reporting e-mail availability in the school, 77 percent used it at least to some extent.

Frequency of use by number of computers available

The 1999 FRSS teacher survey also asked teachers the number of computers and computers with Internet connections that were located in their classrooms. Overall, teachers with more computers in their classrooms used them more frequently than teachers with fewer computers in their classrooms. For example, 62 percent of public school teachers with more than five computers in their classrooms used them to a large extent compared with 43 percent of teachers with two to five computers and 28 percent of teachers with one computer in their classrooms (figure 4.4). Similarly, teachers with more than five computers with Internet access in their classrooms used the Internet from the classroom more frequently than teachers with fewer computers with Internet access in their classrooms. For example, 45 percent of teachers with more than five computers connected tothe Internet used the Internet from the classroom to a large extent in their classrooms comparedwith 18 percent of teachers with one computer.

Furthermore, teachers with computers in their classrooms used computers elsewhere in the school more often than teachers with no classroom computers (figure 4.5). At least one-fifth of teachers with computers in their classrooms used computers elsewhere in the school to a large extent compared with 10 percent of teachers with no computers in their classrooms. Similarly, teachers with one or more than five computers connected to the Internet in their classrooms used the Internet elsewhere in the school more often than teachers without classroom computers with Internet connections. Twenty-four percent of teachers with more than five classroom computers connected to the Internet and 12 percent of teachers with one classroom computer connected to the Internet used the Internet elsewhere in the school to a large extent, compared with 7 percent of teachers with no classroom computers connected to the Internet.

Frequency of use by teacher and school characteristics. Differences were found in the frequency ofteachers' use of computers, the Internet, and e-mail by school and teacher characteristics. Teachers with fewer years of teaching experience were more likely to use computers, the Internet, and email to a large extent at school than their more experienced colleagues. For example, 48 percent of teachers with 3 or fewer years of teaching experience and 45 percent of teachers with 4 to 9 years of experience used computers at school to a large extent, compared with 33 percent of teachers with 20 or more years experience (figure 4.6). The pattern is similar for Internet and e-mail use. Furthermore, teachers in schools with minority enrollments of 6 to 20 percent were more likely to use e-mail to a large extent than teachers in schools with the highest minority enrollments (42 percent compared with 25 percent-table 4.1).

Comparisons with other occupations. According to the 1997 CPS, 69 percent of adults employed as secondary teachers (either in public or private schools) and 67 percent employed as elementary teachers (either in public or private schools) reported using computers at work (figure 4.7). Both are significantly lower than such occupations as librarians, editors and reporters, and college faculty, and the percentage of elementary school teachers who reported using computers at work was lower than that of those employed as lawyers and judges and real estate and sales agents. However, the percentage for both elementary and secondary school teachers was higher than that of teachers' aides (40 percent). Forty-eight percent of U.S. adults employed in other occupations reported using computers at work.

Frequency of Students' Technology Use at School. In the 1999 FRSS teacher survey, public school teachers were asked how often students in oneof their typical classes used computers and the Internet-"not at all," "rarely," "sometimes," or"often"-in various locations (i.e., in classrooms and elsewhere in the school). This sectiondescribes the frequency of students' use of computers and the Internet by the availability andlocation of technology in schools and classrooms and by selected teacher and school characteristics.Findings presented in this section are restricted to teachers who reported that thesetechnologies were available in their schools.

Overall technology use. Eighty-eight percent of teachers with computers available in their schoolsreported that their students used computers either in the classroom or in computer labs, libraries,and media centers in 1999 (table A-4.3 table A-4.3 Continued B table A-4.3 Continued C table A-4.3 Continued D table A-4.3 Continued E). Furthermore, 61 percent of all teachers reportedthat students used the Internet in the classroom or somewhere else in the school in 1999 (table A-4.3 table A-4.3 Continued B table A-4.3 Continued C table A-4.3 Continued D table A-4.3 Continued E).

Frequency of use by location of technology. Approximately seven out of ten teachers reported thatstudents used classroom computers; however, a higher percentage of teachers (78 percent) reportedthat students used them elsewhere in the school (figure 4.8). 2 Thirty-four percent of teachers reported that students used the Internet in the classroom; however, a higher percentage of teachers (55 percent) reported that students used the Internet elsewhere in the school. Twenty-six percent of teachers reported that students used classroom computers often, and 28 percent of teachers reported that students used computers elsewhere often. Six percent of teachers indicated that students used classroom computers with Internet access often, and 9 percent of teachers indicated that students used computers with Internet access elsewhere in the school often. Sixteen percent of teachers reported that students used other technologies, such as distance learning 3 through the Internet and other interactive media.

Frequency of use by number of computers available.

Overall, teachers with more computers orInternet availability in their classrooms reported that they and their students used these technologies more frequently than teachers with fewer computers in their classrooms. For example, 61 percent of teachers with more than five computers in their classrooms reported that students used them often compared with 41 percent of teachers with two to five computers and 13 percent of teachers with one computer in their classrooms (figure 4.9). Similarly, 33 percentof teachers with more than five classroom computers connected to the Internet reported that students used them often compared with 6 percent of teachers with one classroom computer connected to the Internet. Additionally, teachers with two to five classroom computers connected to the Internet were more likely than teachers with one such computer to report that students used the Internet often (18 percent compared with 6 percent).

Furthermore, teachers with computers in their classrooms reported that students used computers elsewhere in the school more often than teachers with no classroom computers (figure 4.10). At least one out of three teachers with computers in their classrooms reported that students used computers elsewhere in the school, compared with one out of six teachers without a classroom computer. Teachers with more than five computers connected to the Internet in their classrooms were two to five times as likely as teachers with one or no computers with Internet connections to report that students used the Internet elsewhere in the school (29 percent compared with 5 to 11 percent). Additionally, teachers with one (11 percent), two to five (12 percent), and more than five (29 percent) computers with Internet access in the classroom were more likely than teachers with no computers with Internet access in the classroom (5 percent) to report that their students used the Internet elsewhere in the school.

Frequency of use by teacher and school characteristics. Students' use of technology, as reported by their teachers, varied by teacher and school characteristics. For example, elementary teachers (92 percent) were more likely than secondary teachers (80 percent) to report that their students used computers at school to any extent (figure 4.11). However, secondary teachers (72 percent) were more likely than elementary teachers (56 percent) to report that their students used the Internet at school to any extent.

Furthermore, teachers in schools with lower minority enrollments were generally more likelythan teachers in schools with the highest minority enrollments to report that students used theInternet at school. Sixty-four percent of teachers in schools with less than 6 percent minorityenrollments and 65 percent of teachers in schools with 6 to 20 percent minority enrollmentsreported that students used the Internet in school compared with 53 percent of teachers inschools with more than 50 percent minority enrollments (table 4.2).

Similarly, teachers in schools with lower poverty concentrations were generally more likely toreport that students used the Internet at school than teachers in the highest poverty schools.

Seventy-one percent of teachers in schools with less than 11 percent of students eligible for freeor reduced-price lunch, 63 percent of teachers in schools with 11 to 30 percent of eligiblestudents, and 66 percent of teachers in schools with 31 to 49 percent of students eligible forfree or reduced-price lunch reported that students used the Internet at school compared with50 percent of teachers in schools with 71 percent or more students eligible for free or reduced pricelunch.

Current Frequency of Technology Use at Home

Experience using a computer or the Internet may improve teachers' and students' technologyskills and increase their level of comfort with technology, regardless of whether the use is atschool or at home. In the 1999 FRSS teacher survey of technology use, teachers were asked ifa computer, the Internet, or a school network through which they could access the Internetwere available to them at home. If they were available, teachers were then asked about theextent to which they used them ("not at all," "small extent," "moderate extent," or "large extent").Because the FRSS did not ask similar information about students, data from NAEP andCPS are used to describe students' technology use at home.

Teacher Use of Computers and the Internet at Home

The 1997 CPS indicates that for public and private school teachers, 83 percent of elementaryteachers and 89 percent of secondary teachers used home computers to any extent when theywere available (figure 4.12). 4 This compares with 74 percent of adults in other occupationswith computers at home who used them to any extent. Two years later, the 1999 FRSS teachersurvey indicates that 98 percent of public school teachers with computers at home used them,and about half of the teachers used them to a large extent (table A-4.3 table A-4.3 Continued B table A-4.3 Continued C table A-4.3 Continued D table A-4.3 Continued E).

Teachers' Internet use at home significantly increased between 1997 and 1998 for both elementaryand secondary teachers. According to the 1997 CPS, 35 percent of all elementaryteachers with computers in their households and 44 percent of all secondary teachers withcomputers in their households reported using the Internet at home (figure 4.12). In 1998, CPSdata show that 57 percent of elementary teachers with computers in their households and 60percent of secondary teachers with computers in their households reported using the Internetat home. Home Internet use also increased between 1997 and 1998 for adults in other occupationswith computers in their households, from 37 to 51 percent.

The 1999 FRSS teacher survey indicates that nearly all (97 percent) public school teachers withthe Internet available at home used it, and about two-fifths (43 percent) of teachers with homeInternet access reported using it to a large extent. The 1999 FRSS teacher survey also inquiredabout school networks that teachers can access at home. Fifty-six percent of teachers used thistechnology when it was available (table A-4.3 table A-4.3 Continued B table A-4.3 Continued C table A-4.3 Continued D table A-4.3 Continued E).

Home use by teacher and school characteristics. Public school teachers' use of computers and theInternet at home varied by their years of teaching experience. For example, teachers with 3 orfewer years and those with 4 to 9 years of teaching experience were more likely to use theirhome computers to a large extent than teachers with 20 or more years of teaching experience(65 percent and 57 percent, compared with 39 percent-figure 4.13). Similarly, teachers with 3 or fewer years and those with 4 to 9 years of teaching experience were more likely to use the Internet at home to a large extent than teachers with 10 to 19 years and those with 20 or more years of teaching experience (62 percent and 55 percent compared with 35 percent and 36 percent).
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Frequency of Technology Use at Home and Technology Use for Instruction

Public school teachers who used computers for instruction during class and teachers who assignedprojects that required their students to use a computer were more likely to use computersand the Internet at home to a large extent than teachers who did not use these technologiesfor such purposes. For example, 54 percent of teachers who used computers for instructionalso used home computers to a large extent, compared with 43 percent of teachers who did notuse computers for instruction (figure 4.14). Likewise, 52 percent of teachers who assignedprojects requiring students to use computers also used home computers to a large extent, comparedwith 37 percent of teachers who did not assign such projects. The pattern is similar forInternet use at home.

Student Access to Computers and the Internet at Home

NAEP data indicate that the use of home computers by public school students increased from1992 to 1998 for fourth-graders, eighth-graders, and twelfth-graders. For example, fourth graders,eighth-graders, and twelfth-graders who reported never or hardly ever using a computerat home declined between 1992 and 1998 (68 percent to 55 percent, 60 percent to 34percent, and 50 percent to 23 percent, respectively-figure 4.15).


1These two categories were not mutually exclusive.

2Estimates of the frequency of teachers' use of technology (figure 4.3) and students' use of technology (figure 4.8) are not comparable. Due to differences in the way the questions were asked for teachers' own use and their students' use, the sample filter representing availability is somewhat different for each group.

3Distance learning is defined as the transmission of information from one geographic location to another via various modes of telecommunications technology.

4Internet availability could not be ascertained from the CPS data.

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