Voices in Education

What Do Educators Want? Educational Technology Support! Why Do They Want It? To Meet Students’ Needs!

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What comes to mind when you hear the words ‘educational technology’?  For me, it’s interactive white boards, tablets and laptops.  Each one is a technology tool – but educational technology is far more than that. 

There are many different definitions of educational technology.  M.D. Roblyer and A.H. Doering, authors who publish about integrating educational technology into teaching, believe that the best definition focuses on the process of applying tools for educational purposes as well as ensuring that teachers have access to necessary tools.  More examples that fit the authors’ definition include websites with learning games and apps like abcya.com and pbskids.org; online research databases like ProQuest CultureGrams, Britannica School and Cavendish Square; and software programs.

Survey shows positive results and room for improvement

This is important to note because of the survey conducted last spring by DreamBox Learning, PBS and the Education Week Research Center.  A group of 553 educators from across the country participated in the survey by answering online questions about educational technology. Of those surveyed, 90 participants were district leaders, 89 were school leaders and 374 were Pre-K to 8th grade teachers.  The purpose of the survey was to gain insight on educators’ views of educational technology and its use in their schools and classrooms.    

Survey results show that 69% of teachers and administrators believe that differentiating and personalizing instruction to meet students’ unique needs helps to increase academic achievement.  Both groups also agree that educational technology can be used to create this type of learning in the classroom.  When used properly, educational technology gives students the opportunity to access information and demonstrate understanding in multiple ways.  This could look like reading assignments based on topic and reading ability level in Newsela, an instructional content platform, and using the Wixie platform to write an informational book.  A full 93% agreed that using technology for instructional purposes is an effective way to provide differentiated and/or personalized learning experiences that adapt to student needs.

Advantages of differentiated and personalized instruction

Although the results related to the value of differentiated and personalized instruction are positive, survey results show that improvement is needed.  Almost half of the participating educators do not think there is enough support currently provided to teachers to effectively use educational technology in their classrooms.  This is especially true for those that work in early childhood education.  Professional development is necessary for teachers to learn how to effectively use different types of educational technology daily as well as strategies to implement technology across content areas.  Only a small percentage of teachers surveyed indicated that their students complete classwork digitally instead of with traditional paper and pencil.  Having more devices available may help to increase this percentage which could be a reason why teachers want this type of support. 

What do educators need to maximize classroom effectiveness?

The survey shows that teachers are looking for the following types of support:

  • Technology tools training
  • Professional development
  • More devices
  • Help from IT specialists and administrators in the school building
  • Opportunities for peer learning
  • High quality digital content and technology software

There are two big ideas that can be learned from the DreamBox Learning, PBS and Education Week Research Center survey.  One is that personalized and differentiated learning is important to educators.  The other is that educational technology helps students succeed academically but more support is needed in order to use it to differentiate instruction to meet the individual needs of every learner.

Read more about the survey results and how educators believe educational technology can personalize and enrich student learning.  

Kristin Carney

Kristin Carney PBS Education Intern

Kristin is a former elementary school educator.  She has taught first, second and third grade students in the Washington, D.C. area.  She has a bachelor's degree in Elementary Education from East Carolina University and is currently working towards earning a master's degree in Education Curriculum and Instruction from George Mason University. 

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