What teachers are looking for in digital classroom tools and what they’re given are often two different things.
That’s among the salient points in a nationwide survey released this month by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The 33-page report, titled “Teachers Know Best: What Educators Want from Digital Instructional Tools,” surveyed 3,100 teachers, 1,650 students and their experience with nearly 1,000 digital tools.
Four questions drove the study:
- What do teachers want and need from digital instructional tools?
- How can product developers use this information to more effectively serve students, teachers and schools?
- What do we know about how teachers and districts select and purchase digital instructional tools?
- What do we know about the overall market for digital instructional tools?
The report found that teachers and students both value digital tools in the classroom, but they want more of them. While many of these tools focus on a single subject, content-agnostic platforms are among the most widely used, and include YouTube Edu, Edmodo and Blackboard Learn. But some of these are either out of reach for educators or aren't being used effectively, according to the report.
Making Digital Tools More Effective
Only 54 percent of teachers considered the digital products they use most often to be effective. Through these findings, the study identified a gap in demand and need for adequate instructional devices in classrooms across all grades.
According to the study, less than half of the teachers surveyed reported that available resources for teaching standard courses are both sufficient and in digital form.
Areas with the greatest deficit of resources include K–5 English, high school math, grades 6–8 social studies, and science classes at all grade levels. Teachers simply don’t use some devices, but need others that aren’t readily available, according to the report.
In the early grades, the supply of math resources is sufficient, but science resources are lacking. In later grades, the reverse is true: High school teachers have fewer math resources, but science resources are available.
Even as availability of new classroom technologies becomes more widespread, many teachers are unable to use them, according to another study released in March by Digedu.
The Digedu survey compiled responses from more than 600 K–12 educators about their use of digital tools, identifying a weakness in the support structure available to teachers. It concluded that 53 percent of K–12 teachers surveyed lacked the necessary training to take advantage of these new technologies.
The findings show the potential for an even bigger problem for teachers down the road, once more of the right tools become available. But if anything, both studies indicate that the market is ripe for intuitive tools that all teachers can effectively use.