What Teachers Know (and Don't Know) about Technology-And Does Anybody Know They Don't Know?

Article excerpt

A column I wrote for the January/ February 2010 issue of MultiMedia & lnternet@Schools was called "What Kids Know (and Don't Know) About Technology." The gist of the article was that, while youngsters are confident using new devices and applications, there are still important concepts, ethical tenets, and even basic uses that they need to learn. The aftermath of this publication was a surprise to me. I received a number of emails thanking me for the piece, and I was even contacted about working on a book based on the idea. This response has inspired me to address the same subject and questions to teachers and then also to administrators. So this is what I'll be covering in this column and the one to follow.

As is my wont, I gathered information for this article via survey. I appealed to my usual support systems, LM_NET, TLC, and EDTECH and asked teachers, librarians, and technology specialists a series of questions about what teachers do know and what they need to know about technology in order to effectively work with today's learners. The result of this poll, conducted via SurveyMonkey, can be viewed at http:// bit.ly/teachersknowsurvey.

For response options, I used labels that I thought would clarify five levels of confidence, but I realized too late that they did the opposite for some respondents. I now wish what I had done was to give the levels 1-5 simple Likert values from least to most favorable. When I discuss the results, I am going to do so considering the results on a simple 1-5 scale, with 5 being the most positive response. If you do visit the actual survey site, remember to click on the links for comments. People were amazingly generous with their time in elaborating upon their answers.

SURVEY RESULTS

So what did I learn? In many cases, responses were predictable, based on what I have seen exhibited by teachers who enter our program and take technology classes as part of preparation for school librarianship. With regard to basic applications such as office suites, educators fare pretty well. I had a cluster of questions centered on that area and here are the results:

* Most respondents felt like their colleagues had pretty good mastery of basic office programs such as Word and PowerPoint or their equivalents, with more than 70% giving scores of average or better proficiency.

* While teachers exhibit the ability to create simple documents and presentations, they often lack more refined skills such as using WordArt or drawing tools, creating charts, etc. Regarding such "bells and whistles," more than 65% put their colleagues in the bottom two tiers of proficiency.

* Within any faculty there is likely a very wide range of abilities. While some teachers lead with creative and innovative uses of basic applications, others lag far behind. My own preference is not to portray disparities in interest and skill as related to age, but many respondents did just that, stating that younger teachers are much more apt than their older colleagues to try new things with technology.

* One comment succinctly summed up common office suite uses this way: "Word=excellent; PowerPoint=fair; Excel=poor." Others noted that uses of Access or Outlook were limited or nonexistent. Frankly, I gauge my time investment in learning a given application by the answer to this question: What will it do for me? If I cannot come up with an answer, then I do not have time to spend. Thus, I am not sure every teacher needs Access, but I am convinced word processing, presentation software, and spreadsheet applications are worth the time and effort for any teacher regardless of level or subject. Sadly, many comments pointed to a continuing lack of use of Excel or its counterparts.

TECHNOLOGY AND ETHICS

Next, I included two questions about technology and ethics.

The first question was about whether teachers were actively teaching and modeling respect for intellectual property, regarding both copyright and plagiarism. …