A recent survey, “The State of Education Technology 2015,” pinpoints the need for more technology training for teachers and greater transparency about how student data is shared.
The survey, sponsored by Sprint, reached out to 173 district officials, principals, and teachers to get their input on the state of technology in the classroom in 2015.
Eighty-six percent of respondents said they agree or strongly agree that teachers need more training in education technology.
“Adapting to entirely new devices and methods of teaching isn’t easy for a generation of teachers who aren’t digital natives, especially when structures are lacking to ease that transition,” the survey reported.
Respondents said their greatest priority for next year will be professional development to attempt to make up for the lack of sufficient training. However, even teacher colleges that educate digital natives are struggling to incorporate technology into their lesson plans because of curricula already packed with state-mandated courses that take priority. Future teachers are often digitally savvy but don’t know how to use technology to engage young minds or tailor lessons to meet different learning styles.
The survey shows that devices are readily available in the classroom but districts lack the curricular support systems and technological infrastructure to maintain them. Forty-one percent of respondents said “they disagree or strongly disagree that their districts have an explicit plan that lays out for teachers how education technology is most effectively used in lessons and curriculum.”
As education technology grows, concern over the privacy of student data increases. Some service providers ensure student anonymity but in some cases, vendors are provided with information including a student’s name, gender, and age. Among parents, 14.4 percent said they’re not informed of student information being supplied to vendors.
Also, 2.3 percent of respondents said that student Social Security numbers are provided. The Federal Education Records and Privacy Act lists specific instances in which student Social Security numbers can be shared with a third party. Lawmakers are working to create new Federal policies that require companies to meet security standards when handling student data.
“The data highlights a clear need for schools and districts to proactively seek clarity on what information is supplied to third parties via the use of education technology,” the survey reported. “It isn’t enough to wait for lawmakers to craft updated privacy laws for student data use—schools and districts must be able to ensure compliance both with existing laws and the wishes of parents.”
Respondents note that districts have a need for an office or department that only oversees technology in the classroom to support teachers and staff.
“There’s no doubt that schools will strive to stay in step with technological innovation and changes in use,” the survey concluded. “Now the challenge is upon educators, parents, and governing bodies to come to terms with budgets and regulations, ensuring that inviting new techniques into schools furthers the ultimate mission of better educating America’s children.”