Friday, January 1, 2016

  Technology in Our Schools:  BATs Speak Out!

In response to language in the Every Student Succeeds Act that favored online learning, BATs conducted an informal poll of how teachers were feeling about technology in their schools.  We heard from over 1,300 teachers in every state.  This document put out by the USDOE on 1/1/15 (with annotated notes from a member of the BATs Leadership Team; see more important notes at the end of this blog post) solidifies our fear that there will be a push towards large amounts of online learning and less teaching in America's classrooms. 

BATs, in the narrative below, speak out about the use of technology in Public Education.

The largest majority of teachers taking the survey had been teaching over 20 years (38%), but there was a broad spread of teachers who had been teaching from 6 years to 20 years.  The lowest number to participate were those who had been teaching 1-5 years (5.7%). 

583 Suburban (44.2%) and 494 Urban (37.4%) teachers took part in the survey.  Rural teachers were represented by 243 (18.4%) respondents.

When we examined what subjects and levels that teachers teach, it was reported that “Other” were our largest subject area followed by English teachers (197 at 15%).  As far as what level teachers who participated in the poll teach in, it was found that elementary represented the largest group (520 or 39.4%), and Pre-K were the smallest group (14 or 1.1%).

So, let’s get down to the nuts and bolts of the survey.  The purpose of the survey was to get a pulse on how classroom teachers were feeling about the use of technology in their classrooms.  With concerns that ESSA seemed to be very “online” friendly, we wanted the voices of teachers to reach the public.  We want the public to understand, from practitioners in the classroom, how technology was being used, what was good, what was bad, and how it was impacting the budgets of school districts.  Here is what teachers reported.

When asked if their district provided electronic devices to students 70.5% said yes  (930 teachers) and 29.5% said no (390 teachers).    66% of the teachers reported that they are required to use technology in the classroom, and 50% felt that technology was beneficial to learning.  Teachers reported that the following systems were not useful to teaching and learning in their classrooms:  Smartboards, Ipads, Cell Phones,  Achieve 3000, Mstep NWEA,  Chromebooks (only used for testing),  Samsung Notebooks, Promethian Boards, Illuminate, Read 180 Galileo screening testing, STAR Reading and Math, Successmaker, STARS360, ANET, Teachscape, Lexia, Iready,  Istation, Aleks program,  Kahoots , Star Aimsweb, Mathxl, Mastery Connect, Study Island, PathDriver, MICATime, MIST, Blackboard, Infinite Campus , and Catapult Evaluate USA Test Prep. 

The above represents a small sample of what teachers around the country are saying about the technology they are required to use.  There were over 17 pages of comments about technology that they felt did not enhance learning or teaching.  In fact, most comments by teachers were that their district could not support the demand for technology.  Teachers reported that there are not enough devices for children,  technology is old and outdated, devices are not replaced, the WiFi in the school is weak, and money is wasted on technology that is never used.  One teacher shared that her district bought brand new Mac computers that were rarely used and replaced a few years later by Ipads. 

Here is a small sample of some of the technology programs that teachers felt were beneficial to learning: Google Classroom, Explorelearning.Com,, Noodle tools , Edmodo, Moby Max, Kahoot, Quizlet, Padlet, Twitter, Prezi, Glogster, Grammarly, phonics , Starfall, ABCya, Subscription research databases (Ebsco, Proquest), Raz Kids Reading A-Z More Starfall, ELMO , Accelerated Reader, Weebly (web page creation), PowToon, Voki, Moodle, Skype, StoryToolz, WISE (  Like the programs teachers felt were not beneficial, the input for this question was over 15 pages long.

What was strongly implied from the comments was let teachers pick the programs that work for their classrooms.  Districts should not be wasting money on programs that don’t work, and that teachers are not trained on.  Many of the teachers did report in the comments that they received little to no training on many of the technology systems they were required to use.  Many of them wrote about the frustration of having to use systems they were not trained on and not having enough workable equipment for children.

Perhaps the scary reality of all this is that when teachers were asked if their districts had the money to purchase and fund technology the results were very concerning.  72.3% of the teachers who took the poll said their district did not have money to buy technology systems.  A whopping 81.1% of the teachers surveyed said that their district was NOT adequately funded to meet the needs of technology demands and mandates. 

The survey showed that school districts are cash-strapped and unable to keep up with the unfunded mandates placed on them by the state and the federal government to purchase, and use, technology.  In a time when school districts are closing schools, laying off teachers,  and increasing class size, teachers who took part in the survey reported that not only do their districts not have the money needed to purchase technology systems, but they also indicated that they don’t have the ability to sustain them.   62.8% of the teachers surveyed felt that their school districts did not have the funding needed to maintain or upgrade technology in the future.  79.9% felt that their school districts could not repair or replace technology in a timely fashion.   73.5% felt that their school did not have a strong enough WiFi system to sustain large numbers of students using technology at the same time.  Over 80% of those polled felt that there was not enough technology personnel to take care of problems when they arise.  Finally,  85.2% of the teachers polled did not feel that their school district had the infrastructure to provide a sound technology platform to all students and teachers that would allow for continuous teaching/learning.

We asked teachers to give input on how they felt the parents in their district would feel about different types of online learning.  72.2% of teachers believed that parents in their district would not support  Competency Based Learning/Personalized Learning/Student-Centered Learning technology systems.  In the survey, we defined these types of technology systems as education geared toward primarily online learning systems.   67.2% of teachers felt that parents in their districts would support blended learning, which we defined as a blend between teacher/student identified learning and use of online systems to enhance classroom lessons.  Finally, when we asked teachers if they felt that parents in their district would support a move away from traditional public school to online learning, 76.4% of teachers felt that the parents in their district would not support this. 

What is the largest takeaway from this informal poll of public school educators?  Many do not feel that their district has the money to purchase or sustain technology systems.  Teachers are concerned that as a result of having to spend money on technology, children will lose valuable programs as a result of budget cuts. Teachers are concerned that they are now evaluated on whether or not they use technology systems to enhance learning.  Their concerns arise from the fact that they have had no training on these systems, that the systems are faulty, and that there are not enough computers for all children to use.  What do we want policy makers to hear?  We want teachers at the table when decisions about technology are made, do not mandate that cash-strapped districts spend money on technology they cannot afford or sustain, do not push technology that replaces the human element of the classroom, and most of all understand that schools are places where our children need human interaction to become well-rounded adults.

BATs Leadership Notes on USDOE National Technology Plan

1. NETP recommends personal digital pathways for students with an emphasis of online resources and virtual learning activities. 

BATs believe authentic learning includes balance. Virtual experiences cannot effectively replace teacher-led instruction, face to face peer collaboration, and hands-on learning activities. 

2. NETP asserts technology is the solution to inequities and will improve student mindset. 

BATs believe ample research-based studies indicating that too much screen time is detrimental to a student's emotional well-being. 

BATs believe schools are not funded adequately now, particularly those with high poverty levels. More technology will cost additional money for schools that are already resource poor.

3. NETPs states technology will close achievement gaps.

BATs believe current statistics indicating a lack of student success, decreased achievement, and lower graduation rates reported by virtual schools and online learning academies.

4. NETP asserts that libraries, textbooks,and traditional resources will become obsolete due to the availability of open online courses and digital content. 

BATs believe the dismal results of institutions that have utilized unreliable online open resources vs utilizing certified educators and their ability to select age-appropriate, effective, and engaging resources and content. 

BATs believe access to school libraries are essential to student success, along with providing students with print books instead of the limitation of eBooks that depend on unreliable technologies. 

5. NETP advocates national technology standards and digital badges in order to track, document, and house via cloud student progress for teachers, students, families, and potential employers to access. 

BATs support family involvement and transparency but do not support an involuntary digital footprint that may misrepresent a child's potential to achieve and succeed.

1 comment:

  1. I teach kindergarten and what I would like to see is more time for my kiddos to PLAY instead of sitting in front of a computer! Our kids lack social skills and the use of all this technology doesn't help. I do get that our kids need to be tech savvy, but let them play in the younger grades!