1. School Internet Use Policies Are Restrictive
This makes sense: technology isn’t going to be a big hit with schools that have drawn boundaries for its usage. Firewalls, filters, and strict school policies are the culprit here. A 2011 report from Project Tomorrow indicated that 53% of middle and high school students are not able to use cell phones, smart phones, or MP3 players in their schools. The study also indicated that the technology usage of 71% of high school students and 62% of middle school students would be enhanced if access to online content was not blocked. This raises a question: “Are these “safeguards” are hurting more than they’re helping?”
2. The Application Often Doesn’t Lead to Anything Fun
Apparently, even when teachers are able to use technology in the classroom and choose to do so, they don’t do particularly engaging things with it. The same report by Project Tomorrow noted that these teachers mainly use technology for homework and practice, with smaller minorities tending to use it for facilitating group collaboration (that’s not so bad!) and tracking effort to achievement (yawn). Potentially more fruitful exercises, like engaging in critical inquiry or producing digital content for audiences outside the school, seem to be woefully neglected.
3. Teachers Don’t Know How to Integrate It
Here’s a no-brainer: people can’t do something they don’t know how to do. This applies to technology use in the classroom as well; according to a 2011 survey of 1,411 U.S. literacy teachers by Hutchinson & Reinking, nearly 82% of teachers that a lack of professional development on integrating technology in the classroom has prevented them from actually doing so. Some people have tried to remedy this problem through decontextualized, one-shot workshops, but these aren’t nearly as effective as long-term collaborative activities, which demand constant engagement with the technology and increased use of digital tools in the classroom as a result. Now that we know what it takes to make integration successful, make it your mantra and say it with me: constant engagement…constant engagement…constant engagement…kind of rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it?
4. Teachers Don’t Have Time to Teach It
I’ve got a riddle for you:
This thing all things devours:
Give up? The answer is time, and studies show that teachers are all out of it. According to a study done by Blocher et al. in 2011, 73% of teachers reported that they do not have time to teach students the skills needed for complex tasks. Of these 73%, nearly 46% confessed that this lack of time was chiefly due to their own ability to use the technology (hearkening back to #3). There seems to be a logistical pattern here: lack of time, lack of knowledge, lack of engaging application—all of these are things that could be fixed with the right resources.
5. Educational Inequality Is Still A Problem
The grip of the perennial socioeconomic divide is as strong as ever, and it has consequences for Internet usage and proficiency in school. A 2008 paper by Hargittai & Hinnant found that class differences and access issues are more likely to result in a difference in Internet skills, particularly in low-income schools where ELA instruction often is built around teaching for mandated reading and writing state assessments based on print literacies, as opposed to teaching digital literacies associated with online reading comprehension or digital communication. As an example, collaborative technologies like wikis were relatively underutilized by students in low-income schools compared to higher-income schools. This is a logical byproduct of limited access to these technologies.
Despite these findings, there are promising prospects on the horizon. Barron & Gomez noted in a 2009 study that when low-income schools created special after-school programs focusing on the uses of digital tools, as evident in the urban Chicago Digital Youth Network program, students in those programs reported a wider variety of technology tool use and fluency than did a Silicon Valley comparison group with high home access. Moreover, disparities in issues of costs of computer access are being addressed through the increased use of less-expensive mobile devices/tablets for learning given the fact that 75% of students aged 12 to 17 own a cell phone or a smart phone.