Survey confirms importance of professional development to
By Robert Brumfield, Assistant Editor, eSchool News
July 21, 2006
A new survey of teachers and their use of technology suggests there is a clear
correlation between hours spent in professional development, classroom
integration of technology, and improved student performance.
Technology use by teachers continues to rise, the survey
indicates; three out of five teachers said their tech skills
were at least "somewhat advanced," four of five think it
engages students, and two in three believe it can improve
performance. Professional development in the use of
technology also is on the rise, according to the survey--
though one in five teachers still receives no such training.
Sponsored by CDW-G, a reseller of hardware tools to
schools and governments, and administered by education
research firm Quality Education Data (QED), the study,
called "Teachers Talk Tech 2006: Fulfilling Technology's
Promise of Improved Student Performance," polled some
1,000 K-12 public school teachers on technology's role in
The poll offers an in-depth look at how K-12 teachers use
computers in their jobs; evaluates technology's role and
efficacy in education; sheds light on educators' opinions
regarding the use of computers in their classrooms; and
attempts to gauge the effectiveness of computers in
preparing students for the 21st-century workplace,
according to survey administrators. CDW-G said its findings
support the need for more federal ed-tech spending,
including continued support for the Enhancing Education
Through Technology (EETT) block-grant program, the
largest single source of ed-tech funding in the federal
Although teachers report they are using technology more
frequently for both instructional and administrative tasks,
they also worry that obstacles such as a lack of access,
time, and money are keeping them from integrating
technology effectively into the curriculum, the study found
Technology is "on the cusp of radically transforming the
learning environment," researchers wrote in response to
their findings; but it's not fully there yet, they said.
Bob Kirby, CDW-G's senior director for K-12 education, sa
technology can be an "empowering tool," depending on
who's using it.
"Technology is becoming integral to the teaching process,
and we're finding it makes the overall process that much
better," said Kirby, who called the survey "a tool for
teachers to say, 'Here's why I need something like
professional development.' ... Anything above eight hours
sees a dramatic improvement in comfort levels for
The survey, now in its fourth year, found technology has
changed the way teachers teach "a great deal." In 2004, 40
percent of teachers said their teaching environment had
changed. By 2006, 54 percent reported such a shift.
Veteran teachers who have been in the profession for at
least 10 years have seen technology change the process of
teaching, while younger teachers have always had some
link to technology, the study found. Researchers interpret
these changes to mean that technology is being used and
embraced in the classroom.
According to the survey, four out of five teachers indicated
that technology is very or somewhat important to teaching.
Eighty-eight percent of those surveyed said technology is
important to administrative functions such as attendance
and grading, while 86 percent agreed it was important to
communications with other teachers, administrators,
parents, and students.
In addition, 81 percent of those surveyed said they use
technology for research purposes when preparing lessons,
and 79 percent use technology as a teaching tool in the
classroom. Further, 63 percent of teachers characterize
their classroom technology skills as "somewhat advanced"
or "advanced," with a 5-percent increase in the percentage
of users who consider themselves "somewhat advanced"
Seventy-nine percent of teachers say they are either
"competent" or "highly competent" in using instructional
software, and 76 percent chose the same designations for
their ability to integrate computing into lessons. What's
more, 66 percent of respondents said they were
"competent" or "highly competent" in using technology to
develop critical-thinking skills in their students. Seventy
percent of teachers indicated competence in using data
analysis tools to gauge student performance--a key to
achieving federal requirements ushered in under the No
Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).
"Without technology, it would be impossible to meet the
requirements of NCLB," the study said.
In fact, researchers say they noticed an increase in the use
of technology in every major curricular category since last
year, from writing to art. The number of teachers using
technology to teach writing skills went from 64 percent in
2005 to 71 percent in 2006, while the use of technology to
teach scientific concepts also increased significantly, from
51 percent in 2005 to 60 percent this year. Teachers have
even increased their use of technology for "performing
artistic activities," the study found, from 36-percent
saturation in 2005 to 42 percent this year.
Teachers overwhelmingly agreed that the use of technology
in the classroom makes students more engaged, and most
agreed that students' academic standing has improved as a
result of technology's use. Eighty-two percent of teachers
surveyed said students are more engaged when technology
is being employed in classroom activities. Sixty-five percent
said students' academic performance improves with the use
of classroom computers. Teachers also noted that
computers have been found to help students think more
creatively (64 percent), and more independently, if those
computers are in the classroom (47 percent).
But there are still obstacles to achieving technology's
promise, teachers reported.
Fifty-five percent of survey respondents believe the biggest
impediment to effective technology integration is access to
computers; 48 percent believe they lack sufficient time to
properly integrate technology into lessons; and another 48
percent say district budgets do not allow the level of
technology integration they would like to see in their
classrooms, the study said.
Professional development also is on the rise, the study
The percentage of teachers reporting they did not receive
any professional development in the use of technology
dropped by 12 percentage points from 2005 to 2006. Still,
at least 19 percent of teachers interviewed said they did
not have any professional development training in the past
12 months, according to the study.
"It was a surprise that nearly 20 percent of respondents are
still getting no professional development," Kirby said. "As
much as technology is integrated in business and higher
education, 20 percent of our teachers are not getting any
training around technology. That is very surprising to me.
Twenty percent of our teachers are not getting technical
professional development, and yet we're cutting back on
funding EETT--the main source of professional development
funding for technology?"
Despite this gap, researchers contend there is a clear link
between professional development in technology use,
classroom integration of technology, and improved student
performance. According to the survey, 78 percent of
teachers who have had at least 16 hours of professional
development in technology say they incorporate 21st-
century skills into their curriculum, and 66 percent believe
teaching those skills strengthens skills for standardized
testing. Similarly, 74 percent of teachers who have had at
least 16 hours of professional development believe
students' academic performance is enhanced with the use
of classroom computers, the study found--that's 9 points
higher than the percentage of teachers overall who hold
"I think the biggest 'aha' of the study is that we are
starting to see a direct correlation between hours of
professional development and how thoroughly technology is
being integrated into the classroom," Kirby said. "These are
things we've always suspected, but now we have some
actual statistics through the surveys that validate the
CDW-G said its report represents a call to action for the
"Funding needs to go toward technology, not away from
technology," Kirby said. "You've seen some school districts
that are making great strides here, and some that haven't.
You're going to see a large gap [between those that are
achieving greater integration and those that are not], and
with a funding cut, that gap will get bigger. It's very bad
timing to cut back on this effort, because it's just starting
to get some traction. I can't think of a worse time to cut
back on technology funding."
QED conducted telephone interviews with 1,000 K-12 public
school teachers. The random sample was drawn from QED's
National Education Database of K-12 schools, which is a
census of all schools and districts in the United States.
"Teachers Talk Tech 2006: Fulfilling Technology's Promise of
Improved Student Performance"