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Districts Increase Use of Web 2.0, Though Barriers Remain

The use of Web 2.0 is increasing in K-12 schools. But, according to a new report, more widespread adoption is being hampered at least in part by teachers' lack of knowledge of how to use the technologies.

The report, "Digital Districts: Web 2.0 and Collaborative Technologies in U.S. Schools," was conducted by market research firm Interactive Educational Systems Design on behalf of ed tech developers Atomic Learning, Lightspeed Systems, and netTrekker.

For the report, IESD surveyed 388 K-12 technology directors, leaders, and staffers across the country in an effort to gauge attitudes toward and adoption of social and collaborative Web 2.0 technologies, including student-generated content, teacher-generated content, social networking in an educational context, gaming, virtual learning environments, digital media, and communications technologies.

What the researchers found was that acceptance of Web 2.0 has increased since 2009--the first year of the survey--but that there are still some barriers to adoption, including some lingering perceptions of student "safety" risks, lack of technical support (including technical personnel), and lack of knowledge on the part of teachers of the effective use of Web 2.0 technologies. This last was, according to the researchers, "the most frequently cited human-related barrier to adoption."

On the positive side, more schools are reporting that significant portions of their teaching staff are creating their own content online. For the latest survey, 76 percent of districts reported that at least a quarter of all teachers create content online. This compared with 64 percent from the 2009 survey. Also up was the use of student-generated content by teachers, with 45 percent reporting that at least 25 percent of teachers use student-generated online work, compared with 32 percent in 2009.

"While the survey results are promising, it also indicates areas of needed improvements to ensure school districts can meet the individual learning needs of the Net Generation," said Jay Sivin-Kachala, vice president and lead researcher for IESD, in a prepared statement. "The research reveals that educators increasingly rely on Web 2.0 technologies, resulting in positive teacher and student outcomes. To foster effective use across all classrooms and ensure equitable learning opportunities, districts need to provide safe Web 2.0 access, enhanced teacher professional development, and robust support systems."

Other findings from the report included:

  • 35 percent of districts reported that a quarter or more of teachers use social networking as a part of instruction, up form a mere 15 percent in 2009.
  • 55 percent reported that "student safety concerns" were a barrier to the adoption of online social networking in instruction, while only 36 percent reported student safety as a barrier to the adoption of online gaming in schools.
  • 38 percent agreed that the use of Web 2.0 tools helped improve students' collaboration skills.
  • 71 percent agreed the use of Web 2.0 tools helps to increase teachers' familiarity with technology.
  • 62 percent said Web 2.0 provides "improved resources for teaching in the content areas."

The overall margin of error for the findings was 5.8 percent.

The complete report, with methodology, additional findings, and breakdowns by district size, is available free of charge with registration. It can be accessed here.

About the Author

David Nagel is the former editorial director of 1105 Media's Education Group and editor-in-chief of THE Journal, STEAM Universe, and Spaces4Learning. A 30-year publishing veteran, Nagel has led or contributed to dozens of technology, art, marketing, media, and business publications.

He can be reached at [email protected]. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/davidrnagel/ .