Technology in Education

Survey: Higher-Level Tech Skills Lacking in K–12

Survey: Higher-Level Tech Skills Lacking in K–12 

While teachers strongly support the infusion of technology into student learning, a survey found that their schools still face multiple hurdles in that pursuit, including a lack of computing devices, too much emphasis on passive activities and insufficient professional development to help educators understand how to teach with tech.

To better understand the struggles teachers face in helping young people acquire digital skills, business consultancy PwC conducted a survey of more than 2,000 K–12 educators in spring 2018. According to "Technology in US Schools: Are we preparing our kids for the jobs of tomorrow?" the outcome is grim. Although more than three-quarters of jobs by 2020 will require a degree of technological skills, the company reported, there will be a shortfall of graduates ready to take them.

Among the findings:

Just 10 percent of K–12 teachers feel confident using "higher-level" tech in their instruction.

The greatest amount of sureness pertained to web design/creation, which 17 percent of teachers expressed extremely high or somewhat high confidence in teaching.

For robotics, that was 12 percent; for data analytics, 11 percent; graphic design, 11 percent; computer programming, 8 percent; engineering design/CAD, 7 percent; and app design/creation, 5 percent.

The time students spend consuming vs. creating technology in U.S. schools. Source: "Technology in US Schools: Are we preparing our kids for the jobs of tomorrow?" from PwC.

The time students spend consuming vs. creating technology in U.S. schools. Source: "Technology in US Schools: Are we preparing our kids for the jobs of tomorrow?" from PwC.

Among high school teachers, while computer fundamentals were offered at 76 percent of high schools, app design/creation showed up in just a third of schools (35 percent) and data analytics in just 20 percent.

Also, students spent almost twice as much of their classroom time consuming tech (60 percent), such as watching videos or reading websites, as they did in active tech use (32 percent), such as coding, producing videos or performing data analysis.

Teachers reported that they need more support for professional learning if their schools want them to teach advanced tech-related subjects. That included professional development (79 percent expressed the need for this), more "release time" for PD (81 percent) and more funding for PD (81 percent).

Another obstacle educators said they face: a lack of student access to devices. Just a third of teachers surveyed (36 percent) said their schools had at least one device per student. Also, they reported a problem with the digital "gap"; 48 percent said some students lack access to devices at home and 54 percent said students lacked internet access at home.

PwC said the solution to bridging the gap between teachers' willingness to support higher-level tech skills and their lack of confidence in doing so required schools to more put emphasis on supporting their efforts to learn how. "We must advocate for the support and training educators need to excel in teaching higher-level technology-related subjects to their students," the report concluded. "This will increase teachers' confidence and allow them to balance incorporating classroom technology use that teaches students not only to consume technology...but also to create technology..."

The survey's findings are openly available on the PwC website.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at dian@dischaffhauser.com or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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