Study: Teachers rely on technology, but don't trust students' savvy
High school teacher Maria Johnson isn't impressed by her students' Google and Wikipedia research.
February 28th, 2013
06:45 PM ET

Study: Teachers rely on technology, but don't trust students' savvy

By Sally Holland, CNN

Washington (CNN) - A new study from the Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project found cell phones, tablets, Google and Wikipedia are at the center of how educators teach and how students learn - but they bring new challenges, too.

Almost three-quarters of teachers surveyed said cell phones are used in their classrooms to complete assignments, while 45% use e-readers and 43% use tablet computers.

Many teachers - 99% - themselves rely on online research, but they believe digital technologies make it harder for students to “find and use credible sources of information.”

The Pew study said 76% of teachers surveyed strongly agree that  “search engines have conditioned students to expect to be able to find information quickly and easily,” and 83% agree that the amount of information is overwhelming.

The survey of about 2,400 middle school and high school teachers from across the United States asked how they use technology in their classrooms and at home. The teachers were all Advanced Placement teachers or from the National Writing Project, so all their students are considered academically advanced.

“Several teachers noted that if a student looks for a particular piece of information online for a few minutes and can’t find it, they will often not interpret that to mean they have to search differently or go to a different resource,” said Kristen Purcell, the main author of the report.

Students will assume “that information is not out there to be found," she said. "If it were, the search engine would find it quickly."

When high school science teacher Maria Johnson assigns online research, she doesn’t want her students using popular sites like Google or Wikipedia. They can be helpful to find a quick definition, she said, but they're too “noisy” - too much extraneous information, incorrect information and ads and pop-ups that distract students.

“For actual research, I think it’s best if I give them a list of sites to go to,” said Johnson, who teaches in Arlington, Virginia.

Purcell says the teachers don’t believe that sites with user-generated content, like Wikipedia, are inherently harmful, but rather “that students lack the ability to assess the quality of the information they find online.”

“Often students are looking for a site where they can go to the quickest and the most information with minimal effort,” said Julie Caccamise, a social studies teacher at Woodrow Wilson High School in Washington. "Sometimes they’re not interested in the difficult work, which is sorting through the information and deciding what is important and how valuable it is.”

Caccamise, who has taught for 18 years, used to be against students' using Wikipedia because the information could be modified by anyone, making it unreliable. Now, she sees more value in the site. The citations at the end of entries can give students additional ideas about where to search.

“Often it offers an interesting starting point for students when they are doing research,” she said.

How is technology used in your classroom, or your child's classroom? Is there any technology you don't want students or teachers to use?

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soundoff (18 Responses)
  1. Michael987

    I am a junior in high school, and I did a study at my school of 1000 kids and teachers also. It was about how homework is done to finish it. not to learn anything. that is what 80% of the students and teachers said. If we as students are expected to do this work but just do it and not learn then why should we spend all this time on it when we could be doing something else. why dont the teachers give us less work that is more based on us learning and not just doing.

    March 12, 2013 at 4:01 am |
    • mrcorvin

      Michael, if you are a high school junior, your teachers failed you. I could not understand anything you said. It is as if you wrote half sentences instead of finishing a thought. I hope your "study" was more clearly defined and explained.

      March 13, 2013 at 1:23 pm |
  2. Ted ward

    Online learning will greatly improve education by making students no longer dependent on the caprices and incompetences of "teachers" and the horrendous mostly urban "school systems" (sic) that employ them.

    March 10, 2013 at 9:26 pm |
    • Citizenkane

      First Mr Ward, I and my fellow teachers utilize technology constantly in the classroom. Its one more tool to teach with. Second, lets address your observation on teachers. For background I chose teaching as an encore profession after helping to build and maintain a family business for 3 decades. I can never remember a time as a child or adult that I didnt work or wasnt expected to. In between seven day a week schedules I managed to acquire four degrees and manage multiple personnel and projects so I understand the detrimental concept of "caprice" and "incompetent". I wouldn't apply either to any of the teachers I know.
      I keep hearing about inept teachers but have yet to work with one. As teachers we would be harder for a slacker to deal with than administration. Contract requirments aside, the teachers I work with give many hours freely, money from their own pockets and clothes from their own children's closets. We plan on our own time and prepare for our students' needs. We care. To you and the general public that are so quick to place blame most of our children would make you "uncomfortable". You see my school cmmunity is impoverished; so we push breakfast and lunch because our kids come in hungry, We have a clothes closet so we can dress those in need. We buy supplies and food treats from our own pockets.We call protective services when neglector abuse is found. And while we are providing basic needs we are teaching our guts out and with alittle luck and a heck of a lot of work we just might break generational poverty. Before being critical of teachers start volunteering in at risk schools, giving to others....... Try giving support.....

      March 10, 2013 at 10:46 pm |
    • minebrokers

      Ted, do you really think that the teachers are incompetent? That is a very broad generalization and not sure if it is true. Technology is a great learning tool for schools, if of course used correctly. However, I would not say that it covers up teachers incompetence. This is an area of great contention presently and an interesting one. Recently I read an article regarding the lack of technology in rural areas for disadvantaged children. Surely the teacher cannot be replaced.

      March 11, 2013 at 10:04 pm |
  3. Martin R

    When working on term papers, students often do a "copy-and-paste" of articles found on the internet. This practice must be strongly discouraged for at least two reasons: a) it can be grounds for raising plagiarism charges against a student; b) it impedes critical thinking and independent analytical skills in students. Finding information quickly is one of the marvels afforded by current technology. What we do with that information (as students and teachers) is what separates a smart individual from the others.

    March 9, 2013 at 8:49 pm |
  4. minebrokers

    Hello this is an interesting blog. Does anyone have any ideas on what really needs to be researched in this area? I am considering doing research regarding technology and the student. Any ideas...all you experienced teachers? Thanks

    March 9, 2013 at 10:58 am |
  5. Tom

    Thank you, Citizenkane. I agree 100%. The negative commenters here very quickly displayed their lack of literacy, right? As a teacher of gifted seniors, I teach them to write a research paper, and the most common issue they have is that they quit very quickly when they don't get the info they need. Also, I'm like the last teacher in the string.... used to hate Wiki and discourage its use, but now I tell them to start there and use the sources at the end of the article. I still won't accept citations from Wiki though.

    March 8, 2013 at 12:11 pm |
  6. Chris

    I'll be here all week.

    March 7, 2013 at 6:16 pm |
  7. Chris

    "t looks like the techers are not so stupid like they look like sometimes..." And the ability to process information without making yourself look like a complete and udder fool.

    March 7, 2013 at 6:16 pm |
    • Tom

      I think you mean 'utter'. Do your homework. Read a book once in awhile.

      March 8, 2013 at 12:12 pm |
  8. Chris

    Literacy is nice.

    March 7, 2013 at 6:14 pm |
  9. jon183289328

    by the way the learning is not just about what you do it is more about development of the brain...

    Not at university then is more what you need, and what yo will use next in your job

    March 6, 2013 at 3:22 am |
  10. rpeterson1991

    "Wikipedia because the information could be modified by anyone, making it unreliable."

    I hated it when teachers said this. It was NEVER true like they thought.
    I always told them to go ahead and change Elvis Presley's birth year to 2001, see if they succeeded... They didn't.

    March 4, 2013 at 10:18 am |
  11. mimi1234

    it looks like the techers are not so stupid like they look like sometimes...

    March 4, 2013 at 4:00 am |
    • Citizenkane

      Unfortunately Mimi1234, your teachers failed in teaching you how to spell as well as the importance of utilizing good manners. No, most of us teachers are not stupid,we daily teach many wonderful students while dealig with multiple ingrates like you. Why don't you grow up, learn some manners and be a productive member of society?. Oh, and when you use technology, thank the teachers who taught foundational learning to the inventor; thus establishing an independent thinker. We motivate, parent and inspire our students and I for one am tired of the disrespect teachers receive. If you dont want an education, continue to sit on your butt and let others take your place and watch them prosper while you whine.

      March 6, 2013 at 9:33 pm |
      • strikhnsk

        Thank you!

        March 7, 2013 at 4:09 pm |