Is classroom technology actually being used by teachers?

New Canvas study of UK teachers shows tech ‘dormancy’ impacts results

A new study by cloud-based learning management platform Canvas has revealed that millions of pounds worth of high tech is lying unused in UK schools, as teachers lack the confidence and proper training to use it. 

New research reveals that nearly half of teachers (46%) rarely use the technology in their classrooms, despite taxpayers picking up an estimated £900 million bill to put it there. This ‘tech dormancy’ could be having a detrimental impact on learning, according to education experts. 

The survey asked teachers about their usage of a range of hardware and software, from tablets and computers to interactive whiteboards and e-learning systems – technology now present in most classrooms in Britain. 

Having technology in the classroom without finding effective ways to integrate it into the learning process has been shown to negatively impact student outcomes. When integrated effectively, more than a third (36%) of teachers agree that classroom tech can improve results. 

The barriers to this usage are complex, but the research suggests broad scepticism among the teaching community about the efficacy of some technology, with a third (33%) unsure how to integrate it into their teaching.  The impact of ICT on student learning is uncertain, but teachers have an important role in making the most of new technology in this classroom. It’s worrying therefore that nearly half (47%) of teachers haven’t been trained in how to use it properly. 

In Britain’s new academies and free schools, which enjoy greater budgetary independence, dormancy is a particular problem with ‘regular usage’ at just over half (52%). The survey asked about usage of five items of technology including desktops and laptops, tablets and smart boards within the classroom.

The picture in Britain’s private schools is brighter as usage is significantly higher (55%) although even more teachers than in the state sector describe the training they receive as inadequate.

The findings come at a time when the Department for Education is pushing hard for teachers to integrate technology into lessons, with Education Secretary Nicky Morgan recently saying “there has never been a more exciting time to think about the way in which emerging technologies can transform the world of education”.

The new wave of ‘learning management systems’ introduced in the past decade are a particular bugbear for teachers, with over a third (33%) not even understanding what they are.

Samantha Blyth, director of schools at open-source system Canvas, said: “There is clearly no lack of enthusiasm for technology among UK teachers and there is broad support for the principle that they improve learning. The problem is that legacy systems have tended to be imposed from the ‘top down’ and can’t be shaped by the teacher to suit their own style, or indeed the particular needs of their students. 

“We now have the sophistication to do away with some of the problems that have dogged teachers in the past, not least systems that are unreliable at the worst possible times. Cloud computing is also allowing teachers to join other professionals in integrating mobile technology into their working lives. But teachers still need systems that are easy to use and the training to make that happen.”