Risking digital divide

Three-quarters of teachers use technology in most lessons but only 15% are ‘totally computer savvy’ risking digital divide, survey finds

Over three-quarters of teachers surveyed (76%) are using technology in all or most of their lessons but only 15% are “totally computer savvy”, according to research for Virgin Media Business. 

Tools such as interactive whiteboards, tablets, and laptops are now key tools in classrooms across the country but many teachers say they are struggling to stay fully up-to-date.

The result is that pupils are missing out the full potential of digital technology despite a quarter of teachers claiming that it improved exam grades by at least one grade.

“There seems to be a growing digital divide between the technology that is available in the classroom and teachers’ ability to effectively use it,” said Mario Di Mascio, executive sales director, Virgin Media Business. 

“We call on the government to cross that divide by helping teachers to understand the full benefits of using technology in the classroom and to urgently improve the support available to teachers on digital skills. 

“The UK is a world leader in innovation and digital technology drives our economy. We can’t take any risk of the next generation not having the skills they need to maintain that advantage.” 

Half of teachers believe that budget is the most significant barrier to the use of technology in schools but almost a quarter (22%) think that it is “the teachers’ abilities to use the technology” that poses the biggest challenge. 

The online survey of over 1,000 teachers in Britain was part of Generation Tech, the country’s first state-of-the-nation review of the vital role that technology plays in education, which will form the first Digital Youth Council later this year to give pupils a stronger voice on the issue.

The research showed that around 9,000 teachers* (2% of respondents) described their level of ability with technology as “pretty clueless” while 40% say they are “good enough to do what I need to”. 

The study also suggested that 1% of teachers, which equates to around 4,500 teachers nationally*, do not have a single computer for pupils in their school.

In a finding that might concern employers, 70% of teachers said they do not tailor learning to digital skills relevant to the workplace, while just 11% said the tech in their schools is “functioning perfectly”. 

However, it also found that the excuse of “the dog ate my homework” might be history, as over half of teachers (53%) said their school lets pupils now submit homework by email. 

Coding is being introduced across UK classrooms for the first time this term but only 26% of teachers reported that their school was currently teaching coding. 

Oliver Quinlan, Programme Manager, Digital Education, at Nesta, an innovation charity, said: “Teachers need the resources and the time to develop their skills to integrate technology into their subject, to use it as a tool for learning and to teach the digital skills young people need to engage successfully with modern society.”

The survey was part of Generation Tech, a campaign to encourage pupils and their teachers to share their experiences of how technology is supporting their learning and helping to shape futures. 

Virgin Media Business will also form the Digital Youth Council later this year, giving teenagers the opportunity to share their views directly with policymakers and some of the UK’s leading digital experts.

More information can be viewed at www.generationtechvmb.co.uk.

*The calculation on number of teachers is based on UK Department for Education figures here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/number-of-schools-teachers-and-students-in-england Virgin Media Business extrapolated the figures used in the release from the percentages in the research.

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