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Should teachers be the primary decision maker about tech in the classroom?

17 Dec 2015

Teachers want a bigger say on how education technology is selected and delivered in schools, according to a new survey of American teachers.

The survey, conducted by digital education firm TES Global in partnership with the Jefferson Education Accelerator, reveals teachers want to move ed tech decision making closer to the classroom, with many wanting a bigger, more active role in dictating what technology and materials are used in their classrooms.

According to the survey, while 38% of teachers are currently consulted during the decision-making process, 63% want to be the primary decision maker for what technology enters the classroom. Nearly 50% say that decisions are currently left to school, district, or regional leadership.

Respondents assert that teacher buy-in is not a major factor in ed tech purchasing decisions.

Budgetary pressures appear to drive much of ed tech decision-making. Forty-eight percent of respondents believe that cost is the number one influence on ed tech selection, more so than student outcomes (22%) and teacher buy-in (9%).

The survey reveals that only 12% of respondents say school-based technology experts currently make decisions, but 33% of respondents say they should play an important role (second only to teachers).

Half (49%) say parents should play the smallest decision-making role, with District Leadership not far behind (24%).

Despite the research and vetting decisions that are being made at a higher level, teachers continue to create classroom environments they feel are best for their students, the research says.

According to the study, most teachers learn about new technology by researching it on their own or by relying on their teacher peers in the same school or district (38 and 37% respectively).

Sixty percent said that teachers are the best creators of classroom materials, while only six percent believe publishers should be the lead creators.

The survey asked teachers how involved they wanted to be, given that the process of researching and implementing new technology can be complex and time-consuming.

The majority (62%) would like to make decisions based on a defined set of options, while 26% would prefer to make all decisions without someone else narrowing the options.

One in two teachers (48%) say they care most about identifying what products to pilot or roll out, while nearly half of teachers (45%) said that their teacher training programmes failed to make them feel very or somewhat prepared for evaluating and using technology in the classroom.

“Teachers are closest to the needs and behaviours of students, so it’s not surprising they want to have a seat at the table,” says Rob Grimshaw, CEO of TES Global. “Education tech companies, school leadership, and district officials must find more ways to let teachers voice their opinions, so that only the best and most effective technology makes it to the classroom,” he explains.

Bob Pianta, dean of the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia, and chairman of the Jefferson Education Accelerator, agrees, saying, “Nobody is better situated than classroom teachers when it comes to observing which education technologies are driving meaningful improvements to student learning outcomes.

“Decisions about which ed tech products and services should be in our classrooms should be heavily influenced by teachers who have access to evidence of their impact,” he says.

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