Teachers in the digital world

by Katarzyna Kubacka
Analyst, Education and Skills Directorate

Rapid developments in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) have made it an important part of our daily lives, from staying in contact with people, to checking traffic and booking tickets. However, ICT can also be a useful tool for teachers in advancing 21st century learning. As the new Teaching in Focus (TIF) brief ‘Teaching with technology’ reports, the use of ICT for students’ projects or class work is an active teaching practice that promotes skills for students’ lifelong success.

So how common is the use of ICT in the classrooms?  Across the countries and economies participating in the Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS), it seems that ICT is still used less frequently than more passive teaching methods, such as working in exercise books. For example, over 70% of TALIS teachers report checking students’ exercise books frequently, while only 38% report frequently using ICT. This is surprising given the prevalence of ICT in most students’ lives across TALIS countries and economies. 
One possible reason for teachers’ infrequent use of technology is the lack of resources in their schools. Indeed, between 30 and 40% of TALIS teachers work in schools where principals report that shortages in ICT-related materials hinder the provision of quality education. This finding should send a strong signal that there is a need for more investment in the provision of computers, software and internet access in the TALIS education systems with an especially high percentage of teachers working in under-resourced schools.
Low rates of ICT use in classrooms is also affected by teachers’ need for professional development. New technological inventions and novel ways of using technology in the classrooms are constantly being developed, meaning that teachers may need help with keeping up to date. TALIS findings show that the majority of teachers across TALIS countries and economies report moderate or high needs for professional development in the area of ICT skills for teaching. Comprehensive development programs in order to effectively implement ICT into their classroom practices would be of benefit for many teachers. 
We can see that different factors hinder teachers’ use of ICT in TALIS countries and economies. While some systems need to invest more in the provision of the necessary resources, there is also a need for in-depth support for teachers in almost all TALIS countries and economies. As with most methods, the effectiveness of ICT in advancing teaching and learning depends on the way it is used in the classrooms. Hence, comprehensive professional development should be tailored to teachers’ particular needs if education systems want to harness ICT’s potential for effective teaching and learning. 

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