Many teachers don’t use technology in the classroom often: Here’s how to change that

Teacher with two students showing them something on a tablet, while the students work on a computer

By Massimo Loi

Statistician, OECD Directorate for Education and Skills

The coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has caused one of the largest disruptions to education in history, with school and university closures in some 190 countries at the peak of the crisis affecting more than 1.6 billion students around the globe (about 94% of the world’s student population). As of 25 October, UNESCO was still reporting country-wide school closures in 31 countries, impacting nearly 580 million students worldwide.

The move from traditional face-to-face instruction to distance learning has been a challenge, not only for students and families, but for teachers. With schools closed, many teachers around the globe where tasked with moving their lessons on line. However, according to data from the latest international teachers’ survey, TALIS, a large portion of teachers across the OECD were not letting students use “frequently” or “always” information and communications technology (ICT) for projects or class work (47%).

The rapid transition to online education has played against students that do not have access to ICT at home, have limited parental support or who are not used to study and learn on their own. The switch to online education has also penalised students who have never been exposed to ICT by their teachers or who are taught by teachers who don’t feel comfortable with these technologies.

But, why are some teachers more prone to let students use ICT for projects or class work than others? And why are some teachers more likely to undertake professional development activities that covered ICT for teaching than others?

Without this kind of training, the sudden move to digital learning could have been a significant challenge for some teacher and could have penalised some students more than others. Recent analyses of TALIS 2018 data reveal that teachers’ pre-service education and in-service training affects their adoption of ICT use in teaching and learning and, as a consequence, affects students’ exposure to these media at school. Teachers who had ICT for teaching as part of their formal education or training and teachers who undertook recent professional development activities that covered ICT skills for teaching are more prone to integrate ICT in their teaching practice. Results also indicate that schools which encourage staff to lead new initiatives are more likely to see the integration of ICT in classroom practice.

To accelerate the effective integration of ICT into classroom teaching and learning activities, it is crucial to understand why some teachers are more likely to undertake professional development activities which include ICT for teaching than others.

TALIS 2018 data show that, on average, the second most important professional development need of lower secondary teachers relates to ICT skills for teaching (18% of teachers report this need) and that four out of 10 teachers did not attend any professional development activities which included this subject in the 12 months prior the survey.

The exploration of TALIS 2018 data suggest that including ICT for teaching in teachers’ initial formal training could be an instrument to encourage them to continue to develop their ability to use new technology in teaching. Teachers whose pre-service education included the use of ICT in teaching are not only more likely use it in the classroom, but also to take advantage of professional development which includes ICT skills for teaching. However, whether and how teachers integrate ICT into their classroom practice is influenced by a wide array of organisational and system-level conditions, in addition to their pre-service education and in-service training. Finally, access to training is a necessary but not sufficient requirement for improving skills in ICT, since the quality of training programmes has a determinant impact on the implementation of effective ICT practice.

Education and training are two of the levers that governments have at their disposal to accelerate the effective integration of ICT into the classroom

How can governments accelerate the effective integration of ICT into classroom practice? Education and training are certainly two of the levers that governments have at their disposal to achieve this goal. Analyses based on TALIS 2018 data indicates that including ICT for teaching in pre-service teacher education and increasing the professional development initiatives on offer on the use of ICT for teaching will facilitate the transition to a “new normal” where traditional face-to-face instruction is complemented by some form of distance learning.

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