This study is the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project’s first extensive examination of teachers’ perceptions of the positive and negative impacts of a rapidly evolving technological environment on teachers’ professional activities and how that new environment has impacted teachers’ own tech use.  This research was developed to explore not only teachers’ assessments of students’ research and writing habits, but also the broad impacts of digital technologies on their students, and the extent to which teachers incorporate digital technologies into classroom pedagogy.  It builds on prior Pew Internet research on the growing use of the internet and digital tools among both adults and teens in the U.S., and looks closely at teachers’ technology adoption as it compares to the adult population as a whole.

Pew Internet’s prior research on adult and teen internet use

The current study builds on Pew Internet’s extensive research on how U.S. adults and teens gather information online, communicate using digital tools, and use these tools for their own training and education.  Pew Internet’s prior surveys have shown that:

  • Online information gathering (in the form of search engine use) tops the list of the most popular online activities, along with email
  • Adults as well as teens have become increasingly reliant on mobile tools, particularly smartphones, to communicate and engage with online content
  • Social networking has become one of the most popular online activities with teens and adults.  While teens and young adults initially led the foray into this online social milieu, the past several years have seen particular growth in social network site use among older adults
  • Both teens and adults are heavily engaged in consuming and curating online video and pictures, and remixing the content available online into their own creations
  • Texting has become the major form of communication among 12-17 year-olds in the U.S., and is growing dramatically among adults as well

Given these trends, we felt it would be useful to examine how teachers as a population are experiencing these digital disruptions.  These are important questions, as educators remain a main point of contact for teens growing up in the new digital ecosystem. The extent to which their teachers use, understand, and are critical of or optimistic about these tools all shape how often and how effectively digital tools are used in today’s classrooms.

This is the second of three reports emerging from the study.  Issued in succession, the three reports are guided by the following questions:

Report One:  How Do Teens ‘Do Research’ in Today’s Digital World? (released October 30, 20123)

  • How students define and conduct research in today’s tech environment
  • If and how new technologies are changing how research is taught
  • Whether and how the topics of digital literacy and information literacy are currently being taught in schools
  • What are the key skills students need to learn to conduct effective research given today’s digital environment
  • Potential changes in assessments, curriculum, and the school environment teachers feel are necessary in response to today’s evolving digital environment

Report Two:  Teachers and Technology

  • Teachers’ personal use of and attitudes toward different digital technologies
  • Whether and how new technologies enable and enhance teacher professional development and collaboration
  • The different ways digital technologies are being incorporated into classroom pedagogy
  • School policy and resource issues affecting teachers’ abilities to incorporate new technologies into their classrooms
  • How teachers experience and manage digital access issues among their students

Report Three:  The State of Teen Writing in Today’s Digital World (forthcoming)

  • The specific impacts of digital technologies on student writing skills and habits
  • If and how new technologies encourage student collaboration, creativity, and personal expression
  • If and how new technologies are changing how writing is taught in middle and high school classrooms