George Lucas Educational Foundation
Technology Integration

Connecting Teachers and Students to the Best Digital Tools

June 27, 2013
Photo credit: kjarrett via flickr (CC by 2.0)

The recent news about ConnectEd, a federal initiative to get Internet connectivity and the technology to use it into America's classrooms, is full of promise for today's students. But overcoming barriers to access is only part of the challenge of unlocking educational technology's potential to transform teaching and learning.

Teachers Want More Edtech

A recent national survey of teachers and administrators by Harris Interactive for Common Sense Media reveals that preK-12 educators are passionate about edtech. Eighty-six percent of teachers tell us that using apps, computer games, websites, digital planning tools and digital curricula in the classroom is "important" or "absolutely essential." Almost all of them (96%) agree that it increases student engagement, enables personalized learning (95%), and improves student outcomes (89%). And nine out of ten teachers say they'd like to use more edtech in the classroom than they do now.

Teachers Deserve Help

Despite their enthusiasm, teachers don't report using edtech very frequently. Even in 1-to-1 programs -- where students are assigned or bring their own computers, laptops or tablets -- on a weekly basis, just 15% of teachers are using subject-specific content tools, 37% are using information/reference tools, 18% are using tools for teachers, and 20% arte using digital curricula.

Teachers recognize that lack of funds and insufficient infrastructure are the biggest barriers to implementing edtech, but they also identify lack of time to implement, lack of training, and the problem of finding high-quality student and teacher tools to support learning and teaching. Almost a third (32%) of the teachers we surveyed say they spend an hour or more a week researching edtech products, and more than three quarters of them (77%) say it can be at least somewhat difficult finding high quality products. This is no surprise given the tsunami of emerging digital tools that are marketed as educational without third party validation. And that's where we see an opportunity to help teachers discover, use and share the best products that suit both their own needs and their students' needs.

Teachers Meet Graphite

Graphite is a free online resource that combines independent reviews of edtech products with rigorous ratings that have relevance and meaning to educators. Every product is evaluated for student engagement, how well it helps students learn, and the support it offers for teachers. And at the core of Graphite is a growing community of teachers who share their expertise with personal reviews and field notes about how they use each product, and what works best with their students.

We designed this as a resource that gives teachers the opportunity to select the right edtech tools for their needs. Whether enabling more personalized instruction, increasing student engagement, or providing tools that streamline classroom management, technology can play an important supportive role. We hope Graphite helps you and all teachers embrace technology's incredible potential to inspire, create, learn and teach.

Please use the comments area below to share any thoughts or suggestions.

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