How Much Time Are Students Spending Using Ed Tech?

Staff Writer

A majority of teachers say their students are spending an hour or more of the school day using educational technology in their classrooms, according to a recent EdWeek Market Brief survey.

The nationally-representative survey, conducted by the EdWeek Research Center in November 2021, asked 846 teachers how much of the day their students typically spend using ed tech.

The results show that more than half of teachers, 55 percent, are dedicating between one and four hours a day using these digital tools, on average — a reality that holds true across all district types, sizes, and poverty levels.

Another 27 percent of teachers say they spend more than five hours a day using ed tech, while 17 percent are take the opposite approach, dedicating less than an hour to online tools. Only 1 percent of teachers say they aren’t using any ed tech in their classrooms.

The responses underscore how ed tech has come to play a pivotal role in many classrooms nationwide, becoming an important compliment to in-person learning, even as schools’ reliance on remote learning during the pandemic era has largely come to an end.

They also indicate that districts’ scramble to create the infrastructure to support remote learning has eased some of the inequity in access to this technology.

Consistency Across Districts

Teachers’ answers didn’t vary significantly based on whether they were in a low-poverty suburban district or high-poverty rural one.

“It’s really reassuring, I think that that’s very positive,” said Keith Krueger, CEO of the Consortium for School Networking, a national association for district technology leaders.

Krueger attributed this largely to policymaker’s focus on closing those gaps during the pandemic. Through expanded and additional federal funding, Krueger said there was a “serious effort in making sure that that low-income families, disproportionately Black and Hispanic, were connected.”

The EdWeek data does show that secondary teachers say their students are spending more time on technology than those at the elementary level.

That makes sense, Krueger said, because younger students need more tactile learning experiences, while older students can have more autonomy to move through learning at their own pace.

However, Krueger said it’s more important to consider how these digital tools are being used, rather than focus on just the amount of time teachers report.

Often, when parents hear their children are spending hours a day on screens, they perceive it as negative or waste of time, Krueger said.

District technology leaders who continue to successfully integrate ed tech will need to be able to clearly explain the benefits to students and their families, he said.

“You can get caught in a trap by talking only about the numeric, minutes and hours,” Krueger said. “And the presumption is that more is worse. But if you’re using the technology in ways that create critical thinking or engagement, that’s not a bad thing.”

“What we want to be focused on is using it for the right kind of learning.”

Follow EdWeek Market Brief on Twitter @EdMarketBrief or connect with us on LinkedIn.

Image credit iStock/Getty Images Plus.

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