The Lookout

Teachers use Wikipedia as much as students do: Study

Dylan Stableford
The Lookout

(Mike Kemp/Getty Images)

Teachers who worry that their students rely on Google and Wikipedia too much use them just as often.

The Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project surveyed 2,462 of America's middle- and high-school teachers last year about the effect of digital technologies in their classrooms. The study found that 76 percent of teachers “strongly agree" that search engines have conditioned students to expect to find information quickly and easily (and “equate research with Googling,” they say), while 71 percent agree that digital technologies "discourage students from finding and using a wide range of sources for their research."

Yet 87 percent of the teachers surveyed use Wikipedia, compared with 53 percent of U.S. adult Internet users. More than 80 percent of the teachers surveyed say they use the Internet tool to gather material to help them create lesson plans or find content that will engage their students. And virtually all of the teachers surveyed (99 percent) say they use search engines to find information online.

A similar study released by Pew last fall found that while most teachers said digital search tools had a "mostly positive" impact on their students' work, 87 percent felt the same tools are creating an “easily distracted generation with short attention spans.” And 64 percent said they “do more to distract students than to help them academically.”

According to the study released Thursday, more than three in four teachers have students access (79 percent) and submit (76 percent) assignments online. And 73 percent of teachers say "they and/or their students use their cellphones in the classroom or to complete assignments."

“Digital technologies have become essential instructional tools for the vast majority of teachers in this study,” Kristen Purcell, Pew's associate research director, wrote of the findings.

At the same time, 84 percent say digital technologies are leading to greater disparities between affluent and disadvantaged schools and school districts. Teachers of low-income students are much less likely than teachers of the highest-income students to use tablet computers (37 percent compared with 56 percent) or e-readers (41 percent vs. 55 percent) in their classrooms.

From the report:

Teachers of the lowest income students are the least likely to say their students have sufficient access to the digital tools they need, both in school and at home. In terms of community type, teachers in urban areas are the least likely to say their students have sufficient access to digital tools IN SCHOOL, while rural teachers are the least likely to say their students have sufficient access AT HOME.

And just over half (52 percent) of teachers of upper- and upper-middle-income students say their students use cellphones to look up information in class, compared with 35 percent of teachers of the lowest-income students.

“Not all teachers feel that they and their students have the access they need to these tools or the resources necessary to use them effectively," Purcell wrote.

Teachers whose students are from the lowest-income households feel they are at a disadvantage, she wrote, "when it comes to using the Internet and other digital tools such as cellphones, tablet computers and e-readers to enhance the learning process.”

Digital technology permeates teachers' lives beyond the classroom. Teachers are more likely than average American adults to have a smartphone, laptop, tablet and e-book reader.


These teachers are more likely than typical online adults to use social networking sites such as Facebook or LinkedIn (78% compared with 69% of all adult Internet users) and to use Twitter (26% vs. 16% of all online adults).

See the full study.

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