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Overall, teachers who participated in this study characterize the impact of today’s digital environment on their students’ research habits and skills as mostly positive, yet multi-faceted and not without drawbacks. At the same time, these teachers juxtapose these benefits against some emerging concerns. These teachers report that students rely mainly on search engines to conduct research, in lieu of other resources such as online databases, the news sites of respected news organizations, printed books, or reference librarians. As a result, a significant portion of the teachers surveyed here report spending class time discussing with students how search engines work, how to assess the reliability of the information they find online, and how to improve their search skills.
These are among the main findings of an online survey of a non-probability sample of 2,462 middle and high school teachers currently teaching in the U. Virgin Islands, conducted between March 7 and April 23, 2012. 712 are from a sample of National Writing Project teachers. This particular sample is quite diverse geographically, by subject matter taught, and by school size and community characteristics. Thus, the findings reported here reflect the realities of their special place in American education, and are not necessarily representative of all teachers in all schools. Yet, when asked if they agree or disagree with specific assertions about how the internet is impacting students’ research, their views are decidedly mixed. Google or other online search engines in a typical research assignment, placing it well ahead of all other sources that we asked about.
In response to this trend, many teachers say they shape research assignments to address what they feel can be their students’ overdependence on search engines and online encyclopedias. These teachers report using a wide variety of digital tools in their classrooms and assignments, well beyond the typical desktop and laptop computers. Cell phones are becoming particularly popular learning tools, and are now as common to these teachers’ classrooms as computer carts. Yet, survey results also indicate teachers face a variety of challenges in incorporating digital tools into their classrooms, some of which, they suggest, may hinder how students are taught to conduct research online. This is notable, given that the majority of the sample teaches Advanced Placement courses to the most academically advanced students. Students receive the highest marks from these teachers for their ability to use appropriate and effective search queries and their understanding of how online search results are generated. A richer information environment, but at the price of distracted students?
Data collection was conducted in two phases. College Board school in the Northeast U. Focus group discussions were instrumental in developing a 30-minute online survey, which was administered in phase two of the research to a national sample of middle and high school teachers. The survey results reported here are based on a non-probability sample of 2,462 middle and high school teachers currently teaching in the U. More details on how the survey and focus groups were conducted are included in the Methodology section at the end of this report, along with focus group discussion guides and the survey instrument.
There are several important ways the teachers who participated in the survey are unique, which should be considered when interpreting the results reported here. These teachers and their students may have resources and support available to them—particularly in terms of specialized training and access to digital tools—that are not available in all educational settings. Every effort was made to administer the survey to as broad a group of educators as possible from the sample files being used. The sample includes teachers from all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and the U. The Project produces reports exploring the impact of the internet on families, communities, work and home, daily life, education, health care, and civic and political life.
The College Board is a mission-driven not-for-profit organization that connects students to college success and opportunity. Founded in 1900, the College Board was created to expand access to higher education. Today, the membership association is made up of over 6,000 of the world’s leading educational institutions and is dedicated to promoting excellence and equity in education. NWP provides high-quality professional development programs to teachers in a variety of disciplines and at all levels, from early childhood through university. Through its nearly 200 university-based sites serving all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.