Since at least 2007, Education Next has commissioned an annual public opinion poll to help inform the K-12 education policy discussion in DC and the states, as well as to suggest lines of inquiry for further research. In 2015, the poll included 34 questions (not counting the a/b/c/d variations of some questions asked only to a fraction of the overall sample), only one (1) of which addressed the topic of technology in education. From this single question, the authors conclude:

A clear majority think 30% of high school instructional time should take place “independently through or on a computer.”

Here are three thoughts (which are perhaps two more than deserved) on the treatment of edtech in the 2015 EdNext Poll on School Reform:

  • This finding is not supported by the poll itself.


Three Thoughts on the Treatment of EdTech in the 2015 EdNext Poll on School Reform

Source: Education Next – Program on Education Policy and Governance – Survey 2015 [pdf].

With a 1.5% margin of error associated with the poll, it seems to me that one could make a number of claims that would be more correct about the overall public opinion. Most fairly, it seems to me that it shows:

A majority (63 percent) of the public believes that high school students should spend 30% or less of instructional time receiving instruction independently through or on a computer. A plurality of the public (44 percent) believes that the share of instruction via a computer should be between 20 and 30 percent of overall instructional time.

Pretty sloppy of the authors, frankly, to make the claim they do and certainly raises questions about the quality and objectivity of their analyses more generally.

  • There appears to be a racial/ethnic component to the public’s view about the desirability of the using the computer for independent instruction.

According to these data, both African Americans and Hispanics appear to be more interested in seeing high school students spend more time using the computer for independent instruction than other demographics. I have some naive hypotheses (including what may have been poor question wording), but seems to me that these differences beg further investigation and research.

  • If you had to ask one question about technology in education, was this really the most important one?

No, of course not.

I’m not sure that I recall this question ever being seriously raised in any public policy venue I’ve had at any level of education ever. Ever.

In fact, other than including that one question as a way to appease those who would have criticized them for not including the topic of digital learning/blended learning/personalized learning/online learning/adaptive learning/educational technology/learning technology, I can’t think of why it was even included.

When I take the time to reflect on the state of our discourse about technology and education, I find signs that are encouraging and signs that are discouraging. Here’s a major public opinion poll on the issues of the day facing K-12 education, timed for back to school release. It includes one question about technology for which a poorly worded claim is made on a topic that may not even be that pertinent for most policymakers.

So it goes.