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teachers and technology
High school teacher Lauren Midgette decorated her name tag with a ribbon that carried a message: My brain hurts. Credit: Nichole Dobo

PHILADELPHIA – Like all those attending an educational technology conference here last week, teacher Lauren Midgette had a large nametag hanging from her neck. But Midgette had decorated hers with a yellow ribbon that carried a matter-of-fact declaration:

“My brain hurts.”

It was her first time at ISTE, a conference known for its enormity, with more than 21,000 attendees, hundreds of training sessions to choose from each day and a blitz of vendors spanning several showrooms in Philadelphia’s convention center. Midgette, a high school teacher, was feeling a bit overwhelmed. And this was on Monday. Three more days to go.

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Midgette traveled to the ISTE 2015 conference with a group of educators from a public school district in Hartford, Connecticut. She is enthusiastic about digital learning, and she’s 25 years old, but the moniker of “digital native” doesn’t fit.

“I’m the youngest one in our group, and I am the least tech savvy,” she said.

She’s not unusual. Older teachers, who tend to have more experience in the classroom, are more likely to say they feel ready to make use of the reams of data available through digital learning tools, according to a new survey. Younger teachers rate themselves as less ready. More broadly, teachers of all ages report feeling inadequately prepared to use technology to enhance teaching and learning, according to a survey from the Software and Information Industry Association that was released Tuesday at the conference.

Related: Avoiding the ‘recipe for disaster’ in ed tech plans

It is not clear whether younger teachers truly are less tech savvy than older ones; the survey measured how teachers describe themselves. And a report on the survey results can’t explain what exactly is causing teachers to report an age-related digital divide.

“I’m the youngest one in our group, and I am the least tech savvy.”

“It’s hard to say,” Susan Meell, CEO of MMS Education, an education consulting, research and marketing firm, said Tuesday at a meeting in Philadelphia where the survey results were released. “Is it because younger teachers are overwhelmed with teaching? Or is it because they are used to [technology] and are rating themselves at a lower level?”

The 2015 Software and Information Industry Association’s Vision K-20 Survey drew from responses from about 1,000 educators in K-12 schools and higher education. About 70 percent of those responding reported an increase in student data use in the last two years.

Related: As market surges, schools struggle to find the best tech products

The top three uses reported among K-12 educators were tracking student performance, improving instruction and identifying instructional needs. The bottom three uses were allowing students to track their own performance, informing school or district decision-making and supporting research to improve instruction.

When it comes to giving students access to data, the opposite was true for educators who work in higher education. This use made the top three in postsecondary education.

Educators from K-12 and higher education cited a common top priority for increasing their use of student data: more training. About 63 percent of those working in K-12 school districts said professional development would lead to an increase in student data use. About half of educators at four-year institutions cited this need.

Access to data was a more frequent challenge cited in higher education, where more than half of educators said they would use data if it were available. About a quarter of teachers in K-12 districts reported this issue.

This story was written by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education. Sign up for our newsletter to get a weekly update on blended learning.

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