News: Quick Takes

School leaders are more concerned about screen use at home than in schools

Educators are more concerned about how much time students spend on social media at home as compared to the time they spend online in the classroom.

Education Week’s annual Technology Counts survey asked principals and school-based leaders across the country about screen time, personalized learning, and social media use.

The survey was conducted online in February and reached 503 principals, assistant principals, and deans. The margin of error is plus or minus 4 percent.

“Principals are facing very complex challenges involving technology,” said Kevin Bushweller, project editor of Technology Counts. “Whether it’s addressing students’ online behavior or using digital tools to personalize learning, those challenges look like they are going to get increasingly more difficult.”

More than half of the school leaders surveyed think K-12 students are spending the right amount of time on screens in the classroom; 17 percent say they’re spending too much time. Almost 20 percent say students are spending too little time, with school leaders in higher poverty areas more likely to say students aren’t getting enough opportunities for digital learning.

Digital technology is an important supplemental resource for personalized learning to 57 percent of school leaders. More than half of the school leaders surveyed are confident digital technology can customize instruction, though 44 percent aren’t convinced it could also improve students’ social and emotional skills.

In North Carolina, an interest in innovative technology has translated to the N.C. Digital Learning Plan. The Friday Institute for Educational Innovation at N.C. State University developed the plan in 2015 at the behest of the Department of Public Instruction and the State Board of Education. The goal of the learning plan is developing and supporting digital teaching in learning across all levels of education.

The General Assembly allocated an additional $12 million to the School Connectivity Initiative in September 2015. The aim is improving the wireless internet connectivity in all NC schools. Lt. Gov. Dan Forest has been one of the most vocal proponents of digital learning, and he has pushed for increased connectivity in schools across the state.

Virtual schools have emerged on the education scene in North Carolina, with N.C. Connections Academy and the N.C. Virtual Academy opening their digital doors in 2015.  

Although school leaders seem open to technology in schools, the same can’t be said about technology at home. An overwhelming 95 percent of school leaders say K-12 students spend too much time using screens at home. More than 50 percent are very concerned about social media use outside of school, with 44 percent of middle school leaders and 42 percent of high school leaders especially concerned.

School leaders also worry about the prevalence of cyberbullying and teen sexting.