ISTE 2014 Update: Project Tomorrow Presents Preliminary Findings about Teachers’ Readiness to Leverage Digital Content

Posted by Matt Berringer on July 1, 2014

Title SlideAt ISTE 2014, Julie Evans, Project Tomorrow, and Mary Ann Wolf, Friday Institute, presented preliminary findings of a three-year National Science Foundation-funded research project to assess Teachers’ Readiness to Adopt and Adapt Content (TRAAC). A comprehensive report is expected to be published in August 2014.

Every year, Project Tomorrow polls K-12 students, parents, and educators about the role of technology for learning in and out of school. The results represent the largest collection of authentic, unfiltered stakeholder feedback on digital learning. Since 2003, more than 3.4 million K-12 students, parents, teachers, librarians, principals, technology leaders, and district administrators have shared their views and ideas through Speak Up. Education, business, and policy leaders report that they use the data regularly in informing federal, state, and local education programs.

In recent years, Project Tomorrow’s research findings have suggested that, although educators are growing increasingly confident in the use of digital content, there are a number of concerns about the ability of districts to effectively leverage it. Evans reported:

  • Only 25 percent of technology leaders said they have enough bandwidth to support digital content usage in the classroom
  • 55 percent of principals said that there are not enough computers to support student use
  • 41 percent of principals said that it’s hard to understand the role of digital content within Common Core

“Principals also told us that they were concerned about their teachers’ interest level and the training that they had in terms of using digital content,” she said. “They saw that as an obstacle to expanding on that. And, interestingly, the majority of teachers identified finding effective teacher professional development as one of their most important goals for this coming school year.”

To learn more, Project Tomorrow proposed and was awarded funding from the National Science Foundation to assess the digital readiness of teachers. The organization’s goals for the TRAAC project were to:

  • Develop tools to assess teachers’ digital readiness
  • Understand the efficacy of interventions and identify strategies for facilitating teacher growth
  • Identify digital resources that advance teachers’ growth
  • Inform teacher preparation programs

Through their research, they found that the reality of digital use is as follows:

  • Despite investments in professional development, teachers’ abilities to use digital content have not changed significantly.
  • Centralized control of the instructional process is usurping the ability of teachers to personalize instruction with digital content
  • Adoption of digital content for sporadic, lesson plan use is not the desired outcome.
  • Goals should be to build teachers’ capacity to internalize the use of digital content and adapt the resources appropriately within the classroom.

“Really our ultimate goal is to buildup classroom teacher capacity to internalize that use of digital content and to not only be able to adopt the resources for usage in the classroom but to be a sophisticated enough level where they could actually adapt that for usage in the classroom,” said Evans.

Through their work, Wolf reported that they found that technology integration is a learned art and one that is achieved gradually.

“You do not just wake up and suddenly you’re a pro at technology integration, no matter how techy you are,” she said. “For us, the digital readiness piece of this going beyond [just how to use the hardware]—it’s really thinking through the process behind what are you going to use and what are you going to design so you can actually change the teaching and learning process.”

Digital Readiness SpectrumThrough their research, Project Tomorrow created a Digital Readiness Spectrum (shown left), which not only looks at levels of use, which are the skills, but also looked at stages of concern, which is how does a teacher feel about this.

The Levels of Use are:
Survival, Mastery, Impact, Innovation

Stages of Concern are:
Awareness, Informational, Management, Collaboration, Refocusing

“At any time, a teacher will be at one place in the Level of Use and a different place in Stages of Concern, but they usually go hand-in-hand," said Wolf. "You kind of see this stair-step approach in moving along this continuum.”

Detailed quantitative and qualitative data will be released in a comprehensive report in August 2014. Watch for news on Project Tomorrow’s website at

Topics: education, K-12