3 out of 4 teachers pay out of pocket for digital content

We already know that public school teachers are forced to spend up to $1000 per year on essential school supplies for their students not provided for in public school budgets. Now we know that that personal outlay is extending to digital content as well–apps, games, lessons, stories, and other software products and online resources meant to enhance the classroom experience.

That’s according to a new quarterly report from HotChalk, which claims to be the largest online education network in the world. They power several different online resources for K-12 and higher education, aimed at students, teachers and parents, all linking to free content, with a collective 50 million monthly visitors to their websites. Some of these sites are innovative, such as OpenStudy, where you can start or join a study group on almost any topic; others, like the AllKids Network and the Preschool Coloring Book, are outdated-looking sites with intrusive ads and ho-hum content.

Keeping the source in mind, the survey results, compiled from 25,000 online responses, are interesting to review. For example, just 36% of teachers, and just 27% of students, in this tech-savvy community at least, believed face-to-face education to be generally superior to the online version. Roughly equal numbers didn’t see much difference between the two, which is interesting given the public debates we’re currently having; but then again, that response may be another way to say that the quality comparison between online and in-person instruction depends on the specific situation.

Apple dominates the digital device marketplace in schools, with 43% mobile market share for the iPad, but for content, Amazon’s education store is a close second to the iTunes store.

Speaking of purchasing content, most of the respondents much preferred free online education content to the kind you have to pay for. But of the 63% of teachers who used at least some paid content, 72% of them said that they–not students, not the school–were footing the bill. On average they spent less than $10 per download, purchase or monthly subscription, most often between $4 and $6 a pop.

There are two different ways to look at this information. The glass-half-empty version focuses on teachers once again being asked to spend more and more money out of their own salaries to try to drag reluctant schools into the 21st century. On the other hand, the proliferation of free and low-cost digital content out there, some of which is quite high quality,  has the potential to take cash out of the pockets of the textbook industry and save teachers precious time while enhancing the classroom experience.

Images from the HotChalk Education Index

Images from the HotChalk Education Index

Screen Shot 2013-06-03 at 2.08.04 PM


POSTED BY Anya Kamenetz ON June 4, 2013

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Diana Dull Akers

It seems like there are additional ways that teachers and parents could partner together around this issue. For example, I currently have a six year old child in first grade who loves books/struggles with reading and learning challenges. So we have sought a broader array of tools to help her. When it comes to books, we use both print books and e-books through Bookboard, a children’s ebook service for iPad (disclosure, I also write a parent blog for them about our experiences; see http://www.bookboard.com under “blog”). What strikes me is how useful it could be if parents and teachers together considered how a subscription to an ebook company like this might benefit kids simultaneously at work/school. There are different strategies classrooms might undertake towards this end, including using some “class fund” money to purchase a subscription, or looking into whether school libraries might hold the subscription (or reading/resource specialists, etc.) Teachers who have “wish list” approaches could add a digital subscription for ebooks. Class gifts from families, same strategy. There are many creative possibilities here.

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