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start or join a study group on almost any topic; others, like the AllKids Network and the Preschool Coloring Book, are outdated-looking sites with intrusive ads and ho-hum content.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.
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.