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What Teachers Think of the Digital Age

From VOA Learning English, this is Education in Special English. Teachers say the digital age has been both a good and bad influence on this generation of American teenagers. More than 2,000 middle and high school teachers took an online survey. Researchers also spoke with teachers in focus groups.

Three-fourths of the teachers said the Internet and digital search tools have had a "mostly positive" effect on their students' research habits and skills. But 87 percent agreed that these technologies are creating an "easily distracted generation with short attention spans." And 64 percent said the technologies "do more to distract students than to help them academically." Many students think "doing research" now means just doing a quick search on Google.

The Pew Internet Project did the survey with the College Board and the National Writing Project. A majority of the teachers came from Advanced Placement classes, which provide college-level work for high school students. Judy Buchanan is with the National Writing Project and a co-author of the report. She says digital research tools are helping students learn more, and learn faster. But, one problem the survey found is that many students are lacking in digital literacy.

In other words, they trust too much of the information they find on the Internet. Judy Buchanan says these students have not developed the skills they need to judge the quality or credibility of online information. They also say being able to quickly find information online hurts their students' ability to work hard to find answers. Many teachers are also concerned that the Internet makes it easy for students to copy work done by others instead of using their own abilities.

For VOA Learning English, I'm Carolyn Presutti.