Survey: Chinese students use tech for learning more than their U.S. counterparts

As we’ve reported previously, it’s boom time for technology in K-12 education in the U.S. But a survey from Dell (s DELL) suggests that American students’ use of technology for learning is trailing that of their Chinese counterparts.

The study, which was conducted by Penn Schoen Berland, included 1,575 interviews with students, teachers and parents in the U.S., Germany and China and attempted to uncover their attitudes toward the role of technology in education.

Overwhelmingly, participants said that technology helps students learn (90 percent) and agreed that it plays a key role in preparing them for jobs of the future (88 percent).

But while respondents from all of the countries agreed that schools aren’t getting what they need, the survey found that Chinese students say they spend more time with technology in school than students in the U.S. and Germany. One function of that could be that 37 percent of Chinese parents said they provide funding for technology students use in schools, as opposed to 16 percent of American parents and 23 percent of German parents.

Chinese students also indicate that they’re more likely to integrate technology into all parts of the curriculum, as opposed to American students who say technology tends to be used for special assignments and research.  Additionally, more Chinese students (80 percent) say they use technology for summer enrichment than U.S. students (62 percent).

It’s important to note that the results are all self-reported so they may not be entirely accurate, but it’s still an interesting window into how students in different countries say they interact with technology – particularly considering the momentum behind digital platforms like Khan Academy, Knewton, Edmodo and others that are making their way into American classrooms.

Given the rise of social networks for education in the U.S. (like Edmodo), I was particularly surprised to see that Chinese respondents were also more positive about using social media in the classroom, according to the survey. Sixty percent of U.S. respondents said they disapprove of the use of social media for learning (with teachers being slightly more negative) while 60 percent of Chinese respondents said they approve of it.

But the question said “social media such as Facebook and Twitter,” so the question could have received a different response if it had been more open-ended.

This week, in announcing that it had reached 10 million users worldwide, Edmodo listed its top 10 countries for users. The US was immediately followed by Australia, the Philippines and Argentina, but China didn’t make the list.

Another recent poll on attitudes toward technology in education, from the NGO Leading Education by Advancing Digital (LEAD) Commission, found that 61 percent of teachers and 63 percent of parents think the American public schools are behind the curve in bringing technology to the classroom. But it also showed that parents and teachers (teachers slightly more than parents) are mobilizing behind technology.

According to the LEAD poll:

  • 82 percent of teachers and 71 percent of parents believe an increased use of technology of would be helpful in connecting learning inside and outside of the classroom
  • 89 percent of teachers and 76 percent of parents would rather spend $200 per student for an Internet-connected device than $200 per student for new science textbooks