New Survey Shows 97% of Educators Use Some Form of Digital Content, but Frequency Lags

BOSTON  – Global learning company Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) announced today the launch of the HMH Educator Confidence Report, a new annual report that surveys over 1,000 teachers and school and district administrators across the United States on a range of issues, including top areas of concern and excitement, technology use in classrooms, and plans to remain in or leave the teaching profession.

The inaugural survey found strong digital adoption driving optimism among educators within an increasingly challenging environment, as well as significant concern over student data privacy. Top findings include:
  • Almost all educators surveyed (97%) use some form of digital content, with more than 50% using apps/websites/digital games in classrooms;
  • Two-thirds, however, cite infrequent use of digital tools for various learning purposes, with only 23% using the most prevalent form of classroom technology on a daily basis;
  • 58% of educators are either “very” or “somewhat” concerned about student data privacy;
  • Teachers and administrators have differing perceptions on key issues, including online assessment and adaptive learning activities in classrooms.
“There is no denying that the education sector is undergoing an exciting – and challenging – transformation. Understanding the views of the teachers who are navigating this transformation is crucial,” said HMH Chief Content Officer Mary Cullinane. “There is no one size fits all, which is why it is so important educator voices are heard and their real needs understood. We must listen to our teachers to ensure they are enabled with support that will actually help them improve educational outcomes for their students.”

The results reflect reason for optimism despite a generally challenging environment, with access to technology driving positive sentiment among educators. Out of the 97% of educators who use some type of digital material in their classrooms and/or school districts, the most common resources were:
  • Free/open-educational resources (used by 71% of respondents) and videos (66%);
  • Digital versions of instructional materials and interactive whiteboards (both 54%);
  • Apps/websites/digital games (51%).
Despite the high percentage of educators using some form of digital tool, the survey showed plenty of room for growth. For example, the most commonly cited classroom technology – student laptop/desktop – is used “daily” by only 23% of respondents, with 18% using it “often” (3-4 times per week) and 23% “sometimes” (1-2 times per week). The majority of respondents said their students use digital tools “rarely” (1-2 times per month) or “never” to turn in an assignment (63%), take an assessment (65%), or engage with each other for learning purposes (68%), indicating an opportunity for more effective technology integration in schools.

The report also revealed a gap between school teachers and district administrators in the reported use of digitally-enhanced instruction, suggesting that increased professional development could spur stronger digital outcomes. For example, 77% of administrators said interactive white boards were used compared to 52% of classroom teachers, a difference of 25 percentage points. A similar disparity exists when it comes to the reported use of open educational resources (87% vs. 70%), online assessments (66% vs. 42%), learning management systems (64% vs. 36%), and adaptive learning content (49% vs. 35%).  The results also indicate a technology gender gap: 80% of CTOs/CIOs in the survey were male, compared to 20% female.

Educators are coming to terms with issues regarding student data privacy. 41% said they were “very aware” of the privacy policies of the products used by students, with 48% “somewhat aware” and 10% “not aware.” 17% of respondents said they were “very concerned” with the risks associated with the collection and use of student data, while 41% expressed they were “somewhat concerned” (33% were “not very” and 9% “not at all” concerned).

The results also showed that educators are experiencing benefits from technology-enhanced instruction, with improved student engagement (60%), better student access to instructional content (55%), and the ability to deliver individualized instruction (48%) the top three benefits seen.

Despite digital advances, the professional landscape remains challenging for teachers. Less than half (41%) of educators feel positive about the state of the teaching profession in America today, while only 13% feel more positive compared to five years ago. These figures compare to 64% who feel more negative and 23% who recorded no change in sentiment.

The challenging environment was reflected in educators’ most overriding concerns, which included:
  • Lack of funding (cited by 66% of respondents as a worry);
  • The implications of teacher accountability requirements (63%);
  • Meeting new standards-aligned assessment requirements (58%);
  • Lack of technology devices in classrooms, lack of classroom autonomy and lack of differentiated lessons for students who require intervention (all three tied for fourth place at 36%).
While new assessments are listed as a concern by the majority of respondents, a shift in standards requiring more critical thinking from students was listed as a reason for excitement by 41%, indicating that debate over standards could be influencing educator sentiment. When asked what they need most, however, the number one need teachers identified was more engagement from parents (listed by 60% of respondents). This need outweighed more time to cover curriculum (52%), technology devices for students in class (46%), and more funding (also 46%).

Educator confidence was buoyed by the prospect of collaboration, with 48% of respondents listing cooperation with colleagues to develop engaging instruction for students a reason to be excited about the next 2-3 years of education. Other areas for excitement include more opportunities for real-world application in curriculum and assessment (42%) and increased access to the latest technology (41%) and online learning tools (38%).

“This data shows that the environment for educators is visibly challenging, with new standards and technology driving both anxiety and optimism. It is our job to help teachers grappling with these changes; we need to create digital solutions that are designed with simplicity and engagement in mind. That, together with effective technology training and meaningful opportunities to collaborate, can help reduce anxiety and support teachers’ confidence as a whole,” said Mary Cullinane.


The independent survey was conducted by the market research agency MDR on behalf of HMH.  To view the full report, visit

About Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (NASDAQ:HMHC) is a global learning company dedicated to changing people’s lives by fostering passionate, curious learners. As a leading provider of pre-K–12 education content, services, and cutting-edge technology solutions across a variety of media, HMH enables learning in a changing landscape. HMH is uniquely positioned to create engaging and effective educational content and experiences from early childhood to beyond the classroom.  HMH serves more than 50 million students in over 150 countries worldwide, while its award-winning children's books, novels, non-fiction, and reference titles are enjoyed by readers throughout the world. For more information, visit

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Jennifer Berlin
Director, Corporate Communications
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

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