Just about everyone has something to say about technology in schools. Politicians, superintendents and technology professionals all agree that there’s potential when it comes to supporting teaching with technology.
But it’s teachers who are on the front lines. They’re the ones using technology — or not using it. They know what works and what doesn’t work. They see how technology affects student learning. So it’s essential to solicit their ideas and input when it comes to decisions about technology in schools.
Technology is “a part of schools now,” says Michele Netto, who teaches English and journalism at Barnstable High School in Hyannis, Mass. “We’re getting the first wave of kids who didn’t know a world without computers. I think you have to use [technology].”
This year’s survey, which polled 1,000 teachers, found that educators are shifting from learning computer skills to integrating technology into their core curriculum. Two-thirds of teachers say they integrate technology into their classroom instruction at least a couple of times each week. Thirty-seven percent of all respondents say they do so daily.
As teachers start to integrate technology into their lessons, they begin to see improvements in their students’ learning. Of the teachers surveyed, 82 percent “strongly” or “somewhat” agree that computers engage their students, and 65 percent say that classroom computers help improve their students’ academic performance.
“You look at what these kids are doing — how engaged they are — compared with what we did in school, and it’s amazing,” reports Charlie Bunshaft, a K-5 science teacher at P.S. 131Q in Queens, N. Y. For more on what teachers like Bunshaft have to say about utilizing technology in their classroom, turn to page 50 .
Despite the good news, there’s still a long way to go before schools get to where they could be when it comes to technology. For starters, 48 percent of teachers participating in the survey say they received eight or fewer hours of technology training during the past year, and 19 percent didn’t receive any. That’s not fair to teachers or students, because it limits an entire medium of instruction to tech-savvy teachers.
Cost is another problem. Even schools from wealthy communities have a hard time keeping pace. Newton North High School outside of Boston is a high-performing school in an affluent community, but its technology infrastructure doesn’t match that of other schools, says English teacher Margery Wieder.
The education technology industry needs to use its resources to convince communities that technology is a critical investment for today’s students and tomorrow’s workers. While more teachers are adopting technology for classroom instruction and administrative functions, technology is still a heated topic between the new and old guard in most schools.
Some view technology as a distraction, or even worse, a barrier to learning. “I think there’s a fine line between using technology in the classroom and overusing technology in the classroom,” Barnstable’s Netto says. “You have to find a natural place for it in your classroom.”
When teachers who have been raised with digital skills enter the workforce, it will be easier for them to integrate technology into their lessons. But we can’t forget about teachers who are eager and willing, but need a gentle nudge and relevant training to bridge the technology gap.
Chris Rother is group vice president for Vernon Hills, Ill.-based CDW Government Inc., a leading technology provider to government and education. She is a passionate advocate for enhancing the educational experience with technology.