Kristi Crawford sees the difference technology makes in her elementary school classroom in Bozeman, Mont., everyday. Her second- and third-graders use computers to review basic facts and reinforce phonic skills. They’ve even designed their own Web site to share what they’ve learned.
In Donna Blackwell’s Wagener, S.C., middle school class, networked computers help build students’ research skills. The PCs “put everything global at their fingertips,” Blackwell says.
Teachers nationwide overwhelmingly agree that technology tools make a positive impact on student performance. For CDW•G’s second annual “Teachers Talk Tech” survey, we polled more than 1,000 K-12 teachers across the nation about the impact of technology in their classrooms. The vast majority—93 percent—reported that computers are very useful or somewhat useful as a teaching tool. That number is up four percent from last year’s survey, which means that the value placed on educational technology continues to grow. That’s the good news.
The bad news is that most teachers face a hard time getting adequate technology for their classrooms. When asked about computer availability in the classroom, 55 percent of the teachers surveyed described it as a serious problem. Seventy-seven percent reported that they have only a few computers in the classroom for students to share. When asked about the technology they do have, 54 percent rated the hardware as good or excellent, but less than half (45 percent) gave high marks to the software.
“Students should be able to have access and more online time than they do now,” suggests Jean Bottelberghe, an elementary school teacher from Onalaska, Wis. “Computers challenge students to dig deeper.”
A Wise Investment
Hopefully, the study results will help teachers and school administrators convince school boards and communities that the money spent on classroom technology is a wise and critical investment in their children’s futures.
Technology is quickly becoming ingrained in the educational process, as well as in school administrative offices, due to its many benefits. Technology increases teacher productivity, enhances student performance and, according to 62 percent of the survey respondents, it improves student results on standardized tests. But the quantity and quality of technology must increase for our nation’s schools to realize its full potential.
Junior high school students in Ogden, Utah, have access to just one computer lab for the whole school, which means that Shanna Campbell’s class can get into the lab only once or twice a month. “Two or three computers in each classroom would be great,” she says.
Janette Haney, a high school teacher in Fayetteville, Ga., and David Andrew, who teaches high school English and composition in Missoula, Mont., agree that computers help their students share instant feedback on their essays and compositions. But both add that there aren’t enough computers available.
Almost all the teachers surveyed said they use e-mail and the Internet to communicate with students and parents. Sixty percent of them reported that their schools have Internet sites to provide information about classes, homework assignments, grades or other school-related information.
Of the teachers surveyed from those schools, 83 percent said they believe that a school Internet site aids the education process, and 66 percent reported an increase in parental involvement, thanks to their school Web sites. That is up 8 percent from our 2003 survey.
The students in Gayle Williams’ Merritt Island, Fla., high school class use the Internet to gather research and news articles from a variety of sources for classroom assignments. However, she points out that something as basic as Internet access can be a challenge for many schools.
Peggy Barnhart uses the Web to help her Roseville, Ohio, first-graders with reading. But the computers in her classroom are old, and only five have Internet access. The need for better funding for computers is a big issue, she says.
Teachers’ technology skills have come a long way over the years, but 28 percent of those surveyed said they need a great deal more computer training. Fifty-one percent reported that they need at least a little training, which is not surprising in a profession that is grounded on the idea of lifelong learning.
The problem, the teachers said, is finding the time for training. Forty-eight percent of the teachers polled noted that finding time to become skilled with computer equipment is a serious issue.
Another major problem is the inadequate technical support that’s available in many schools. More than half (52 percent) of the respondents rated it as a serious problem.
The challenges for educators continue to increase tremendously, with greater expectations to do more with fewer resources. Yet, across the country—from overcrowded urban districts to small rural schools—educators are making miracles happen by squeezing more out of the little they have.
This spring, we celebrated the one-year anniversary of Ed Tech, which we launched to help educators share their creative technology ideas and success stories so that these best practices can be put to use in classrooms across the country.
We believe the “Teachers Talk Tech” survey and these other resources give teachers a voice regarding the use of computer technology in the classroom. We are listening to those voices, and we hope that everyone involved in implementing and using education technology will not only hear those voices, but also heed the lessons they are trying to impart about the importance of technology in all our schools.
Chris Rother is vice president of education sales for Vernon Hills, Ill.-based CDW•G, a leading technology provider to government and education. She is a passionate advocate for enhancing the educational experience with technology.
Good News vs. Bad News
93% of the teachers surveyed reported that computers are very useful or somewhat useful as a teaching tool.
83% of teachers whose school has a Web site said they believe the site aids the education process.
66% of teachers whose school has a Web site reported an increase in parental involvement due to the site.
62% of teachers polled said that technology improves student results on standardized tests.
60% reported that their schools have Internet sites to provide information about classes, homework assignments, grades or other school-related information.
54% of teachers rated the technology hardware in their classroom as good or excellent.
77% of the teachers surveyed said they have only a few computers in their classroom for their students to share.
55% of teachers described computer availability in the classroom as a serious problem.
52% of teachers rated inadequate technical support as a serious problem.
48% of teachers said finding time to become skilled with computer equipment is a serious issue.
45% —less than half—of teachers gave high marks to the software in their classroom.
28% of teachers reported that they need a great deal more computer training.
Source: CDW•G’s second annual “Teachers Talk Tech” survey