Report: Student Access to Classroom Technology is Limited

CDW•G's 21st Century Classroom Report serves as a reality check for educators

Are today's schools preparing students for the future – or the past?

Certainly, the students, faculty and IT professionals who rely on technology to make work and life easier are hoping the past isn't prologue when it comes to technology integration in the classroom. But CDW•G's newly released 21st Century Classroom Report provides startling evidence that access isn't as widespread as it could be.

What we've come to know as the “21st century classroom” involves the leveraging of technology in such a way that it engages and empowers both teachers and students. To understand the extent to which schools are achieving that goal, CDW•G asked just over 1,000 high school students, faculty and IT staff members from around the country how technology is used in their schools. The survey was conducted online in May 2010.

Students: Look, But Don't Touch?

Of the 400 high school students sampled, 84 percent said technology is important or very important to their ability to study and/or work on class assignments, and 94 percent anticipate they will be using technology to complete assignments in college. When asked if they believe their school is preparing them to successfully use technology in college and/or the workforce, 57 percent said yes, 17 percent said no and 26 percent were unsure.

Other student responses of note include the following:

  • Only 9 percent of students characterized their high school classrooms as “fully” technologically integrated; 4 percent of students said their classrooms are “not at all integrated.” More than a third (36 percent) rated their schools in the middle of a five-point scale and a nearly equal number (26 percent and 25 percent, respectively) rated them as relatively un-integrated and relatively integrated.
  • Six of 10 students said their teachers regularly use technology to teach, but just over a quarter (26 percent) said they are encouraged to use technology throughout the day.
  • When asked which technology tool they believe would be most useful in their education, students singled out computing devices (including notebooks, netbooks, tablets, desktops and smartphones), e-readers and digital content.
  • Nearly all students (96 percent) said they use technology at home to complete class assignments, but they use different tools in their personal lives than they do at school. Notably, 76 percent said they use social media as an educational tool.

Faculty: Missed Opportunities

Among the 302 faculty members surveyed, nearly half (47 percent) said they aren't designing lesson plans that allow students to use technology during class. Sixty-four percent said they aren't regularly discussing 21st century skills with students and incorporating their feedback into lesson plans, and 71 percent said they either aren't getting or are getting but are not incorporating guidance from their department and/or district on how to provide technology-rich assignments to students.

Other faculty responses of note include the following:

  • More than half (53 percent) of teachers said they either do not conduct or are unsure if they conduct any of their classes in a 21st century classroom.
  • Yet, only 1 percent reported that their classrooms aren't at all integrated with technology and 11 percent said their classrooms are relatively un-integrated. By comparison, 18 percent said their classrooms are fully integrated, 40 percent considered their classrooms relatively integrated and 30 percent rated their classrooms in the middle of a five-point scale.
  • When asked which technologies they consider essential to a 21st century classroom, 70 percent of faculty members cited wireless Internet access, 66 percent said student computing devices and 59 percent said interactive whiteboards. Other options included distance learning (27 percent), student response systems (29 percent) and video or voice recording for lectures (18 percent).
  • When asked which new technologies they're using to teach, 42 percent said electronic textbooks and other online curricular materials, 36 percent said interactive whiteboards, 26 percent said open-source applications and 22 percent said course-management systems. Ironically, 62 percent of teachers reported using MP3 players in their private lives, but only 13 percent use them in the classroom. Only digital content is used more frequently by teachers in the classroom (42 percent) than at home (35 percent).

IT Staff: Delivering on a Promise

Among the 302 IT professionals sampled, just over two-thirds (67 percent) said their district understands how students want to use technology as a learning tool.

At the same time, 39 percent of IT respondents described their schools' technology offerings as “adequate” and in need of possible refreshing, 17 percent described them as “aging” and 3 percent characterized them as “in the Dark Ages.” One-third of them reported that their schools' technology offerings are “current” (or no more than three years old) and 8 percent called them “cutting-edge.”

Other IT responses of note include the following:

  • Just over half (51 percent) of IT professionals said they plan to upgrade or improve classroom technology in the next two years, but only 10 percent reported that their IT budgets will increase in the upcoming school year.
  • When asked which K–12 technology trends they're watching, IT pros cited a number of them, including interactive whiteboards, student-response systems, wireless technologies, cell phone usage in the classroom, virtualization, Web 2.0 and Web 3.0 tools, e-books and distance learning.

Going Forward

CDW•G 2010 announced its 21st Century Classroom Report findings at the 2010 International Society for Technology in Education conference and exposition in Denver. In a statement summarizing the results, CDW•G Vice President of K–12 Education Bob Kirby warned that “the door to 21st century skills remains locked for many students.”

To facilitate an “interactive learning environment in which the technologies [today's students] use outside of school are integrated into the curriculum,” Kirby continued, “districts need to focus on providing a hands-on technology experience that translates to students' futures, whether in higher education or the workforce.”

The report suggests that districts can better prepare students for the future by:

  • understanding students' technology needs and expectations. Consider using CDW•G's 21st Century Classroom survey tool or a survey of your own design to get an accurate picture of student, faculty and IT staff needs. Use the results as the basis for a 21st century skills discussion with students to determine which technologies they find most beneficial and how to most effectively incorporate those tools into the curriculum.
  • improving faculty resources. District officials should bring together faculty and IT staff to discuss must-have resources. Once these resources are identified, take steps to acquire them and to implement professional development programs that align with and reinforce the technology plan.
  • looking to the future. Focus on professional development and 21st century skills to create a curriculum and classroom environment that promotes learning and seamless technology integration. Consider how today's students learn and how to bring their native technology into the classroom.

For more information and to download the complete report, visit CDWG.com.

What's Next

On June 29, CDW•G Vice President of K–12 Education Bob Kirby moderated an ISTE conference session entitled “The 21st Century Campus: What's Next.” The session highlighted many of the findings of the CDW•G 2010 21st Century Classroom Report, which were presented as talking points for a dialogue among four IT professionals who shared stories of technology integration in their own schools.

The panel of speakers included:

Asked how his district integrates technology into the classroom, Mancabelli told session attendees that Hunterdon Central gives students three ways “to tell us what they want: We do surveys and focus groups with them, we offer before- and after-school technology groups they can join, and we provide a for-credit class – a sort-of internship with the IT department – through which they can learn the tools.”

Romero said his New Mexico district is fortunate to have “education technologists” at each of its 19 schools. “They're where the rubber meets the road for us in IT. I get feedback from them concerning what we need to do in IT to make things better for students.”

To facilitate hands-on technology experience, Beauvoir's Castanera-Bartoszek said the school sends its teachers to technology conferences and organizes gatherings where they can “learn from each other.”

Mancabelli's team, meanwhile, tiers professional development “so it's individualized for each teacher. We look at the pedagogy behind the technologies to see if they really fit in the classroom lesson plans,” he explained. “Most of our teachers learned [using] text-based methods, so we're trying to teach them how to learn differently about the things they're interested in – to break down that paradigm of learning.”

All of the panelists acknowledged that getting teachers to integrate technology into their lesson plans is a challenge. “For us, the process has taken several years,” Castanera-Bartoszek said. “We started giving notebooks to our teachers first so they can really personalize and use them. Our hope is that if they can [integrate these tools] in their personal life, maybe that will bleed over into the classroom.”

“Everybody talks about integrating technology into the classroom,” Romero added, “but we like to think of it as integrating technology into the instruction process. That's really key to what we're doing.”

The panelists also found alarming the gap between how students and teachers use technology in the classroom and how they use it in their private lives. “Probably one in 10 teachers is engaging in a substantive way with technologies in the classroom,” Mancabelli said. “There's a clear need for more professional development.”

Duran added that the proliferation of smartphones in recent years is causing problems for many districts, including the Aurora Public Schools system. “Smartphones are in direct violation of the current technology use policy at the district level,” Duran said of the Colorado district he just departed. A full review of the policy is now under way, he added.

Best Practices
CDW•G's Kirby concluded the session by asking the panelists to offer some final thoughts on technology integration in the classroom.

Romero expressed his appreciation for the 21st Century Classroom Report, admitting that the findings validate “what we've been thinking.” He added that Rio Rancho Public Schools “is planning for a lot of these things” and will “mull over the data and then make some changes.”

Castanera-Bartoszek of Beauvoir, The National Cathedral Elementary School, said administrators and teachers shouldn't fear shaking things up a bit. “Don't be afraid to teach something that you don't know about,” he advised. “Don't be afraid of trying new things with technology.”

Hunterdon Central Regional High School District's Mancabelli encouraged attendees to “get people in your district to focus on changing the way they do things.” It's “the only way,” he said, “to really convince anyone that the current classroom isn't meeting students' needs.”

And Duran reminded attendees that “one of the most powerful things you can do is make your students processors of information,” rather than simply consumers of information.

To hear more insights from these panelists, check out our video interviews from the ISTE 2010 conference.

Jul 08 2010

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