Research Shows Schools Making Small Progress Toward Technology-Rich Environments

America's schools, colleges, and universities are making limited progress toward providing technology-rich environments for students. According to the results of a benchmark study released this week at the 2009 National Educational Computer Conference (NECC) in Washington, DC, schools improved most in the area of broadband adoption in the last year but are still weak in the use of technology for assessments and creating educational equity.

The findings are part of the Software & Information Industry Association's Vision K-20 initiative, an effort to "ensure that all students have access to a teaching and learning environment capable of preparing them to compete globally and lead the world in innovation." Through the Vision K-20 site, the initiative offers resources for education stakeholders and, in general, is designed to reinforce the notion that technology and electronic learning tools can help improve student achievement, expand learning opportunities, maximize teacher effectiveness, and ingrain 21st century skill in students.

The annual Vision K-20 survey itself consists of questions related to 21st century learning, differentiated instruction, mobile/online access, assessment tools, enterprise support, and demographics. It's meant to be used as a benchmarking tool for individual institutions while also compiling aggregate data for SIIA's national report. Measurements from the survey relate to the progress, as a percentile, that schools are making toward a goal of 100 percent adoption and effective use of technologies in these areas.

"America's students thrive in their personal lives by quickly adapting to 21st century technologies, but they often lose access to that technology in classrooms. The Vision K-20 initiative helps education leaders understand the opportunities to incorporate those same tools into our nation's curriculum and instruction, ensuring we prepare our students to compete on a global scale," said Karen Billings, vice president for the SIIA Education Division, in a statement released to coincide with the report.

Findings from this year's survey were mixed. It showed that in general, higher education is further along than K-12 schools in various measures of progress. Across the board, the areas of greatest progress were high-speed broadband access and the use of Web portals to enhance learning and communications. But still the strongest area overall, at 70 percent, was in the use of technology to support the enterprise and "facilitate communication and collaboration."

The lowest score went to the use of technology-based assessments, at 46 percent. Other low scores went to the use of technology to "meet the needs of all students," at 59 percent, and the use of technology to nurture creativity and self-expression, at 60 percent.

Overall, between the 2008 and 2009 surveys, educational institutions improved in 17 or the 20 measures included in the survey. However, they only improved by one point in their total score, from 61 percent in 2008 to 62 percent in 2009.

"These are extremely challenging times for education, making it even more critical for institutions to use technology to achieve their educational goals and outcomes," Billings said. "SIIA calls on education leaders and public officials to increase support for, and adoption of, innovative technology-based and online educational models needed to meet the needs of today's digital-native learners and prepare them for the digital, knowledge economy."

Further information about Vision K-20 initiative and the survey can be found here.

About the Author

David Nagel is the executive producer for 1105 Media's online K-12 and higher education publications and electronic newsletters. He can be reached at dnagel@1105media.com. He can now be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/THEJournalDave (K-12) or http://twitter.com/CampusTechDave (higher education). You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=10390192.

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