Survey Shows Schools Hitting Digital Hard
- By Dian Schaffhauser
A recent survey found that half of school districts believe they've completed their 1-to-1 initiatives and the infrastructure required; and almost 4 in 10 (38 percent) are planning to or will definitely "modernize" in the next 12 to 24 months. More districts also have digital content and curriculum strategies in place this year compared to last year — up from 49 percent to 62 percent. Another 33 percent of districts have one under development. More than half of those existing strategies incorporate the use of open educational resources.
So go the results from this year's Digital School Districts Survey, run by the Center for Digital Education and National School Boards Association.
The same survey, which is open to all American public school districts, reported that personalized learning tops the priority list for IT in the coming year. Digital content and curriculum took second place; and professional development and skills training for integrating technology into the classroom was third.
School boards are increasingly using technology for communication too. More than a quarter of districts (28 percent) said they use a social media channel such as Twitter during school board meetings to take the pulse of public feedback on issues facing the board. Six in 10 districts solicit public input about their school board activities through either the board's Web site or the district's site.
The same survey also invited districts to describe their infusion of technology, in order to issue awards recognizing "exemplary use" of technology in their operations and classrooms.
The winner in the category of the largest districts — those with 12,000 students or more — was Hampton City Schools in Virginia. There, the district livestreams board meetings and produces podcasts for parents, teachers and students. It also emphasizes digital literacy training for parents, including Internet safety and privacy and acceptable use policies. At the high school level, students take on tech support roles. And it's experimenting with blended learning using digital content from Virginia Beach public television station WHRO and EverFi.
In the medium-sized category (3,000 to 12,000 students), the winner was White County School District in Georgia. The charter school system has replaced its print textbooks with digital resources, online collaboration, quiz tools, instructional games, simulations, films, TV and YouTube programs for instruction. The district is running online courses with the University of North Georgia and collaborating with the county government on a 3D virtual mapping program. District leaders also anticipate adding Wi-Fi to school buses and making Internet access available in home for those families that need it. They've just begun a 1-to-1 program for freshman, which will continue expanding over the next four years until everybody in the high school has his or her own computing device.
In the small district category (fewer than 3,000 students), New Jersey's Springfield Public Schools captured the top spot. That district spent a year analyzing test score data over a four-year period with the intent of understanding where its students struggled most and what types of questions caused the most difficulty. Then it began a parent-student program in the evening that included dinner and offered training in how parents could help their kids with their studies. This year the program has been updated to incorporate English language learning through the use of a software-based language program.
"School districts, with the support of their school boards, are increasingly focused on learning through innovative technologies," said Kecia Ray, executive director for the center. "As a result, students are using all kinds of cutting-edge tools that assist learning, inspire creativity and help prepare them for the future. It's my privilege to congratulate these school districts that are making exceptional gains to transform education systems with effective uses of technology."
Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @schaffhauser.