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Survey reveals slow progress in education technology

Troubled economy might be hampering ed-tech implementation, according to SIIA’s latest survey

The annual survey lets schools measure their progress toward a 21st century education.

SIIA's annual survey lets schools measure their progress toward providing a 21st-century education.

U.S. schools’ average overall scores on an annual survey designed to measure their progress toward implementing 21st-century classrooms and learning skills increased less than 1 percent from 2009, even though schools did improve on four out of five measures of progress.

The Vision K-20 survey, from the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA), was developed to help educators and administrators track their institutional progress in five areas, called measures of progress, and compare it with the national average. These five measures are 21st-century learning tools, anytime/anywhere access to technology, differentiated learning, assessment tools, and enterprise support. The aggregate results give a picture of the nation’s progress in education technology as a whole. The 20 survey questions, each designed to measure a particular indicator of ed-tech implementation, are grouped according to the five measures of progress.

The average overall score for the 21st-century tools category in 2010 was 68 percent, tied for the highest score in any category with enterprise support, also at 68 percent. Anytime/anywhere access received an average score of 64 percent, differentiated learning received 57 percent, and the assessment tools category averaged 48 percent, suggesting that schools have room for improvement when it comes to using technology to aid in assessment.

“America’s students are moving ever more quickly to 21st-century technologies, but education leaders and institutions are not responding with the educational framework needed to keep pace with either the opportunity or the needs,” said Karen Billings, vice president of SIIA’s education division.

Educators can use the Vision K-20 initiative to better understand how to incorporate technology into their curricula and instruction, ensuring that students are prepared to compete on a global scale, Billings said.

“We really felt we needed to promote a vision for leveraging technology [in education],” she added.

When the average scores across all five categories are combined, schools and colleges are still only 62 percent of the way toward achieving SIIA’s Vision K-20 benchmarks. This aggregate score was 61.8 percent in 2009 and 60.9 percent in 2008.

The survey pinpoints seven vision goals that institutions can use technology to help them achieve: meeting the needs of all students; supporting accountability and informing instruction; deepening learning and motivating students; facilitating communication, connectivity, and collaboration; effectively and economically managing the education enterprise; enabling students to learn from any place at any time; and nurturing creativity and self-expression.

Economic troubles have contributed to schools’ slow progress when it comes to implementing the technology framework necessary to help students attain 21st-century skills, Billings said.

“This year has been even more challenging for education, given the economic downturn and decreased budgets. With scarce resources, it becomes even more critical for institutions to use technology to more efficiently achieve their educational goals and outcomes,” she added. “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.”

The two benchmark indicators with the highest degree of implementation in the 20-question survey were security tools to protect student data and privacy (84 percent) and the availability of high-speed broadband access for robust communication, administrative, and instructional needs (84 percent).

Despite flat overall growth in the aggregate score of schools, the average ratings for all measures—except for enterprise support—showed modest gains in 2010.

Larger institutions tended to have higher scores on all measures than smaller institutions, the survey found. There were no systematic differences by type of setting (i.e., location).

The survey also revealed that postsecondary institutions lead the K-12 sector in overall average measures of progress, scoring higher than K-12 on 18 of the 20 responses. K-12 and postsecondary institutions scored the same, each averaging 85 percent, in using security tools to protect student data and privacy. K-12 schools scored an average of 67 percent, while postsecondary institutions scored an average of 64 percent, in using information systems that provide digital student and achievement data to support instructional decisions by educators and administrators.

SIIA attributes this latter result to a potential reflection of No Child Left Behind requirements that K-12 educators and administrators use achievement data to support instructional decisions.

Within the K-12 sector, respondents at the district level reported higher scores than respondents from individual elementary or secondary schools, “possibly because district-level personnel might be more familiar with these particular topics than their colleagues at the building level,” the survey notes.

The benchmark indicators with the highest increases in average scores were:

• Personal ePortfolios travel with students to demonstrate a wide range of skills and knowledge (increased 3.3 percentage points)

• Interactive, adaptive, multimedia courseware and simulations are used in teaching and learning (increased 3.1 percentage points)

• Students have access to courseware and technology-based curriculum (increased 2.7 percentage points)

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