Integrating technology into the curriculum and ensuring there is sufficient money to achieve that goal are the top two ed-tech challenges facing the nation’s school districts, according to a survey by the National School Boards Association (NSBA).
Forty-six percent of survey respondents say integrating technology into classroom instruction is the biggest challenge, while 47 percent say it is technology funding. Six percent say closing the digital divide is their biggest technology challenge.
NSBA released the survey findings at its annual T+L2 Conference in Denver Oct. 27. The group conducted an eMail survey of about 2,000 conference registrants, who include technology specialists, teachers, administrators, and school board members. More than 900 registrants replied to the survey. (For complete T+L2 coverage, see the eSN Conference Information Center online at http://www.eschoolnews.com/cic.)
“The people who answered our survey and attend our conference are among the most resourceful technology leaders in the country. They are telling us they need money for infrastructure improvements, to hire technology coordinators, and provide professional development to better incorporate technology in the classroom,” said Anne Bryant, NSBA’s executive director.
“They are doing an excellent job today, but they are also telling us they could do an even better job if they had additional resources.”
More than 65 percent of the survey respondents said the federal eRate program has been either very important or somewhat important in helping their school set and meet technology goals. Twenty-two percent say they do not participate in the program.
“This clearly is a ringing endorsement for eRate,” said Bryant. “If you use the program, you love it.”
But according to her association’s survey, the love affair is rocky. Respondents expressed concern over the Federal Communications Commission’s action to suspend new grants from the eRate program: 45 percent say the action has affected their district. In response to how the FCC action has affected their district, 61 percent of those say they are unable to budget for next year, and 32 percent say they are unable to use their district’s eRate discounts to cover other critical education costs.
“The people on the front line of technology in our schools tell us how important the eRate is to our students and how much the delay in distributing commitment letters hurts,” said Bryant, who is also on the board of directors for the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC), which administers the eRate. “We need to make sure this program gets back on track as quickly as possible.”
Nearly 63 percent of respondents report their school district’s K-12 curriculum is good or excellent in preparing students for the 21st-century workplace. Almost 68 percent say that new teachers entering the classroom are better prepared now than in the past to effectively integrate technology into the classroom.
But access to the internet during after-school hours continues to be a serious problem for low-income students, the survey found, and most school districts face difficulties in closing that gap.
About 70 percent of those who responded to the survey say that home access to the internet is a problem for low-income students in their districts. Donating computers and supporting community-center access for students are the two most often cited ways to address the issue, according to the survey. But nearly 40 percent of technology leaders say their districts have not yet taken any steps to close the gap at home.
“We have seen a gradual closing of the digital divide between low-income and wealthier students in the classroom, to a level where only six percent of our survey respondents call it the biggest challenge they face,” said Bryant. “But we have to work together to find ways for all students to have web access after school, on weekends, and during school vacation. Schools, libraries, and community centers must collaborate to make this happen.”
Some of the technology leaders who were surveyed say they are exploring wireless access as a way to close the gap. Other steps being taken include providing internet access before and after school for students, keeping the media center open in the evening, and working with business and government officials to provide low-cost access to students.
National School Boards Association