Funding for technology and integrating technology into the classroom rank among the toughest challenges that school districts face, according to a study released Oct. 27 by the National School Boards Association (NSBA) at the organization’s annual T+L² Conference in Denver.

While 63 percent of respondents said their school district’s curriculum was excellent or good in preparing students for the 21st century, 85 percent noted that their new teachers were only somewhat prepared or not prepared in effectively integrating technology into the classroom.

“While we know that funding is always a top issue, I believe this survey shows that school districts have a lot of work to do in the area of professional development to help teachers understand how to use technology tools to enhance student learning and performance,” said Anne Bryant, NSBA’s executive director. “It also speaks clearly to the need for colleges of education to get their students up to speed on using new teaching technology tools.”

NSBA conducted an eMail survey of approximately 1,500 registrants for the T+L² Conference, which included technology specialists, teachers, administrators, and school board members. More than 400 registrants replied to the survey, which took place during the week of Oct. 17.

Nearly 90 percent of respondents said use of technology in the classroom has increased educational opportunities for students, as evidenced by their students being more engaged in learning (92 percent), having a stronger ability to communicate (50 percent), and possessing increased critical thinking skills (49 percent). Respondents also reported that less visible evidence is improved performance on tests (31 percent).

Although 78 percent of respondents said home access to the internet was a problem for their low-income students, only 10 percent said closing the digital divide was a challenge for their districts. Among those respondents who said home access was a problem, 46 percent noted that access was available for these students at community centers. However, many noted that their districts were not currently taking any steps to improve home access.

Regarding federal technology programs, 68 percent said the eRate has been very important or somewhat important in helping their districts set and meet technology goals, yet 54 percent noted that the application process needs to be improved.

When asked about Enhancing Education Through Technology (EETT) funding, the primary federal grant program dedicated solely to educational technology, 41 percent of respondents considered the program very important or somewhat important. Of those who receive EETT funds, 61 percent use the money to support faculty or staff professional development, while 53 percent use it for classroom instruction, the study found.

Other findings include:

  • Nearly 38 percent of respondents said their school district offers one-to-one learning initiatives (such as laptops or handhelds), with 48 percent reporting that these initiatives have been in place between one and two years.

  • Nearly 54 percent of respondents said their district has students enrolled in online virtual classes. Of these respondents, nearly 47 percent said district employees were delivering the virtual education courses, while 30 percent reported delivery by a commercial provider.

Complete survey results may be found at:
http://www.nsba.org/site/doc.asp?CID=1591&DID=37028.

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