Major study to probe ubiquitous computing

In an effort to discover which school districts have implemented or will implement ubiquitous one-to-one computing programs, two leading educational consulting groups today launched a survey intended to document the deployment of one-to-one programs nationwide and further investigate the role of laptop and notebook computers in the instructional process.

The survey poses in-depth questions about ubiquitous computing, which it defines as “each student and teacher [having] one internet-connected wireless computing device for use both in the classroom and at home.”

Specifically, the survey–which will be made available online to administrators and technology directors representing some 3,000 school districts across the country–aims to document the progress of one-to-one computing initiatives and related projects in U.S. school districts, said Jeanne Hayes of the Hayes Connection, which is conducting the survey along with the Greaves Group. Hayes said she hopes the findings will be used to influence future policy decisions and initiate actions to help bridge the widening achievement gap U.S. students now face when compared with their counterparts in other industrialized nations.

Though there has been a lot of discussion about the need for ubiquitous computing in schools and several districts around the country are moving ahead with one-to-one programs, Hayes said, there is no meeting place where educators and other stakeholders can turn to share best practices and develop a broader understanding of how these initiatives are progressing from coast to coast.

“We’ve heard of [a few] districts and their one-to-one programs, but a lack of knowledge about the majority of districts’ plans for one-to-one really inspired our national study,” Hayes explained. “This is an issue that is widely talked about but has no knowledge base.”

In preparation for the survey, the two groups released a report, “America’s Digital Schools 2006: A Five-Year Forecast.” Statistics from that report indicate that the last known data on one-to-one computing initiatives appeared in market research firm Quality Education Data’s “Ninth Annual Technology Purchasing Forecast” report, which was conducted during the 2003-04 school year. In that report, 87 percent of districts surveyed said no one-to-one program existed.

The new survey, which is voluntary, will be distributed to the nation’s 2,500 largest school districts (those with 4,000 or more students), which include roughly 74 percent of all U.S. public school students and 75 percent of the funding in K-12 public school districts.

Today’s students, the report says, are “digital natives” who someday will end up in digital schools. The question is what those digital schools will look like, what the rate of adoption will be, and what policy decisions will surround that process.

Through the survey, Hayes said, educators will learn about what major computing initiatives are already in play; when new one-to-one adoptions will occur, and at what rate; and what kinds of devices will be used.

Discovering which districts plan to pursue ubiquitous technology this year or next year, uncovering obstacles, and knowing of planned infrastructure changes and instructional objectives are all keys to documenting the status of current and future programs, she said.

“We want to know where people are [with one-to-one programs], where they are going, and what the future looks like in terms of devices,” she said. “We’ll have a platform that will provide all of this information.”

The study is intended to give district leaders insight into their own future possibilities, as well as allow them to compare results with similar districts in their state and nationwide.

“We’ll use calls, visits, and do whatever we have to do to ensure a great response rate,” said Hayes, who added that her goal is to have at least a 20-percent response rate.

Superintendents, curriculum heads, and technology directors all will take unique versions of the survey, which is accessible online through a password provided to participants.

Questions are intended to help gauge participating school systems’ interest in pursuing one-to-one computing initiatives now and in the future. Districts already experimenting with ubiquitous computing initiatives will be asked to provide feedback on existing programs, including what stage of deployment their projects are in, how they plan to grow their programs in the future, and what metrics they are using, if any, to evaluate changes in academic performance attributed to the technology.

Respondents also will be asked to forecast how they see district expenditures for technology changing over the next five years.

Sponsored by Discovery Education and Pearson Education, the survey runs through Feb. 28. Major presentations of the findings will be made to survey sponsors in April, and survey advisors will receive the findings in May and June.

Multiple educational organizations support the survey, including the National School Boards Association, the State Educational Technology Directors Association, the Consortium for School Networking, the International Society for Technology in Education, and the American Association of School Administrators.

Hayes said select data from the survey will be made available to eSchool News, which will report key findings from time to time throughout 2006.


“America’s Digital Schools” survey

The Hayes Connection

The Greaves Group

Laura Ascione

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