Schools and colleges have made great progress in using technology to support their enterprise-level programs and in providing new learning tools to students, but according to a new survey from the Software and Information Industry Association (SIIA), most still fall short in using digital assessments to target instructional needs precisely.
One year ago this month, SIIA launched an ambitious project called the Vision for K-20 Education. The project included a framework for using technology to transform education and a series of annual surveys to assess schools’ progress toward achieving these goals. (See "SIIA: Get K-20 vision in focus.") SIIA released findings from the first of these annual surveys at the National Educational Computing Conference in San Antonio July 1.
The survey revealed that educational institutions are using security tools to protect student data and privacy for almost all applications, systems, and computers. It also pointed to the widespread availability of internet access throughout the majority of responding institutions.
But schools were found lacking in their use of digital assessment tools, SIIA said. K-12 schools in particular are focusing primarily on mandated testing procedures, which require that every student take the same test, instead of using computer-based adaptive testing, which can provide a much more detailed view of a student’s strengths and weaknesses.
Survey results showed that K-12 schools lag behind postsecondary institutions in their overall progress in using technology, although this is consistent with numerous other surveys indicating that technology is adopted earlier at the postsecondary level, SIIA said. The survey also noted that a comparison between K-12 and postsecondary schools can be problematic, owing to the different needs and target goals at the K-12 and postsecondary levels.
The smallest schools–those with fewer than 450 students–also appeared to be lagging behind their larger counterparts in implementing the project’s goals.
"The Vision K-20 initiative calls for a coalition of stakeholders, including educators, business executives, policy makers, and academic leaders, to recognize the need to prepare our students for global competition," said Karen Billings, vice president of SIIA’s education division.
The initiative calls for every K-20 institution, by the end of the decade, to use technology and eLearning to increase student engagement and achievement; provide equity and access to new learning opportunities; document and track student performance; empower collaborative learning communities; maximize teaching and administrative effectiveness; and build student proficiencies in 21st-century skills.
For the survey, educators responded to 20 statements about their technology use, and their answers were scored from 1-4. If a respondent indicated the most extensive possible use of a certain technology, that response was given a 4 and was awarded 100 percent. If the respondent selected the answer corresponding to the lowest possible use of a technology, his or her answer received a 1 and was awarded 25 percent.
Responses were sorted into five categories encompassing the Vision’s Five Measures of Progress: 21st-century tools, anytime/anywhere access, differentiated learning, assessment tools, and enterprise support.
Here are the average scores in each category:
• Enterprise Support: 68 percent
• 21st-Century Tools: 66 percent
• Anytime/Anywhere Access: 62 percent
• Differentiated Learning: 55 percent
• Assessment Tools: 46 percent
The average overall score for all 20 questions was 61 percent.
The survey also calculated schools’ progress toward the initiative’s Seven Vision Goals. These goals are to facilitate communication, connectivity, and collaboration; enable students to learn from any place at any time; deepen learning and motivate students; manage the education enterprise effectively and economically; support accountability and inform instruction; help schools meet the needs of all students; and nurture creativity and self-expression.
Results from the first year of the survey indicate that schools have made the most progress in facilitating communication and giving students access to anywhere, anytime learning. The least progress has been made in nurturing creativity and self-expression and helping schools meet the needs of all students.
"Some people are there, but not everybody is there, and we have several different ways of getting them there," Billings said. Neither educators nor SIIA members can achieve the vision alone, she said, which is why education stakeholders must work together to ensure that technology helps to close achievement gaps and strengthen learning.
"Schools often believe that other districts are ahead of them, but that’s often not the case," she added.
Billings said SIIA is starting to compare its survey results to data from the Hayes Connection’s "America’s Digital Schools" reports and Project Tomorrow’s annual "Speak Up" surveys.
The Vision K-20 survey was conducted between March and June 2008, and 387 educators from across the nation responded online at the project’s web site. After submitting the survey, each participant received a progress report showing how close his or her school was to achieving the project’s goals and measures.