Students say they need tech skills for the future, but most high schools don't deliver.

A new survey reinforces the concern that while students must have technology skills to succeed as they enter college and the workforce, their schools are not meeting this important need.

The second annual 21st Century Classroom Report from CDW-G reveals that 94 percent of students said learning and mastering technology skills will improve their educational and career opportunities, and 97 percent of school faculty agreed. But in spite of those results, only 39 percent of students said their high schools meet those technology expectations with technology in the classroom.

Eighty-six percent of students note that they use more technology outside the classroom than inside.  Nearly all surveyed students (94 percent) said they use technology to complete homework assignments, but just 46 percent of faculty said they regularly assign homework that requires the use of technology.

More districts are turning to digital content as an essential part of their classroom instruction. Eleven percent of districts are using digital content as an alternative to traditional print textbooks, and 62 percent of IT staff said their districts are considering using digital content.  Nearly three-quarters of faculty noted that digital content is essential because of its ability to provide faculty and students with better access to updated information.

This year’s survey also found that 64 percent of IT staff said the technology at their high schools is cutting edge or current, up from 41 percent in 2010.

Although 47 percent of school district IT budgets are expected to decrease in the next school year, 65 percent of districts in the survey reported that they plan to invest in technology in the classroom over the next two years.

Thirty percent of students identified smart phones, and 36 percent identified MP3 players, as essential tools in a 21st-century classroom. Fifty-nine percent of responding students said they communicate with other students every day using technology, but only 23 percent said they use technology to collaborate on assignments or projects with other students.

The report makes a number of recommendations to help districts successfully incorporate technology in the classroom to prepare students for success in college and the workforce:

  • Understand the impact: Getting teachers to a point where they can easily integrate technology into the curriculum requires additional planning time. Professional development can help faculty increase the efficiency and effectiveness of their lesson planning.
  • Invest in engagement: Experimenting with innovative teaching methods may help students collaborate more amongst themselves. Create an environment where teachers can test instructional techniques and share best practices with each other.
  • Seek student input: While more than 70 percent of faculty and IT staff believe they understand how students want to use technology as a learning tool, just 49 percent of students agree. Consider using the 21st Century Classroom survey tool to get an accurate picture of student, faculty, and IT staff needs on your campus. Use the results to discuss 21st century skills with students to determine what technology they find most beneficial and seek guidance on how to effectively incorporate technology into the curriculum.