A new report examines how different countries approach ed-tech management and access.

A new report comparing educational technology use of K-12 students in 21 countries found that, despite global economic uncertainty, many countries are still investing in technology to improve educational systems and boost student achievement.

Twenty governments said that giving students better access to the internet is a top priority, and roughly half said students need more access to computers.

The January 2012 report, International Experiences with Technology in Education (IETE), comes from SRI International’s Center for Technology in Learning and was conducted at the request of the U.S. Department of Education.

It seeks to identify what types of educational technology data are being collected, how technologies are being used to improve international students’ access to high-quality instruction, how technologies are being used to increase teacher effectiveness, and how other governments are tracking student progress and using those data to inform policy decisions.

The governments shared many of the same national goals when it comes to improving educational technology for students, including “updating infrastructure; ensuring equity of access to digital technologies; improving information and communications technologies (ICT) proficiency among students, teachers, and administrators; increasing the availability of digital learning resources; and increasing the integration of ICT into instruction to support students’ creativity and problem-solving and collaborative skills.”

“This report is unprecedented in the range of countries that were included and the compilation of success indicators that are being used across large-scale international studies,” said Gucci Estrella Trinidad, educational researcher at SRI and manager of the research project.

“Countries are exploring different mechanisms and avenues for making technology more accessible to students and teachers to support learning. By making cross-country comparisons, a wider audience can benefit from experiences and solutions of other countries.”

Research took place in two phases during 2009 and 2010. In the first phase, researchers examined literature and the internet for multinational data collections, and they sought to identify methods, instruments, and available data on government efforts to integrate ICT into teaching and learning. The report’s second phase involved updating available data and surveying and interviewing representatives of the 21 governments included in the research.

Countries and governmental bodies included in the report are Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Denmark, England, Estonia, Finland, France, Hong Kong, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Singapore, South Korea, and Sweden.

Important findings

Key findings include:

  • Most governments have teacher technology standards and offer online portals with learning materials and software tools.
  • Many countries in the study offer online training and support web-based communities.
  • Half of included countries assess teachers’ ed-tech skills.
  • About half of the countries are developing or have invested in information systems to monitor student performance and collect data on ed-tech access or use.

A handful of the countries—including Australia, Canada, Estonia, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, Portugal, and South Korea—have invested in large-scale ICT infrastructure projects intended to boost educational systems, increase broadband internet access in schools and homes, and increase hardware access in schools.

Most participating countries have “national-level documents that provided a vision for integrating ICT into primary and secondary education.” Countries use their plans to connect stakeholders and coordinate activities focused on increasing ICT opportunities in schools. Nine countries have comprehensive plans in place, and six countries were at the time of research working to create systematic national plans. Three countries embedded technology guidance in other curriculum materials or national plans that include education.

Two countries, Estonia and the Netherlands, said that instead of implementing ed-tech goals in national documents, they are focusing on creating plans that are reviewed and updated each year with new initiatives and resources.

Many of the participating countries saw private-sector participation in education programs, ranging from private sector contributions of hardware or software, monetary contributions, or partnerships.

Most of the governments said they have agreements with outside organizations to help develop educational resources.

The report was released shortly before Thailand, which wasn’t part of the study, announced plans to buy 900,000 tablet computers (worth an estimated $64.5 million) for all of its primary school students. Distribution of the tablets is to start in May.