Technology changing classrooms, some more than others

newsroom@tri-statedefender.com | 4/8/2014, 10:43 a.m.

 

"If the teachers aren't able to access the web, they aren't able to access as many high quality lessons," she said.

Racing ahead, falling behind

By 2022, the federal government [HYPERLINK: http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ostp/pcast-engage-to-excel-final_2-25-12.pdf] expects [HYPERLINK: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1gySkItxiJn_vwb8HIIKNXqen184mRtzDX12cux0ZgZk/pub] one million more tech jobs than workers available to fill them. Yet, only one-fifth of its $4.3 billion annual budget for the STEM fields—science, technology, engineering and math—is allocated for pre-bachelor's education. [HYPERLINK: http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/research/files/reports/2013/06/10%20stem%20economy%20rothwell/thehiddenstemeconomy610].

The result is an education infrastructure unable to meet the needs of our increasingly tech-centric society.

Evan Marwell, CEO and Founder of EducationSuperHighway, a Gates and Zuckerberg funded non-profit committed to upgrading every public school in the United States to a more robust and learning ready Internet connection, says bandwidth demand is growing from 30-50 percent a year, in part because more schools are using online resources.

Yet as of 2013, the average American school had roughly the same bandwidth as the average American home, but that bandwidth was shared between hundreds of students. [HYPERLINK: http://benton.org/node/167549].

Nationally, only 20 percent of students in the United States currently have access to high-speed Internet in the classroom. [HYPERLINK: http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/connected_fact_sheet.pdf]. And using SchoolSpeedTest [HYPERLINK: www.schoolspeedtest.org/‎] data, one finds that only around 30 percent of schools meet the basic Internet speed standard set by the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SEDTA).

According to SEDTA, classrooms now need 100 kilobytes per student. By 2017 they expect that to increase to one megabyte per student in order to prepare them for college and 21st century careers. [HYPERLINK: http://www.setda.org/c/document_library/get_file?folderId=353&name=DLFE-1515.pdf]

New standards, more tech

For schools in low-income areas that have fewer resources at their disposal the picture is even more troubling. [HYPERLINK: https://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/more-40-low-income-schools-dont-get-fair-share-state-and-local-funds-department-] Students in these schools typically access the Internet less often than students in wealthier areas [HYPERLINK: http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/publications/2013/teens_and_technology], while nearly two-thirds of teachers working in low-income schools said they wanted more technology in the classroom [HYPERLINK: http://www.pbs.org/about/news/archive/2013/teacher-tech-survey/].

Brett Turner, Director of Personalized Learning for the state says that access to high-quality, student-specific age-appropriate content is necessary.

"Technology is a critical component behind personalized learning, providing students, teachers, families, and others opportunities previously thought impossible," he said.

Implementation of Common Core may help deliver just that.

The Common Core is a set of new education standards designed to revamp the way schools instruct and assess students [HYPERLINK: http://newamericamedia.org/2014/02/qa-common-core-a-response-to-growing-classroom-diversity.php. Many states are already using Common Core. Now many districts are preparing to begin the related computer-based assessments — and for that they are buying new devices and increasing their online connectivity. Where before schools had 1 computer for every 10 children, now they are moving toward 7-1, 5-1 and in some cases 1-1.

This is in line with the National Education Technology Plan [HYPERLINK: http://www.ed.gov/technology/netp-2010] which calls for adding "state-of-the art technology into learning to enable, motivate and inspire all students," and with ConnectED [HYPERLINK: http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/connected_fact_sheet.pdf], a technology initiative aiming to add high-speed digital connections in schools by 2018.

What works?

According to a 2010 study [HYPERLINK: pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/125/4/756.full.pdf] young people now spend more time with media than they do in school — it is the leading activity for children and teenagers other than sleeping. Still, most of the time young people spend online is used for things like gaming and social activities like messaging and checking Facebook. Not for doing homework.