By Jolie Lee
USA TODAY Network, source: Detroit Free Press
About half of parents and students feel their schools are adequate technology-wise, according to new survey results from the Center for the Digital Future.
Schools that don’t take advantage of these tools are “missing an opportunity,” said Jeff Cole, founder and director of the Center for the Digital Future, based at the University of Southern California, which conducted the survey with Bovitz, Inc.
About 56% of parents said they think the technological facilities at their child’s school are adequate, with 15% disagreeing and the remainder taking no view, according to the survey results.
Less than half of students said their teachers were adequately teaching them to use new technologies, and 23% said they did not think this was happening, according to the survey.
This gap will continue to exist for another 15-20 years “or until the (digital) natives are most of the teachers,” Cole said.
Oftentimes, it’s not that teachers are “technophobes,” but they lack the training to incorporate new technologies into their curriculum, said Joshua Bleiberg, research analyst for technology innovation at Brookings Institution.
“Policymakers tend to have this attitude that if we throw iPads at students and teachers that it will magically help them learn better. That’s not really the case,” Bleiberg said.
A survey by digiedu of K-12 teachers found 92% of respondents think technology has a positive effect on student engagement, according to the April 2014 survey.
But 46% of the teachers surveyed said they don’t always feel they are well-trained to use technology in the classroom.
Classroom of the future
Teacher training was a key part of the digital conversion at Mooresville Graded School District in North Carolina, which has been lauded as a national success story for how to make technology in the classroom work.
in 2008, the school district made a Macbook Air available to every 4th-12th grade student.
“From the beginning, we knew that success should not be just related to hardware, but to professional development,” said Mark Edwards, school district superintendent.
The district offers training year-round, as well as a summer institute for teachers. Training started with how to use the technology and expanded into content, including using data to evaluate how students were doing, Edwards said.
Learning is now much more collaborative and project-based. Tables replace desks, and teachers move from group to group like “roaming conductors,” Edwards said.
Even though the district ranked 114th in the state for spending per student in 2011-2012, Mooresville ranked third statewide for standardized testing and second for graduation rates in the following school year.
The school district did not take out grants, relying instead of existing resources. The cost of the computers and training for teachers costs about $220 per student, Edwards said. It’s a model that he said is replicable in other school districts.
Edwards acknowledged that such a large cultural shift wasn’t easy, but by the third year of the project, 90% of teachers had embraced using technology. He said teachers quickly recognized “digital content far superseded bound textbooks.”