Education Vital Signs: Technology Focus
The “first wave” of school technology was characterized by the heady if somewhat ill formed idea that schools could do something big with the Internet and related technology. The “second wave” was all about building the digital infrastructure. Schools across the country, aided by funds from the federal E-rate, raced to connect to the Internet. Now schools are well into perhaps the most interesting and challenging age of all: In this so-called third wave, school districts are experimenting with integrating technology into all aspects of their programs, from instruction and assessment, to attendance, transportation, procurement and communications. In the instructional realm, districts are using innovative technology to assist students with disabilities and have been working to close the “digital divide” between disadvantaged students and the majority. One thing is for certain: technology will continue to change at a rapid pace – both in schools and in society at large.
Ed tech success stories
A report from the Brookings Institution, “Education Technology Success Stories,” says that educational technologies have evolved beyond merely assisting in group work and the presentation of lectures. Modern educational technologies include games, simulations, and augmented reality, where students’ learning occurs with nearly invisible prompts from teachers. The report focuses on a discussion of five new and successful educational technologies: robot-assisted language learning, massive open online courses, the virtual-world game Minecraft, computerized adaptive testing, and stealth assessments.
A report from Education Week, “Building the Digital District,” says that educators feel that, despite their best efforts, the technological advances occurring in their classrooms still lag far behind those taking place outside of schools. The report also says that almost all states face the necessity of updating their technology so they can administer the new online Common Core State Standards assessments, and that those schools with an inadequate technology infrastructure increasingly find themselves unable to deliver curriculum to students.
Apps collecting data from kids
A report from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), "Mobile Apps for Kids," finds that despite a warning from the FTC this past September, software developers continue to create apps for kids that collect and then report information about them to third parties. Only about 20 percent of the apps for kids studied by the FTC made any attempt to disclose the app’s privacy practices, and 60 percent were sending information back to an advertising network or the app developer. The FTC plans to conduct nonpublic investigations to determine whether these actions constitute violations of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, and is also considering launching a consumer education campaign intended to inform parents about mobile apps.
Technology for online assessments
The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (Smarter Balanced) has released its Smarter Balanced Technology Strategy Framework and Systems Requirements Specifications for the technology districts will need to support upcoming electronic assessments. Smarter Balanced finds that computers, Chromebooks, iPads, and Android tablets running on newer operating systems will be adequate for online testing. Any device used for online assessments must have a 10-inch screen, a keyboard, Internet access, and allow features that could lead to cheating to be disabled during the assessment. Thirty-three states already offer online assessments with varying degrees of success. Wyoming switched to online testing in 2010, resulting in chaos and a lawsuit against standardized testing giant Pearson, according to digital.hechingerreport.org.
A survey of advanced placement and National Writing Project teachers finds that 77 percent of them feel that the Internet and digital search tools have had a mostly positive effect on students’ research efforts, but at the same time 87 percent of them feel that these same technologies are making their students easily distracted and shortening their attention spans. Overall, 64 percent of the teachers surveyed felt that the technologies “do more to distract students than to help them academically.” Additionally, 60 percent of the teachers surveyed for the Pew Research Center’s "How Teens Do Research in the Digital World" felt that modern technologies actually make it harder for their students to find credible resources.
A poll by the Lead Commission finds that 89 percent of teachers and 76 percent of parents would rather spend $200 per student for a device with an Internet connection than on new science books. Ninety-five percent of teachers and 90 percent of parents polled say that having high-speed Internet access at home gives students a big or at least moderate advantage in schoolwork. Ninety-six percent of teachers and 92 percent of parents believe that it is important to integrate technology into teaching and learning, but 61 percent of teachers and 63 percent of parents feel that the U.S. is behind the curve in accomplishing this.
Open source learning
Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are creating a free, open source, online learning platform -- edX -- to enable the study of teaching methods and tools. Certificates of mastery will be awarded for demonstrated knowledge of the massively open online course (MOOC) material, but no credits can be earned at either university for successful completion. The new platform is based on MIT’s existing online learning platform, MITx. Some 120,000 students worldwide enrolled in its first class, Circuits and Electronics; 10,000 passed the recent mid-term examination.
Collaboration tools like wikis, blogs, social media, and video games allow unmediated, unfiltered communication and lower information costs -- and have fundamentally changed the way information is disseminated, particularly in classroom communication. A report from the Brookings Institution, "How Blogs, Social Media, and Video Games Improve Education," says that social media now serve as trust filters for teachers and students; digital content that is recommended by online friends and acquaintances is likely to be accessed. This type of collaboration enhances education and is a new and vital part of learning.
Texting among teens
The median number of texts sent per day by teens is now 60. A new report from Pew Internet, "Teens, Smartphones & Texting," finds that older girls send the most texts -- 100 each day. Older boys send 50. Sixty-three percent of all teens send text messages every day, surpassing all other forms of daily communication. A third of teens never talk to friends on a landline telephone. Only 26 percent of the 77 percent of teens who own cell phones use them to connect with friends. Of these, 23 percent own smartphones.
Participants in a recent survey were slightly more positive than negative when considering the effects of modern technologies and social networking on Millennials’ future lives. "Millennials Will Benefit and Suffer Due to their Hyperconnected Lives," reporting results from a Pew Research Center survey, reveals that 55 percent of respondents agreed that in 2020 the brains of teens and young adults will be “wired” differently from people over age 35, and that this will yield helpful results overall. Forty-two percent of those surveyed predicted this same situation will yield bad results.
Online K-12 Schooling in the U.S.
The rapid increase of full-time virtual schools has also increased concern that the schools are largely unregulated and that little or no data exists on how these schools are performing, according to Online K-12 Schooling in the U.S., a study by the National Education Policy Center. The study authors recommend an accreditation system for virtual schools, as well as required state financial audits and making sure that student testing is performed in person.
Teacher’s Use of Educational Technology in U.S. Public Schools: 2009
Ninety-seven percent of teachers participating in a 2009 federal survey on educational technology availability and use in public elementary and secondary schools said that they had one or more computers available in their classroom every day. Ninety-three percent of those classroom computers had Internet access. Forty percent of the teachers surveyed reported that they or their students used the computers during instruction time “often.” The ratio of students to computers in the classrooms was 5.3 to 1.
Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8- to 18-Year-Olds
Today’s 8- to 18-year-olds spend 7.5 hours a day consuming media -- more time than most of their parents spend at work, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation study, Generation M2. Because children tend to multitask while consuming media -- talking on their cell phones while listening to their MP3 players while surfing Facebook -- those 7.5 hours effectively become 10 hours and 45 minutes of media usage per day. Twenty percent of all youth media consumption now occurs on mobile devices.
K-12 Online Learning: A 2008 Follow-up of the Survey of U.S. School District Administrators
K-12 Online Learning: A 2008 Follow-up of the Survey of U.S. School District Administrators, a new study from the Sloan Consortium, reports that 1.03 million K-12 students engaged in online courses in 2007-08, an increase of 47 percent since 2005-06. Seventy-five percent of the public school districts responding had one or more students enrolled in a fully online or blended course.
Online Learning Policy Survey: A Survey of the States
Results of a national survey by e.Republic’s Center for Digital Education (CDE) reveal significant growth in state and district support for online learning in K-12 education. Statewide initiatives are now in place in 27 states. CDE named Florida as the No. 1 state in online education. Nearly 125,000 students attend Florida’s Virtual School. CDE’s top 10 states in online education are Florida, South Carolina, New Mexico, Hawaii, Michigan, Louisiana, Idaho, Minnesota, Oregon, and Arkansas.
Online School for Girls
A consortium of independent all-girls’ schools that includes Harpeth Hall School (Tenn.), Holton-Arms School (Md.), Laurel School (Ohio), and Westover School (Conn.) is launching the new Online School for Girls. It is addressing two trends at once: single-sex education and online learning. The new school will offer two pilot courses in the fall semester and four courses in the spring semester. As Holton’s Director of Technology Brad Rathgeber says “We believe that girls inhabit online spaces differently than boys, and that this initiative can combine a powerful, transformative online learning environment for girls with a high-quality, 21st century academic experience.”
2009 Vision K-20 Survey Results
More schools are using high-speed Internet than ever, but progress remains slow in terms of broader adoption of educational technology and using these tools to improve instruction and student learning, according to a survey by the Software and Information Industry Association (SIIA). The SIIA Vision K-20 Survey says schools’ progress in incorporating tech-based assessment tools is hampered by tight budgets.
Leadership for Web 2.0 in Education: Promise and Reality
While school administrators recognize the potential of Web 2.0 applications to accelerate learning, they remain hesitant to expand their use, according to a Consortium for School Networking report. Most administrators work to control or limit their use in classrooms. The report found that administrators were willing to revise their policies, but worry that such tools may waste student’s or teacher’s time.
Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning: A Meta-Analysis and Review of Online Learning Studies
A report from the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) finds that online learning is more effective than face-to-face instruction. The DOE’s report, Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning: A Meta-Analysis and Review of Online Learning Studies, shows that average students who took some or all of a course online tended to perform in the 59th percentile. Average classroom-based students tended to score in the 50th percentile.
ExploraVision Awards Program
The Toshiba/National Science Teachers Association ExploraVision Awards Program is now accepting entries for its 2010 program. ExploraVision challenges teams of two to four students to design innovative technologies that could exist 20 years in the future, stimulating them to research scientific principles and current technologies. Students on four first-place teams will each receive a $10,000 U.S. Series EE Savings Bond. Students on the four second-place teams will each receive a $5,000 bond. All of the winners, their families, mentors, and coaches will receive an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C., in June 2010 for a gala awards weekend.