Help Desk

By Published on .

Teachers in need of tech support.

We may be living in the Information Age, but don't assume that your child's classroom is a high-tech haven. A recent study by Market Data Retrieval (MDR) reveals that even as the number of computers and Internet connections in public schools grows, few teachers have the knowledge or skills to integrate the newest technologies into their lesson plans. According to the Shelton, Connecticut-based market research firm, only 8 percent of public schools have a majority of staff members with advanced technology skills.

Adequate computer equipment is no longer a problem for most public K-12 schools in the U.S. The national student to computer ratio during the 1999-2000 academic year was 4.9-to-1, down from 9.1-to-1 in 1995. The student to multimedia computer ratio improved even more dramatically, dropping from 21.2-to-1 in 1997 to 7.9-to-1 in 2000. And the number of schools with Internet access tripled from 32 percent in 1997 to 94 percent in 2000. But while the nation's schools spent an estimated $5.67 billion on educational technology during the 1999-2000 academic year — an average of $121.37 per student — just 17 percent of it was allocated for staff development.

“Ultimately, education technology is not about technology,� write the authors of the report, entitled “Technology in Education 2000.� “It's about what teachers and students are doing with the technology to extend their knowledge and understanding of the world around them.�

Only 63 percent of America's public schools report that the majority of their teachers use the Internet for instructional purposes, even though more than 80 percent have access from their classrooms. And only 13 percent of schools currently subscribe to online curriculum. But interestingly, the Web is more widely used by educators in North Dakota, Alaska, Nebraska, and South Dakota — states with many rural schools and limited access to cultural institutions, extensive library systems, or university resources.

On the bright side, teacher usage and skill level has increased over the past year: 76 percent of schools say that the majority of their teachers use computers daily, compared with 69 percent in 1999. And in 2000, just 28 percent of schools placed most of their educators in the “beginner� category, compared with 38 percent who did so in 1998.

Still, only 8 percent of schools say that the majority of their teachers are at an advanced skill level where they are able to integrate use into the curriculum. Forty-six percent of schools report that the bulk of their teachers are at the intermediate skill level — able to use a variety of computer applications, but not adept at integrating technology into the curriculum.

Some blame college teaching programs for failing to properly train new teachers, which is a potential problem, considering that 2 million new teachers are expected to join the ranks by 2008. According to MDR, about half of first- and second-year teachers say that their college experience left them only “somewhat prepared� to integrate technology into classroom instruction. Only 13 percent felt “very well prepared,� and 26 percent felt “well prepared.� However, 54 percent of teachers who received more than 10 hours of training in the past 12 months say they were “very well� or “well� prepared to integrate technology into their classrooms.

Kathleen Brantley, MDR director of product development, expects the public schools to pick up more of the slack in the future. Right now, on average, schools offer 19 hours of technology-related training to their teachers each year, but that is likely to increase. “In the 1998-99 school year, public schools devoted 14 percent of their tech spending to professional training, and in 1999-2000, that rose to 17 percent,� says Brantley. “In addition, the total spending on technology rose by 2.5 percent, so the overall pie is growing.�

For more information on “Technology in Education 2000,� contact MDR at (203) 926-4800 or visit www.schooldata.com.

Gray Matter

The median age of people who attend fine arts events is growing faster than the population as a whole.

MEDIAN AGE OF… 1982 1992 1997
U.S. population 40 42 43
Opera attendees 44 45 45
Classical music attendees 40 45 46
Musical theater attendees 39 43 44
Theatergoers 39 44 44
Ballet attendees 37 40 44
Art museum visitors 36 40 43
Jazz concert attendees 29 37 41
Source: Age and Arts Participation, 1982-1997, by Richard A. Peterson, Pamela C. Hull, and Roger M. Kern
In this article:
Most Popular