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Outlook 2010: Advances in technology provide more learning opportunities for students

Computers and Internet connections have become classroom fixtures for today's students, but schools and universities can't afford to take time and savor that accomplishment. The leading edge of technological innovation is a quickly moving target, and administrators should strive to keep up with how their students and instructors are adopting the latest gadgets and innovations.

The power and speed found in a typical computer has continued to grow, and education institutions should keep their hardware and software up to date to provide students with the most effective learning tools. A report from the National Center for Education Statistics, "Educational Technology in Public School Districts: Fall 2008," looks at some of the ways schools are furthering their commitment to technology in teaching students and managing their campuses:

  • Network: 99 percent of schools had a local area network, and 92 percent of schools were connected to districtwide networks.

  • Replacement: 67 percent of districts said they have a formal replacement plan for computers, and 37 percent of districts had an asset recovery plan for their computers, in which hardware typically is refurbished and recycled. Still, 76 percent of districts reported that they use computers until they no longer work; 83 percent upgrade components or memory to extend a computer's life, and 83 percent repurpose older computers for less demanding tasks.

  • Teacher access: 82 percent of districts provide elementary teachers and 83 percent provide secondary teachers with online space to create web pages and post assignments; 87 percent offer elementary teachers and 95 percent offer secondary teachers access to electronic administrative tools; 73 percent of districts offer elementary teachers and 72 percent offer secondary teachers online access to student assessment tools.

  • Student access: 72 percent of districts offer elementary students and 82 percent of districts offer secondary students online access to school library catalogs; 62 percent of districts offer elementary students and 83 percent of districts offer secondary students electronic storage space on district computer networks; 30 percent of districts provide elementary students and 46 percent of districts provide secondary students with opportunities for distance learning over the Internet or through video conferencing.

  • Professional development: 95 percent of districts offer training to help teachers integrate technology into instruction, but only 39 percent of districts required such training; 91 percent of districts said they provided training on using Internet resources and communication tools for instruction, but only 15 percent of districts required teachers to take the training; 51 percent of districts offered training on creating or using digital portfolios, but only 5 percent required the training.

The report also found that only 42 percent of districts believed that funding for educational technology was adequate, and 47 percent said it was not; 83 percent of districts indicated that the funding they do receive is being spent in the most appropriate way.

Kennedy, staff writer, can be reached at [email protected].

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