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U.S. schools not making the grade when it comes to education technology

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Here’s a bit of disappointing but not-so-surprising news: according to a new report from the nonprofit think tank Center for American Progress (CAP), U.S. schools aren’t doing enough to enable technology in the classroom to live up to its potential.

Not only are students across the country frequently using technology for basic skills (for example, middle school students are mostly using computers for drills and practice exercises, not data analysis or other activities that really take advantage of computing power and sophisticated software), schools aren’t looking at the returns on their technology-related investments. The CAP also found that students from high-poverty areas were less likely to get access to rigorous science and technology learning opportunities.

“In this analysis, it quickly became clear to us that many schools and districts have not taken full advantage of the ways that technology can be used to dramatically improve education-delivery systems,” the report said.

The report comes as investments and innovation in education technology are on the rise. According to Chicago consulting firm GSV Advisors, venture capital spending in K-12 education climbed more than 150 percent between 2010 and 2012 to $334 million. And as we’ve reported previously, accelerator programs for education technology startups are popping up across the country to court a growing class of education entrepreneurs.

Despite increased innovation in ed tech, the CAP report pointed out several obstacles standing in the way of smart approaches to classroom technology. It’s not just that educators have been historically resistant to new technology, it’s that schools often don’t have the resources, right incentives or flexibility to implement pro-technology programs.

Citing an analysis from technology expert Lee Wilson, for example, the report said it could cost a school 552 percent more to implement iPad textbooks. If cost isn’t the issue, it might be because a state requires schools to focus on the amount of time a student is spending in a seat — instead of his performance — to determine whether he should move ahead. For some principals and school leaders, the problem is that they lack the power to choose the technology they think would be best for their kids.

So, what are our technology-challenged schools to do? In addition to calling on advocates to push for more studies evaluating the cost-effectiveness of education technology, the Center recommends that policymakers promote school management environments that are friendlier to new ways of doing things and more responsive to access issues in poorer areas. I’d also add that, while it’s still just a couple of years old, the Innovation Zone (iZone) program launched by the New York City Department of Education offers an interesting approach to figuring out how to improve learning through technology. The program includes about 250 of the city’s 1,700 public schools and is charged with testing new technology-compatible models and tools, creating relationships between educators and the tech community and scaling promising projects.

CAP said that its study was based on data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a test administered to students every two years by the U.S. Department of Education, as well as a state-by-state review of state department of education websites to see if states had evaluated the return on their technology-related spending.

8 Responses to “U.S. schools not making the grade when it comes to education technology”

  1. Tommy

    Backupthat came to my classroom last year and helped train and set up a full cloud storage solution for my school. I think more companies should offer things like this. It would help with workflow at the very least.

  2. robotczar

    Opinions based on ideology are a dime a dozen. What is really needed is valid evidence. Most of the scientific evidence supports the idea that technology does not matter much in education. What matters is the actual instructional method, not what technology is associated with that method. CAP needs to provide some evidence (the scientific kind, which isn’t ) that using more data processing applications will somehow help students meet instructional goals). A long history of research about educational technology support the idea that different technology have no effect if the same instructional method is used. Most non-scientists’ views on education seem to be looking for easy answers. No gains or narrowing of the achievement gap have been realized as a result of using digital technology for over thirty years, suggesting that technology alone is not really as powerful of an educational tool as we would like to believe. (I have been involved with educational use and research for longer than 30 years.)

  3. Robert Rydberg

    Heck, they don’t make the grade in teaching reading and writing. Forget Math and Science. And you are concerned about Technology? Give me a break…..

  4. Gord Holden

    Isn’t it good to know that over one billion students who are registered in virtual environments at home can’t wait to get home to their smartboard, or their distance education course using Blackboard. (NOT) Sheesh! Instead of researching the teachers’ use of 20th century technology, why not just ask the students what engages them and stimulates their thinking. Then get with the program called progress!

  5. Vanessa Frazier

    Isn’t it interesting that given all the progress in technology, we continue to suffer in our educational efforts toward all students. In SC we are sticking to our guns with welcoming God back to public schools so that He will provide our students with the wisdom, understanding and knowledge that they need to move with the pace of technology and any other subject matter. (

  6. I have to admit it greatly disappoints me that a school would do this. Education is extremely important for young minds, but it’s important and vital that we are aware of this information. Thank you for making it known to us!