With the rise of digital education in recent years, and the preparation for the online assessments included in the Common Core State Standards, school districts are under immense pressure to upgrade their technical infrastructure. Classrooms today increasingly rely on broadband Internet connectivity to provide collaborative learning materials, instructional videos, communications or other media-intensive applications.
The trend is rising, as districts cope with new requirements and new realities. In a recent survey, 34% of teenagers acknowledged having a tablet computer while 86% reported that a smart phone would be their next device. The reality is that the Digital Age is firmly upon us, and its an integral part of our children's lives. While some districts struggle to get up to speed, others have been taking the initiatives to improve on student learning experiences, enhance professional development of their staff and improve the efficiency of performing administrative tasks.
- 76% have a classroom technology standard
- 67% have data dashboards in place
- 65% have a digital content strategy
- 93% have one or more online classes approved for credit
- 85% utilize video-conferencing to offer virtual field trips to students
- 75% maintain a presence on one or more social networking sites
While this trend is favorable, it has not been easy. Most school districts are not equipped with the funding or experience to implement the robust computer networks and connectivity these applications require. Not only do these technologies need to be implemented, they need to be maintained. As new curriculum focuses more heavily on the need for broadband communications, outages have a much higher impact.
In some cases, districts have a hard time managing the demand for broadband communications, especially when usage is heavy during online testing. They are beginning to rely heavily on external IT resources to maintain these systems, as the cost of maintaining them in-house falls outside of their budgets. In fact, the leading area of IT spending among K12 districts in the last 2 years has been IT Services.
Along with the connectivity and communications needs, schools are finding ways to integrate technology in the classroom to enhance the education experience. Realizing that many students today own technology, districts are struggling to find ways to incorporate technology in their day to day curriculum.
A recent trend has been to implement what is called "bring your own technology" (or BYOT) programs. These programs encourage students to bring their own devices to school and connect to the school's network. One of the many advantages of this type of program is that it forces the teacher to adapt to the changing technology as many students will bring different types of devices, many times exposing the teacher to new technology they may not have previously seen.
In a recent study conducted in Maine, kindergarten students were issued an iPad to test whether they would see an improvement in literacy scores. Half of the students received the device at the start of the year, the other half received them 12 weeks later. According to the study, the pupils receiving the iPads early outperformed their peers on all 12 district literacy measurements.
It is important to realize that technology is here to stay, and has become an integral part of our lives. Struggling to keep up with the challenges of integrating technology in the classroom is here to stay as well.