Finding ways to assess 21st century learning skills should top the list of education technology priorities for the next Administration and Congress, according to the more than 500 school leaders who responded to a survey issued by the National School Boards Association at the organization’s annual technology and learning conference, T+L.
More than 50 percent of the district leaders surveyed agreed that their top education technology priority for the new Administration and Congress should be assessing 21st century skills. An additional 43 percent called for supporting increased professional development around educational technology, while 38 percent wanted an increased focus on S.T.E.M. subject areas (science, technology, engineering, and math).
School districts noted that their biggest challenge is funding for technology (50 percent), closely followed by integrating technology into the classroom (40 percent). The tight economy is also impacting school districts’ technology programs. Sixty-four percent of districts indicate that they have delayed hardware purchases or upgrades. While the economy has had a negative impact on school districts, two positive factors have emerged: twenty-nine percent of responding districts have explored or adopted open source technologies; and 20 percent have explored "green" IT initiatives as ways to offset costs and save school district money.
Survey respondents listed a variety of ways that school districts are addressing 21st century learning opportunities, including: using new assessment tools to measure 21st century skills (43 percent); raising math, science, and technology standards (38 percent); focusing on career tech readiness programs (34 percent); and offering more Advanced Placement courses and tests (33 percent).
A new question addresses the use of data in school districts. Respondents indicated that instructional decisions are being driven by data in a variety of ways, the largest being professional development to ensure data is accurately interpreted (nearly 67 percent). Other instructional decisions driven by data include allocation of district resources (65 percent), staffing as a reflection of building needs (49 percent), and teacher customization of assignments based on student ability (nearly 45 percent). Fifty-six percent indicated they had student information systems that provide for easy analysis of data.
Survey respondents also note that technology continues to increase educational opportunities for children (93 percent). Students are more engaged in learning (92 percent), curriculum has been enhanced for students with special needs (60 percent), critical thinking skills are increased (58 percent), and students possess a stronger ability to communicate (55 percent). When asked about devices that could best engage students, respondents reported interactive boards (51 percent) were most effective followed by laptops (44 percent), overhead projection (24 percent) and individual response clickers (21 percent).
The digital divide continues to be an issue for school districts, with 70 percent of respondents saying that home access to the internet is a problem for low-income students. Districts are working to alleviate some of this divide by providing access in before- or after-school programs (51 percent) and supporting access for students at community centers or libraries (40 percent).
Survey results may be found on the NSBA Web site at www.nsba.org.
Source: National School Boards Association, www.nsba.org