Are Schools Meeting Their Technology Goals?

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The best way to find out how technology is being used in classrooms and where schools could use more support is to ask educators. That’s the goal of the annual Software and Information Industry Association’s (SIIA) 2013 Vision K-20 survey. The association reached out to educators around the country through partner organizations, asking them to complete a mostly quantitative survey with a few open-ended questions included. This year more than 1,400 educators responded from all over the country. The responses were evenly distributed between educators at K-12 and post-secondary institutions.

“We had a good cross section of educators because we had so many diverse partners,” said Lindsay Harmon, education market and policy analyst for SIIA. Some members are actively focused on technology in education, like the International Society of Technology in Education (ISTE), but others like Today’s Catholic Teacher Magazine helped SIIA reach educators who might not already be members of technology organizations.

The Vision K-20 survey asks educators about five benchmarks used to determine if technology is being used to help all learners achieve in a connected and digital world. The survey includes:

  1. Using 21st century learning tools for teaching and learning
  2. Providing anytime/anywhere educational access.
  3. Using technology to close the achievement gap
  4. Using technology-based assessment tools
  5. Enabling enterprise through technology (the systems that run a school)

The point of the survey is to provide a snapshot of how educators currently use technology and give educators a way to benchmark progress. Those who participate each year track how quickly their institution is meeting its technology implementation goals. To this end, the survey has begun including a question about the gap between current and ideal implementation.

Technology implementation data has stayed steady over the past three years. Twenty percent of K-12 school educators report that their schools are integrating technology at a high level and 30 percent of post-secondary educators report the same. Three-quarters of responders in both groups said technology is highly important, and they also have high expectations for their ideal level of integration. This is consistent with past years.


Educators also report that schools are integrating technology at the highest level when it comes to security, bandwidth and creating website portals for the community to access online content. These are the same areas that have been most integrated in the past several surveys.

Educators also report using bandwidth for instructional purposes and assessment more often. In the post-secondary market, online tutoring has increased most significantly. The SIIA researchers don’t find any of this too surprising. “One of the things we think is happening is that as schools have had difficult economic times and the bar for tech integration continues to get higher and higher, they've kept up,” said Susan Meell of MMS Education who helped conduct the survey.

In other words, schools didn’t fall too far behind during the recession, but they aren’t integrating technology at the level they’d like. One of the biggest growths is with Bring Your Own Device policies, which schools have begun to adopt in large numbers.

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Almost half of all secondary schools allow students to bring their own devices now and 60 percent anticipate they will allow devices within one year. In elementary schools the integration of BYOD is much lower -- only 20 percent of schools allow devices now. Still, even in the younger age group, educators predict that within five years 70 percent will allow devices. Most schools that have BYOD policies restrict access to sites deemed non-educational like Facebook, Twitter, games and music. In secondary schools more than 80 percent have restrictions and in elementary school 79 percent restrict use to strictly educational purposes.

“Interestingly they said the teacher has total discretion over how it’s used in the classroom,” Meell said. “Teachers could take over device if used improperly.” This data shows that schools are eager to leverage students’ personal devices in the classroom, but are still struggling with the best way to balance instructional use against potential distractions.

While the Vision K-20 survey mostly focuses on getting a numerical snapshot of technology integration, it does ask a few open-ended questions that help reveal how teachers feel about technology integration. Answers range from excitement about new tools and progress to frustration at how few people understand or care about education technology. Teachers also expressed frustration over leadership changes that affect support for technology initiatives, as well as a lack of time to learn how to best use new tools.

“My sense is that most educators feel like they’d like to use tools to deepen learning experiences,” SIIA Vice President Karen Billings said. “They constantly feel that the tech is moving faster than they can keep up. It’s one thing to learn how to use a new piece of tech and another to really know how to use it for classroom needs.”