Saturday, July 07, 2012

Importance of Different Budget Allocations for Technology in the Classroom

I offer a guest post that I thought might be of interest to some readers: Budget cuts to schools have led some school districts to increase class sizes and eliminate some teachers. Yet every education expert and school reformer recognizes the importance of introducing technology to today’s students in order to prepare them for the competitive 21st century global economy. Increasing the budget for technology and developing the best online degree programs will require an understanding of how technology works hand-in-hand with teachers in the K-12 classroom and judging by the changing nature of education, this will be a worthwhile investment.

According to Education Reform Studies, “The vision for technology-supported reform-oriented classrooms is one in which student groups work on long-term, multidisciplinary projects involving challenging content that is interesting and important to them with the support of technology tools for collecting, analyzing, displaying, and communicating information.”

That same study identifies four major challenges of integrating technology with education reform, each of which will impact a school system’s budget:

· Providing Adequate Technology Access
· Equalizing Technology Access
· Involving a Majority of Teachers
· Providing Technical Support for Technology Use and Maintenance

One of the many budgetary issues that face schools is the lack of individualized control over spending. For some schools, the primary issue will be increasing student access to technology inside the classroom and possibly after school. Other schools face the issue of a lack of training in technology for the teachers. Teachers without a tech-savvy administrator may find that they have plenty of equipment but don’t know how to use it to best provide education to their students.

According to a survey in Education World, many tech experts in schools would like technology training to become a standard part of the education programs for new teachers.

"I also would like to institute technology proficiency testing for prospective teachers to ensure that new teachers know the basics of technology and are comfortable with using it before they're hired," said Robin Smith, educational technology specialist, Hollidaysburg Area School District, Hollidaysburg, Penn. in the survey. "And I would like to provide laptops for every teacher. Until teachers have access to machines 24/7, and develop a comfort level using them, curriculum integration is only a dream.”

Some school systems have introduced policies that encourage teachers to engage in the use of technology, but those who have little training or who are more focused on other instructional methods may be resistant. Smith suggests providing incentives for teachers to use technology, having principals set the example and making sure teachers are informed about the ways technology can ease their busy schedules.

Access to computers and to the Internet is important to teachers as well as to students. According to CNN, a 2009 survey by “the National Center for Education Statistics found that while 99% of public school teachers have some access to computers, just 29% of public school teachers use them during instructional time ‘often.’”

CNN also reported that an FTC survey in 2010 of schools participating in the agency’s program for discounted telecommunications revealed that 80% of the surveyed schools said their Internet connections “don't fully meet their current needs”.

In addition to the need for access to technology, including the hardware, Internet access and appropriate software, schools will need to provide tech support for the equipment, the teachers and the students. Engaging already overworked teachers requires one more portion of the technology budget, which schools will need to adequately divide to address each of the four challenges to integrating technology into classrooms.

Estelle Shumann
A resident of the State of Washington