Thursday, June 10, 2004

School Technology Grows Globally

The articlebrings out that the United States, Australia, and Latvia tie in the ratio of students-to-computer. According to the article, the United States is behind with only 39% of the computers in schools possessing Internet access while Australia has 80% of their schools connected to the Internet. This comparison seemed a little off because the article stated a percentage of total computers in the United States, but a percentage of total schools in Australia. If the percentage of total schools in the United States connected to the Internet was compared to Australia, the percentages would very likely be much closer.

In the Dardanelle School District, I believe the percentage of computers connected to the Internet is much higher than 39%. All teacher computers are connected to the Internet. Both high school labs, the high school library, and both middle school labs, as well as both elementary labs are connected to the Internet. The primary lab may not be connected to the Internet, but that would be the only lab in the district not connected.

With all articles, one must read closely, in order to determine if the comparisons are truly fair. In this article, the wording certainly did not support a fair representation of the comparative data.

Additional information provided in the new tables indicated that Arkansas is one of ten states that require a technology test or technology professional development for teacher and administrator recertification. Sadly, this same table indicated that teachers in poverty stricken and minority schools were more likely to be computer "beginners". As the textbook and other articles have stated, teachers that are not computer literate are less likely to use computers in their lessons. Therefore, teacher training needs to be required in order to lower the percentage of teachers that are classified as computer beginners.

The percentage of 4th grade students using computers in math in Arkansas was also impressive. My son just completed the 4th grade, and he was fortunate to have the opportunity to use computers in a lab setting twice a week. He often spoke of the math lessons and challenging math games he played. The column that indicated only three states currently test students on technology will most likely see change in the upcoming years. As states move toward a more "test oriented" educational improvement plan, testing areas will expand and encompass the technology area as well.

I was encouraged to see that percentages were much closer between high poverty and minority schools and state averages in the areas of: students per instructional computer, students per Internet-connected computer, and percent of schools with access to the Internet. Ninety-eight percent of Arkansas schools have access to the Internet!

Despite the good percentages for Arkansas schools in most areas examined in the tables, room for improvement continues to exist. Two areas where schools could improve are availability of handheld PDA's and laptops. However, I am excited that we are doing as well as we are.

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