An NEA policy brief

Technology in Schools: The Ongoing Challenge
of Access, Adequacy and Equity
If our children are to excel in a fast-changing, global society, we must harness the
technology resources they need to function in a digital age. We must remember our
commitment to their future as we set priorities and establish policies on their behalf.
—NEA President Dennis Van Roekel

reat strides have been made in infusing technology makers who advocate the learning of skills relevant to the
into schools and into the instructional process. 21st century strongly argue that literacy in information and
School districts have invested heavily in the infra- communications technology (ICT)—which relies on skills
structures required to accommodate such as thinking and problem solving, communicating
computers and the Internet. They effectively, self-direction and productivity—requires fully
have commandeered resources to integrating technology with classroom learning.2
purchase software and technical A national count of computers in public schools shows a
support for students and staff, and ratio of 3.8-to-1 for the number of students sharing an
they have mandated professional “instructional computer” with Internet access3 —but the
development for educators and administrators. Some have data makes no distinctions between computers in the class-
even established curriculum standards for technology to rooms and those in school technology labs. All computers
ensure that students achieve a certain level of competency in the school are counted as being used for “instructional
before they graduate. purposes” whether or not they are available for students’
Yet, despite the overall progress, many schools are not use. Beyond that definition, the ratio does not reflect how
making full use of technology as a component of compre- computers are distributed across districts, schools, and
hensive school reform. The pace of implementation may classrooms of varying demographics. The state of Maryland,
be slow partly because of competing priorities, and partly for example, reports that, on average, only 10 percent of
because of the lack of reliable information, resources, and classrooms in the state have five or more computers.4
expertise on which to make decisions and guide imple- To supplement classroom computers, districts are begin-
mentation. This policy brief is offered as a resource to ning to rely more upon portable and wireless computers
help policymakers, researchers, and educators gain fur- that can be moved between classrooms and can be used
ther insight into the issues of access, adequacy, and outside of school by staff and students. Districts across
equity in education technology, and to offer recommen- the country are beginning to seek public and private
dations on how to ensure greater balance in the integra- funds to buy more laptops, and they are looking to install
tion of technology in schools. wireless infrastructures that would permit more flexibility
in the use of their school technology. 5,6
Where are the computers?
Although schools have made progress in bringing comput- Internet, software, and technical
ers and the Internet to students and staff, greater access is support are concerns
still needed in order for technology to become a reliable Providing access to the Internet, as well as obtaining appro-
tool for teaching and learning. Studies continue to docu- priate software, are also issues for many educators, particu-
ment that the availability and quality of technology is woe- larly those working with young students and those
fully inadequate in most classrooms, and most educators working in urban schools. Educators working in the early
report their classroom is not the main location in the school grades need increased access to the Internet, as well as
where their students use computers.1 Educators and policy- more age-appropriate software for their students. This is

NEA Education Policy and Practice Department | Center for Great Public Schools | 1201 16th St., NW, Washington, D.C. 20036

such as in online learning prompted NEA and other organizations to inquiry learning. do their job more effectively. demonstrating positive links to student achievement in a tive approach to technology whereby students build on variety of subjects. The link between technology educators in urban and rural/small town schools are more and achievement likely to agree strongly about the value of technology for Even with funding and policy limitations. and Texas) have been found to fos- schools. and motivation. the full their general knowledge of technology and see it as hav- integration of technology into teaching and learning is a ing an impact on their job effectiveness. home to some students with disabilities. Studies show that multistep process that goes well beyond buying equip. but the vast majority also believe their students and technical personnel make up a large part of the enjoy learning more with technology. Virginia.14 Researchers are finding a clear link their skills each year they progress through the grades. at least 23 Although educators do get technology training. and the technology standards that are in place for the work experience for classroom teachers. 7 between technology.20 The guidelines are intended to help students.21 Also. using an integra. during teacher educa. receive instruction online.18 In Florida. most do states are now operating virtual schools where students can not feel prepared to use technology for instructional pur. and of their knowledge rather than having all information flow even assess online courses. and simulations to help students work together to develop guidelines for course develop- develop higher-order thinking skills.11 Experts is not available. the growth nology to deliver alternative kinds of pedagogy. par- technology to become more involved in the construction ents. use.19 In fact. Technology also has a significant effect on the quality of mon. need greater techni. Urban educators are school technology budget. NW. Of the 48 states are generally positive about technology. in Maine who received laptops are reported to be more tions and Internet access—still must seek other resources engaged and able to produce higher quality work.22 Perhaps the value of technology districts are engaging their students with a multitude of in urban and rural schools rests mostly with its usefulness 2 NEA Education Policy and Practice Department | Center for Great Public Schools | 1201 16th St. achievement. models. newer teachers with technology standards for students. 13. particularly in urban areas. 20036 . Educators in senior high New York. town schools are now able to use videoconferencing and tion programs.C. from their teachers. Rural and small should be emphasized much earlier. students utilize ment. seventh. and school administrators create. Washington. the Web to provide courses in subjects where a local teacher ments as part of the licensing requirements. but only 19 states have technology require. teachers. Here. 16 cal support to help set up and use technology in their Most educators agree that technology improves student classrooms. experts engaged in the technology debate agree that stu- lenge in many schools. itive impact on their students. School. Educators working in urban dents and teachers tend to be more engaged and inter- schools who have relied on the federal e-rate fund—a ested when technology is an integral part of teaching and program which provides discounts to assist public learning. and some districts now offer services at further believe that teachers should know how to use tech. and support for their computers. 10 mandating that high school students have at least one Some technology advocates believe technology training “online learning experience” to graduate.17 ing technology in.and eighth-grade students schools and libraries to obtain affordable telecommunica. when educators use technology they feel they are able to ment and offering basic technology training. several states and them and their students.15 while to help upgrade software and to provide maintenance distance learning projects in several states (Florida. New Jersey. D. almost 45. are even more enthusiastic. but most often is not given particularly strong in their belief that technology has a pos- the proper attention during the planning phase of bring.. An NEA policy brief especially important to districts that are paying particular technology-enriched curricula and instruction and are attention to technology in the early years. While teachers students or teachers are not being applied. Most Computer maintenance and upgrades are also a chal. Educators dents in grades 6–12 take courses online from the Virtual in urban and rural schools are much less likely than subur.8 Experts agree that maintenance capabilities learning. More of them are satisfied with dents on their knowledge of technology. only four test stu. ter collaborative learning and student interest in science. However. especially for individualized instruction. and Michigan became the first state to pass a law ban educators to feel adequately trained.9 Enthusiasm for technology has led many school districts to successfully alter not only the curriculum but also the way Who’s using technology—and for what? the curriculum is delivered. 12 Clearly. while most educators agree that technology is essential to teaching and learning.000 stu- poses. By recent counts. such uses still are not com. For example.

the curriculum standards in K–12 education for students’ use. Capitalize on teachers’ and students’ enthusiasm Programs designed to close the achievement gaps must about technology begin addressing equity issues related to Internet access. but. Improve access to technology students develop cognitive skills through the manipulation Educators have been remarkably creative with limited and feedback generally provided in quality instruction. 2 Partnership for 21st Century Skills. other multimedia. ships with commercial and private enterprises. and more ative ways by permitting more flexibility in instruction and instructional staff should be involved in making decisions by providing incentives that support technology-enriched about software purchases for their schools. and technical support. 5. most commonly offered for adminis. need better instructional software. nology by lobbying state legislatures. 2008. Involve educators as advocates Maintenance support for computers must be adequate to Teacher organizations. Educators across the greatest gain in student achievement. 1 National Education Association – American Federation of 3. More ways should be found to motivate the elementary schools should have more age-appropriate most experienced educators to use technology through software for students. Another important point is separating the instructional support role of paraprofessionals from that References of providing maintenance and technical support. particularly in urban board should have greater access to computer software for and rural/small-town schools. nology into education. State and local Associations can nologies should be available in every school. NW. and seeking fied students to provide technical assistance where federal and private grants. can be a valuable ally in the goal of fully integrating tech- Quality technical support for computers and other tech. Educators in programs. tury: A Report and Mile Guide for 21st Century Skills. insure that computers function properly and reliably. needed. where maintenance teaching and learning. computer access. and and school districts should pay more attention to build. should focus more Support Professionals on Technology in Public Schools and Class- on applications for instruction. particularly since urban and rural areas. address software issues. real-time. Computers and other technologies should be used in class- rooms as assistive learning tools that help educators design NEA’s policy recommendations and present individualized lessons for students and help 1. in should encourage schools to use technology in more cre- particular. 2002. but if technology is to be integrated Moreover. Learning for the 21st Cen- ogy. Increase Internet access.pdf. www. assistive-learning tool. NEA Education Policy and Practice Department | Center for Great Public Schools | 1201 16th St. DC: nities provided for educators working in schools located in Author. tion Technology: Results of a Survey of America’s Teachers and tration.nea. access to high-quality professional development in technol. Particular also help educate parents and the business community attention should be given to senior high schools. should have images/ such as NEA and its state affiliates. 20036 3 . Expand professional development in technology Teachers (NEA-AFT). Educators in urban schools. Access. DC: Author.. www. One and state efforts to secure more funding for school tech- option is for districts or schools to make use of their stu. rooms. and expand technical support 4. just as importantly. as well about the benefits of better integrating technology into as to schools located in urban areas. Schools should seek more ways to use technology for the software.C. establishing partner- dents’ technical expertise by formally arranging for quali. they need better training and more curriculum-related opportunities. more computers must be made available access. State and district leaders planning and instruction. work and in a manner that enhances their creativity and learning of higher-order skills. communications. D. Washington.An NEA policy brief as an engaging. more high-speed Internet services. They can actively support district and technical support are less likely to be provided. as well as experienced fession.asp. where educators believe the technol- students in lower income urban and rural areas have less ogy training in their schools has not been adequate. Washington. whether that is through stand-alone should include technology as an instructional tool to computers or portable and wireless technologies.21stcenturyskills. And those entering the pro. Washington. and research. access to technology outside of school. Particular attention should be paid to training opportu. States facilitate learning through interactive. Adequacy and Equity in Educa- Technology training. The curriculum should require stu- ing wireless infrastructures that can support increased dents to use technology as an integral part of their class access to technology. in order to expand the limits of information into instruction. 2.

.org.C. Washington. 2007. 14 Statistics. mal and Informal Learning: Evaluating the Sea Trek Distance Learn- schools020. Lessons from our Nation’s 16 1997. Public SRI International. NEA-AFT technology survey. ME: Maine Education Policy Research Institute.” 26(30): 10– cepare/Impact_on_Student_Writing_Brief. Washington. Washington. Profiles in Success: Henrico County Public One-to-One Laptop Program on Middle School Teachers and Stu- Schools Continuous Learning. “Getting Up To Speed. 2005. 2007. 2007.” Electronic School (June).maine.edc.” The Journal of Technology. Keisch.bc.html. 7 Mehlinger. www. Teachers’ Tools for the 21st Century: A Report on Teachers’ Use of Technology. Allen.shtml ing Project. 4 NEA Education Policy and Practice Department | Center for Great Public Schools | 1201 16th St. R.electronic-school. V. M. Silvernail. W. DC: Wash- 12 Ibid. http://md. Bridging the Gap between For- Schools Series. Whaley. 17 ing.ed.. Education Week 26(30): 42– 13 C. DC: U. A. 2005.ed. The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) provides leadership and service to improve teaching. www. “Examining the Relationship between Home and School 4 Maryland State Department of 20 National Education Association. coalition building. MD: Scores. H. Richmond.iste. “Tracking U. Menlo Schools and Classrooms: 1994–2005. http://nces. and school leadership by advancing the use of technology in PreK–12 and teacher education. D. Resources The Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) provides products and services to support leadership development.pdf. National Center for Education O’Dwyer. D. courses.. 21 National Center for Education Statistics. dents. www. VA: Author. http://cct. Department of Education. Tucker-Seeley. Author. ington. Technology in Education. Trotter. Where Do We Computer Use and Students’ English/Language Arts Test Stand in 2007: Technology Inventory Results.html. L. D. C. New York: Center for Children and Technology. pubs2000/2000102.html. learning. CA: 22 NEA-AFT technology An NEA policy brief 3 Wells. DC.S. J. Korbak. E-DESK: A Review of Recent Evidence on the Effectiveness of Discrete Educational Software. It’s Time to Let the Technology Transform School.S. 26(30): 34–36. “Learning with Laptops: An Urban School Shows Gains.. Means. see note 1. 2002. 2006. “E-Learning Curve. 10 NEA-AFT technology survey.S. and D. D. www. Penuel.ontargetus.. University of Southern Maine Office. see note 1. NW. and D. W.sri. DC: National School Robelen. M. http://ctl. Internet Access in U. 2007. L. B. Lewis.R. www. Lane. Task3_FinalReport3.edweek. www.” Education Week 19 9 Bausell. see note 1. Online guide to high school toc/2007/03/29/index. 6 Delisio. 2007. Bebell.cosn. Ellen R.usm. and E.S. 11 Ibid.pdf. and J. M.. A. Portland. R.” Education World. 20036 2008 (PB19) . http://nces. www. “The Next Step: Now That Schools Have Technology. Maryland Business Roundtable for Education Committee on http://escholarship. Klemick. E. Department of Education.” Education Week 18 Boards Association. www. Russell. Learning and Assessment 3(3). 2000. advocacy. and awareness of emerging technologies for K-12 education.pdf. and L. see note 1. 8 NEA-AFT technology survey. and K.pdf. The Impact of Maine’s 15 5 Apple Education.nea. Washington.