By Justin Boyle
With all the buzz in the news about education technology, one would think that teachers were integrating cutting-edge teaching tools into their lesson plans faster than edtech startups could pump them into the market.
But according to a nationwide survey by the Software and Information Industry Association (SIIA), that isn’t exactly the case. The report on their findings, presented at the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) conference and expo in June 2013, suggests that technology integration in schools remains virtually unchanged from last year and still falls far short of the organization’s determined ideal.
So, what’s going on here? What could be standing in the way of effective technology integration in the classroom? It’s certainly not a lack of innovation on the supply side. Let’s take a look at some of the data and see if we can’t shed some light on things.
According to SIIA, edtech integration is lagging in all sectors. Postsecondary institutions do seem to have made a relatively successful effort to make use of educational technology in their coursework — perhaps so much so that the perceived importance of continuing to integrate tech at the college level has fallen since last year — but the K-12 educators surveyed reported some troubling truths.
Most notably, instructors across the board reported bandwidth access that was less than adequate for robust communication and administrative needs. Multiple factors might drive this change in the numbers, such as demands of online tools potentially outpacing the capabilities of teachers’ local hardware or institutional IT policies that may predate current bandwidth needs, to name just a couple. Issues of bandwidth and speed are typically tough to pin down
The study also reported that elementary and secondary schools were bringing up the rear in terms of devices in the classroom, with just one in five elementary schools, and only about half of junior high and high schools, permitting personal device use. As reported on teacherportal.com, mobile devices are being used in education at all levels, but in contrast to the low usage in the K-12 space, 95 percent of four-year colleges allow students to bring their own mobile device to class.
The SIIA survey reported the statistical realities of technology adoption in the classroom, but it was up to the edtech correspondents (and the teachers themselves) to sort out why. A lot of possibilities have been kicked around on discussion forums about teaching and in the blogosphere; here are a few select ones, in no particular order:
Another survey, this one taken by the Early Childhood Technology Collaborative and reported on Edudemic, highlights a factor that might qualify as an elephant in the room when discussing classroom edtech. According to 61 percent of teachers and 56 percent of administrators surveyed, the main reason why they’re not using more high-tech scholastic tools is that their program budget lacks the funding necessary to get a comprehensive program off the ground.
That’s certainly something about technology, in education or any walk of life — the latest, most cutting-edge tools and platforms are rarely ever cheap. In order to make an informed budgetary decision about educational technology, admins need someone who can assess the edtech landscape from both the technical and the curricular perspective. That sort of professional can be hard to find, and may be even harder to afford.
The SIIA data may raise more questions than it answers, but one important point does rise to the surface as we massage the numbers. We know that schools can benefit from education technology, but what about technology education for faculty and staff? Isn’t it fair to say that more schools would be using edtech if the tools and platforms themselves were more clearly understood?
Edtech innovators certainly don’t seem to be flagging in their quest to produce feature-rich Web apps and software tools designed to make teachers’ lives easier, but educators can’t just put their jobs on hold to learn the ins and outs of every new tool. Tech integration in schools may just stay slow until there’s a way for teachers and administrators to get some education of their own.
About the Author:
Justin Boyle is a tutor, editor and designer who works in media production for an ecology non-profit.