On the cover of the first edition of Education Week‘s Technology Counts is the image of a computer mouse attached by a wire to a CD-ROM. The overlay illustration on the compact disc shows a student facing the screen of a desktop computer, presumably hard-wired to the internet.
That was Nov. 10, 1997.
Fast-forward to today. To write this celebratory note about the 20th anniversary of Technology Counts, I am using a wireless mouse to navigate a laptop, which is linked to the internet by high-speed Wi-Fi. An app on my iPhone, called Spotify, is running a customized playlist of music, and I plan to have a FaceTime video call with one of my adult children later today.
We live in a technology-driven world that is far different from the one that existed two decades ago, when Education Week first set out to map the state of educational technology in K-12 schools.
Yet in the introduction to the new annual report about educational technology, the editors in 1997 wrote: “Parents and corporate America are clamoring for schools to move more quickly to embrace a high-tech vision for education. And the fast-changing landscape of educational technology only complicates the task for policymakers and administrators who seek to make ‘smart’ decisions about how to proceed.”
Those exact words could have been used to describe the ed-tech challenges schools face today.
Even though nearly all public school classrooms are now connected to the internet (that figure was about 15 percent in 1997), problems and inequities persist. The quality of those connections varies widely from school to school and district to district, and how teachers use technology in their classrooms ranges from sophisticated, project-based learning to mundane skill drills—largely dependent on the caliber of the technology and teacher training.
K-12 educators have a challenging road ahead in improving their use of technology. And that is why the words in the editors’ note from the first Technology Counts still ring true: “Reporting on the state of school technology is more important than ever.”
Coverage of learning through integrated designs for school innovation is supported in part by a grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York at www.carnegie.org. Education Week retains sole editorial control over the content of this coverage.
A version of this article appeared in the June 14, 2017 edition of Education Week as Tracking 20 Years of Change