Few U.S. Schools Use Technology Well, 2 Studies Report

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Only 3 percent of U.S. schools are effectively integrating technology into all aspects of their educational programs, while most others fall far short of that goal, a report from a group of 21 business and education leaders concludes.

Most schools--59 percent--ranked at the lowest end of the scale developed by the CEO Forum on Education and Technology.

"It doesn't matter what segment of society it is, if an organization is doing well, it's really taking advantage of information technology," said Allan Weis, a member of the forum and the president of Advanced Network and Services Inc., a nonprofit Armonk, N.Y., company that promotes technology use in education. "Why is it that the only part of our society that's preparing the youth of tomorrow doesn't take advantage of it?"

The CEO Forum gave its highest rating, "target tech," to schools that made effective use of technology based on a wide variety of criteria, including Internet access, the number of computers per student, and well-trained teachers. Only 3 percent of schools received that ranking.

"School Technology and Readiness Report: From Pillars to Progress," is one of two studies released this month that help fill in a national picture of schools' progress in integrating technology--an issue the Clinton administration and many state policymakers have emphasized.

In the other report, a public service initiative launched by the cable-television industry analyzes the explosive growth over the past five years in schools' use of the Internet. Nearly 48 percent of the 400 teachers surveyed by Cable in the Classroom said they use the vast computer network in their teaching--most often to do research or access curriculum materials. But, of that number, only 37 percent could name three World Wide Web sites that they found particularly useful.

"From this, we conclude that teachers' use of the Internet, for the most part, is still in the early stages of development," the report from the Alexandria, Va.-based group says.

'Four Pillars'

The CEO Forum report is the first of four by the group, whose members include technology companies such as Apple Computer, nonprofit entities such as National Public Radio, and education organizations such as the National Education Association and the National School Boards Association.

The group derived its criteria from the "four pillars" of school technology use articulated in 1996 by President Clinton: hardware, connectivity, digital content, and professional development.

Schools designated "target" users of technology, for example, show strengths in all four categories. They have at least one computer for every three students, on-site technical support, high-speed Internet access, and teachers with more than 71 hours of professional development in technology use. In addition, many of the computers must have multimedia and CD-ROM capabilities.

The group even specifies that teachers in the "target" schools act more as guides to students rather than as traditional lecturers.

"It's the integration of the four elements and not each one standing alone that's important," said Anne L. Bryant, the group's co-chair and the executive director of the school boards' association.

The 59 percent of schools designated "low" technology users, on the other hand, have fewer computers, no maintenance support on campus, teachers with less training, and very few machines with multimedia or CD-rom capabilities. Those schools may not have an Internet connection, and their teachers tend to teach in more traditional ways.

Twenty-six percent of the nation's schools fell in the "mid tech" category; the remaining 12 percent were labeled "high tech." The report includes a chart of its criteria so that schools can judge where they figure on the scale.

The group drew much of its data from one of its member organizations, Quality Education Data, a Denver-based research company.

'Lesson Plan' Needed

Some critics of the push to integrate technology into classrooms were skeptical of what they called the report's "shopping lists."

"It's kind of like the American Dairy Council saying kids need to drink more milk," said William L. Rukeyser, the coordinator for Learning in the Real World, a Woodland, Calif.-based group that opposes massive investments in educational technology. "What schools need is a lesson plan."

Both reports are available through the sponsoring organizations' Web sites.

For the report by the CEO Forum on Education and Technology, go to www.ceoforum.org. The Cable in the Classroom study is accessible through www.ciconline.com. Also, individuals can find out how their schools rank in Quality Educational Data's database by going to: www.educationnetwork.com/index.htm and sending an e-mail query.

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