Special Report
Equity & Diversity

A Digital Decade

March 22, 2007 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

In introducing the inaugural Technology Counts report 10 years ago, the editors explained why the need for special reporting on the state of school technology was more important than ever.

“Billions of dollars are being spent each year in an effort to prepare schools and students for tomorrow’s technological demands and challenges,” we wrote. “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.”

Executive Summary

A Digital Decade

Feature Stories

Getting Up to Speed

Teaching Assistants

Outside Interests

Collecting Evidence

E-Learning Curve

Information Exchange

State Data Analysis

Tracking U.S. Trends

Table of Contents

A decade later, the task of making sense of that fast-changing landscape remains just as complicated. We hope that by stepping back to take stock of how the terrain has changed—and how it is likely to do so in the future—Technology Counts 2007 can help make the challenge a little less daunting.

When this annual report began, a major focus of policymaking was equipping schools for access to what was still being called “the information superhighway.” Use of the World Wide Web was taking off, and grassroots “electronic barn raisings” to wire schools for the Internet were being held around the country.

But fears ran high that America’s schools—particularly disadvantaged ones on the wrong side of the “digital divide”—were being left behind. Partly in response, the federal government had just created the “education rate,” or E-rate, a program of telecommunications discounts that provided more aid to disadvantaged schools and furnished billions of dollars to help get schools of all stripes up to speed.

In the first Technology Counts, we reported that fewer than two-thirds of U.S. public schools had Internet access, and just 14 percent of those schools had connections on computers located in classrooms. Today, nearly all schools can get online, and the percentage of instructional computers with high-speed access hovers around 95 percent.

As that access has exploded, the use that students and educators are making of digital technology has moved in new directions.

Students are taking more tests on computers. And educators are making ever-greater use of digital data on student achievement—principally standardized-test scores, but also other student work organized in digital portfolios—to make decisions about instruction. Much of that data analysis is being driven by test-based accountability, but not all.

Internet Access in Schools

Internet access in classrooms across the country has increased dramatically over the past decade. High-income schools, or those in which fewer than 35 percent of students are eligible for federally subsidized meals, got off to a faster start than low-income schools, in which three-quarters or more of the students are eligible. But the gap has narrowed greatly in recent years.

*Click image to see the full chart.


SOURCE: National Center for Education Statistics, 2006

Digital cameras and videorecorders, coupled with photo-sharing and moviemaking software, are putting new, easier-to-use means of expression into students’ and educators’ hands.

Interactive software applications such as blogs, podcasts, and social-networking sites are letting students and teachers easily post their own writings and multimedia presentations on the Web. Digital whiteboards and liquid-crystal-display projectors are giving some classrooms a high-tech feel once reserved for corporate boardrooms.

Virtual education, in its infancy a decade ago, is going mainstream. Hundreds of thousands of students go online for some or all of their courses—a trend that is opening up opportunities, such as Advanced Placement classes, that would otherwise be unavailable. Teachers, for their part, are turning to the Web for professional development.

From Connectivity to Creativity

Yet for all the advances, much evidence suggests that schools are a long way from leveraging technology’s potential.

In its annual survey of the states for Technology Counts, the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center now finds that, unlike 10 years ago, most states have technology standards for students and educators, for example. But few states test to see if those standards are being met, so the degree to which schools are reaching them is unknown.

Anecdotal evidence and research suggest that teachers’ integration of digital tools into instruction is sporadic. Many young people’s reliance on digital technology in their outside lives stands in sharp contrast to their limited use of it in school.

Large gaps, though, have emerged in students’ use of computers at home based on their demographic backgrounds. So while disadvantaged students now have nearly as broad access to computers in schools as their more advantaged peers, at home they typically have much less.

Research on technology’s effectiveness, meanwhile, remains a thin gruel for educators in the trenches. The support for research into innovative means of using technology to promote learning is decried by some experts as insufficient, too.

Amid fears that U.S. prospects in the global economy may be dimming, the mathematical, scientific, and technological skills of young Americans have become a leading concern of policy leaders nationally.

For many educators, 21st-century digital literacy must hinge not on the superficial fluency with technology that many students exhibit in their off hours, but on proficiency in such skills as effectively sifting through a glut of electronic information and producing creative work that will be valued highly in the global marketplace.

Whether schools are on the right track in equipping students with those more sophisticated skills remains an open question.

Technology Counts has chronicled changes in educational technology policy and practice during a time of enormous upheaval in the telecommunications landscape, marked most notably by the explosion of the Web.

Fittingly, then, we have come to rely more on the Web to disseminate this report.

This year, for the second time, the state-by-state technology reports that once made up roughly half the print Technology Counts are being published exclusively online.


Related Tags:


School Climate & Safety K-12 Essentials Forum Strengthen Students’ Connections to School
Join this free event to learn how schools are creating the space for students to form strong bonds with each other and trusted adults.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Reading & Literacy Webinar
Creating Confident Readers: Why Differentiated Instruction is Equitable Instruction
Join us as we break down how differentiated instruction can advance your school’s literacy and equity goals.
Content provided by Lexia Learning
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
IT Infrastructure & Management Webinar
Future-Proofing Your School's Tech Ecosystem: Strategies for Asset Tracking, Sustainability, and Budget Optimization
Gain actionable insights into effective asset management, budget optimization, and sustainable IT practices.
Content provided by Follett Learning

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Equity & Diversity Opinion 70 Years of Abandonment: The Failed Promise of 'Brown v. Board'
If the nation is going to refuse integration, Black people must demand we revisit the separate but equal doctrine, writes Bettina L. Love.
4 min read
A Black student is isolated from their classmates by an aisle in the classroom.
Xia Gordon for Education Week
Equity & Diversity Opinion 'Brown v. Board of Education' at 70: A Dream Dissolved
This anniversary should remind us that progress is not inevitable. We stand now at a critical juncture.
R. L’Heureux Lewis-McCoy
4 min read
A young Black woman's image dissolves in the smoke.
iStock/Getty Images
Equity & Diversity Opinion Equity? Equality? How Educators Can Tell the Difference
Educators offer advice and examples for giving students what they need, rather than simply treating everyone the same.
10 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
Equity & Diversity Judge Says State Can't Block Teachers From Discussing Critical Race Theory
The rule stops short of more broadly blocking Arkansas from enforcing its ban on certain topics.
2 min read
Students make their way into Little Rock Central High School on Aug. 24, 2020, for the first day of classes in the Little Rock School District. A federal judge ruled, Tuesday, May 7, 2024, that Arkansas cannot prevent two high school teachers from discussing critical race theory in the classroom, but stopped short of more broadly blocking the state from enforcing its ban on “indoctrination” in public schools. The prohibition is being challenged by two teachers and two students at Little Rock Central High School, site of the 1957 desegregation crisis.
Students make their way into Little Rock Central High School in Little Rock, Ark., on Aug. 24, 2020, for the first day of classes.
Tommy Metthe/Arkansas Democrat-Gazette via AP