Tech's Power Lies in Way It Is Used to Accelerate Student Learning, Report Finds

Although Maryland's public schools continue to boast a strong technology infrastructure, the technology is not being used for higher-level, analytical or problem-solving activities, according to the results of the Maryland Business Roundtable for Education's (MBRT) eighth annual survey of technology in public schools, released today to the Maryland State Board of Education.

According to the new MBRT survey, only 13% of public schools statewide report their students are using technology to display data on a daily or almost daily basis. Only 9% of schools report that students use technology to "manipulate, analyze, or interpret information" daily or almost daily.

"The primary objective of the state's enormous investment in technology is improved student learning, but that can only be achieved if students are making effective use of those technology tools daily," says MBRT Executive Director June Streckfus.

"The data from this report clearly indicate that this is not happening," Streckfus asserts. "It is imperative that schools better prepare our students, and technology tools can and should be key contributors to academic success. But the benefits will not materialize if the technology is not used effectively and frequently in the classroom."

That situation is particularly acute in high-poverty areas. The MBRT survey shows that the higher the poverty level of schools, the less frequently technology is being used for tasks that require higher-level thinking and meaningful application of knowledge and skills.

Streckfus emphasizes that using technology to improve academic success is particularly important with so many students far from reaching the new high school graduation requirements for students entering ninth grade this fall.

To ensure that technology delivers on the promise of making significant contributions to improved learning for all students statewide, the new MBRT report recommends that the State Technology Plan should be revised "to focus on the tight and seamless integration of technology tools into existing curriculum," with a particular emphasis on the use of technology to foster higher-level critical thinking skills.

The report also recommends that technology requirements and assessments be incorporated into all teacher and administrator re-certification programs and in pre-service teacher preparation programs.

"The report indicates that there has been no material improvement regarding teacher knowledge and skills as they relate to the effective use and integration of technology into the curriculum," says Robert Marshall, President and CEO of AWS Convergence Technologies and Chair of MBRT's Committee on Technology in Education.

Marshall, whose company pioneered the online technology survey in conjunction with MBRT and the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE), notes that the 2005 data does show modest gains in teacher and administrator use of technology for basic activities, such as email.

"Still, only 56% of teachers report using technology to 'analyze and/or report student/school improvement data' at least a few times a month," says Marshall. Similarly, only about 70% of teachers rate themselves at an intermediate skill level or higher in the use and integration of technology, well short of the State Technology Plan's target of 100% of teachers with these capabilities.

The new MBRT report also calls on MSDE to require local school system master plans to incorporate an analysis of data from the online technology survey; to review and document the effectiveness of professional development activities related to technology integration; and to ensure that organizational structures within educational systems are conducive to effective integration of technology into daily classroom instruction.

"We believe technology used to its greatest advantage can increase student achievement, improve problem-solving abilities, and enhance student motivation and engagement," says Maryland State School Superintendent Dr. Nancy S. Grasmick.

For its part, MBRT plans to reconstitute its Committee on Technology in Education (COTE) to include leading business and IT executives who, in turn, will review and make recommendations to MSDE regarding the State Technology Plan. The Committee also will provide details regarding effective corporate practices for technology integration.

Among the executives who have already made a commitment to serve on the COTE are: AWS's Marshall; Christopher Foster, Deputy Secretary of the Maryland Department of Business & Economic Development; Howard Ruddell, Vice President, Civil Operations, Lockheed Martin; Keith Glennan, Chief Technology Officer, Northrop Grumman; and Dr. Robert Caret, President of Towson University.

"Student learning is the bottom line," says Streckfus. "We have made tremendous progress in acquiring technology infrastructure needed in our schools. But the investment in technology cannot end there. Teachers and students must acquire and use meaningful content and apply technology as a tool to significantly improve learning."

Plans call for MBRT's Committee on Technology in Education to continue analyzing the data collected from the technology inventory, using findings as a planning tool in charting the state's strategic direction and in identifying future areas of concern. The new MBRT survey results are posted online at www.mbrt.org

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