Teachers and Technology
In recent years, schools and school districts throughout the United States have made massive investments in educational technology. In the 90’s alone, total school funding probably exceeded $100 billion (that’s billion with a B). The investment figure now is estimated at more than $9 billion per year. As a result, the student/computer ratio in the United States has dropped dramatically from 22:1 in 1988-89 to 5.4:1 in 2001; and public schools with access to the Internet have increased from 3% of public schools with connectivity in 1994 to virtually 100% in 2003.
The very successful California Digital High School project represented almost a billion dollar investment by the state. The equally successful Digital California Project brought high-speed connectivity to California’s county offices and larger districts at a cost of $100 million. Other states have initiated similar projects with similar significant investments. These massive investments will be wasted unless we provide our teachers professional development opportunities that allow them to learn to use the technologies in the classroom. Only 20% of our nation's teachers feel comfortable using technology in the classroom, and elementary and secondary teachers are less likely to use computers at work than persons employed in the private sector.
Ultimately, these professional development opportunities will translate into better educational opportunities for students. Teachers report that their classroom teaching improves significantly if the professional development includes more than eight hours of training and provides for mentoring and collaboration. Research also indicates that teachers' effective use of these technologies both improves test scores and changes the way students learn. Technologies that provide access to sources of information such as the Internet or spark creative thought through software applications enable students to become active learners, as they explore, create, present, and connect to the real world. Both students and teachers become more motivated and have lower absentee rates. And students leave the educational system better prepared for the workforce.
The United States is moving toward an information-based society, both as a supplier to other countries and as a consumer here at home. By its very nature this society will demand highly educated workers and highly educated consumers, requirements that can be satisfied only by superior teachers delivering superior instruction of the sort they are learning at TTTC.