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Teachers' Tools for the 21st Century: A Report on Teachers' Use of Technology
NCES: 2000102
September 2000

Availability of Technology For Instructional Purposes

This chapter reviews data collected by several surveys on the availability of education technology to teachers and their students. The chapter begins with background information on computer availability from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) school surveys, as well as from the Fast Response Survey System (FRSS) school survey, NAEP teacher survey, and the Current Population Survey (CPS) from 1994 to 1998. Data are also provided from the 1994 to 1999 FRSS school surveys on the percent of schools and instructional rooms with Internet connections. This background information is followed by more recent, detailed findings on the technology available to teachers and their students, taken from the 1999 FRSS survey on teachers' use of technology. Included are differences in the availability of computers and Internet connections by characteristics of schools (e.g., instructional level, location of school, poverty concentration).

Highlights

  • The availability of educational technology increased substantially during the 1990s, particularly at the school level. By 1999, most teachers reported having at least one computer in their classrooms, and over half of these teachers also had access to the Internet in their classrooms. Additionally, the majority of teachers also reported having these technologies available at home.
  • Despite the gains in computer and Internet availability at school and in classrooms, approximately one-third of teachers reported that their classrooms had a single computer or a single computer connected to the Internet available in 1999. In addition, the availability of technology was not equally distributed among schools with different characteristics. For example, teachers in schools with lower minority enrollments were generally more likely than teachers in schools with the highest minority enrollments to report having the Internet available in the classroom. Additionally, teachers in schools with lower poverty concentrations (based on the percent of students eligible for free or reduced-lunch) were generally more likely than teachers in schools with high minority concentrations to report having the Internet available in the classroom.
  • In 1999, the availability of technology in the classroom was related to teachers' use of that technology. For example, teachers who reported having more than five computers in their classrooms were more likely than teachers with fewer classroom computers to report using computers a lot for various preparatory activities. Additionally, teachers who had more computers available in the classroom were generally more likely to report assigning students to use computers or the Internet to a large extent to conduct various tasks (e.g., solve problems or analyze data).

Availability of Computers and the Internet: 1990 to 1999

Measures of computer availability come in a variety of forms, including the percent of students who have varying numbers of computers available to them in their schools (NAEP), student-to-computer ratios in schools (FRSS), the percent of students who have computer labs and portable computers available to them (NAEP), the percent of students who have computers permanently available in the classroom (NAEP), and the percent of students for whom computers are best described as available in computer labs or available in the classroom (NAEP). Measures of Internet availability in public schools are similar, but typically focus on the percent of schools connected to the Internet rather than on the percent of students with the Internet available to them. These measures include the percent of schools connected to the Internet (FRSS), the percent of instructional rooms connected to the Internet (FRSS), and student-to instructional-computers-with-Internet ratios in schools (FRSS).

Computer Availability : 1990 to 1999

Number of computers available to students and student-to-computer ratios. Beginning in 1990, NAEP began collecting data from school administrators on the number of computers available to students in the school. Results from these surveys demonstrate a substantial increase in the number of computers available to public school students in their schools between 1990 and 1999 (figure 3.1). For example, the percent of fourth-grade students who had more than 76 computers available in their schools rose from 1 percent in 1990 to 33 percent in 1998. Similarly, there was an increase from 8 percent to 51 percent of eighth-grade students and from 42 percent to 73 percent of twelfth-grade students during those years. According to recent FRSS data, approximately one computer was available for every six students in 1999 (Williams, 2000).

Computer availability in labs and classrooms. Data are also available from the NAEP 1998 school survey on the location of computers in the school. For example, administrators indicated if the school had computer labs and whether computers were always available in classrooms. Additionally, administrators were asked if computers were available to be brought to classrooms for student use as a measure of portable computer availability.

The different types of computer availability (e.g., labs, available to be brought to class, classrooms) varied by grade-level in 1998. For example, among public school students, eighth and twelfth-grade students were more likely than fourth-grade students to have computer labs available (90 percent and 94 percent, respectively, compared with 78 percent-figure 3.2). Conversely, fourth-grade students were more likely to have computers always available in the classroom than eighth and twelfth-grade students (83 percent compared with 46 percent and 27 percent, respectively).

Teachers' reports of computer availability to students. In 1998, public school teachers of fourth and eighth-grade students were asked to best describe the availability of computers for use by their students. Teachers reported whether: computers were "not available to students anywhere," computers for student use were "available in a lab," or varying numbers of computers for student use were "available in class." According to their teachers, the majority of both fourth-grade and eighth-grade students had computers available to them somewhere in their school in 1998, either in the classroom or elsewhere in the school (figure 3.3). Specifically, 72 percent of fourth-grade students and 49 percent of eighth-grade students had at least one computer in their classrooms, and 23 percent of fourth-grade students and 42 percent of eighth-grade students had at least one computer available in lab. Thus, 5 percent of fourth-graders and 9 percent of eighth-graders did not have computers available in their schools.

Internet Availability: 1994 to 1999

The FRSS also collected data on the percent of public schools and instructional rooms that were connected to the Internet as part of its school surveys between 1994 and 1999. Internet availability in schools and instructional rooms increased steadily during that time (Williams, 2000-figure 3.4). In 1994, a little over a third of all public schools were connected to the Internet. By 1999, availability had grown to 95 percent, with one computer connected to the Internet for every 9 students. The percent of instructional rooms connected to the Internet grew even more sharply during that time-whereas 3 percent of instructional rooms were connected to the Internet in 1994, 63 percent were connected by 1999.

Differences in the Growth of Availability

Despite the gains made by public schools in obtaining computers and Internet connectivity, not all schools had made the same progress by 1999 (Williams, 2000). The 1999 FRSS data indicate differences in student-to-instructional-computer ratios by such school characteristics as enrollment size, location, poverty concentration, and minority enrollments. For example, the smallest schools had a lower student-to-instructional-computer ratio than medium and large schools (4 compared with 6 each), as well as a lower student-to-instructional-computer-with- Internet ratio (6 compared with 9 and 10, respectively-figure 3.5). Rural schools had a lower student-to-instructional-computer ratio than schools in other locations (4 compared with 6 each for schools located in urban fringes, cities, and towns). Furthermore, rural schools had lower student-to-instructional-computer-with-Internet ratios than urban fringe and city schools (7 compared with 9 and 11, respectively). Additionally, there were differences in student-to-instructional-computer ratios by poverty concentration and minority enrollments in 1999. Higher poverty schools (31 to 49 percent of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch) had more students per instructional computer than lower poverty schools (11 to 30 percent and less than 11 percent of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch-6 compared with 5 each). Similarly, schools with the highest minority enrollments had a higher student-to-instructional-computer ratio than schools with lower minority enrollments (6 to 20 percent or less than 6 percent minority enrollments-6 compared with 5 each).

Differences by poverty concentration and minority enrollments were also present in student to -instructional-computer-with-Internet ratios. Schools with more than 70 percent of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch had more students per instructional computer with Internet than schools with lower poverty concentrations (31 to 49 percent, 11 to 30 percent, and less than 11 percent-16 compared with 9, 8, and 7, respectively). Similarly, schools with the highest minority enrollments had a higher student-to-instructional-computer-with-Internet ratio than schools with lower minority enrollments (21 to 49 percent, 6 to 20 percent, and less than 6 percent-13 compared with 9, 8, and 7, respectively).

The highest poverty schools were also less likely to report having instructional rooms connected to the Internet than several other groups in 1997 and 1998 (Rowand, 1999; Williams, 2000-figure 3.6). Between 1998 and 1999, all schools except those with the highest poverty concentrations reported an increase in the percentage of instructional rooms connected to the Internet. In 1999, 39 percent of instructional rooms at schools with more than 70 percent of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch were connected to the Internet, compared with 62 to 74 percent of schools with lower concentrations of poverty.

Availability of Computers at Home: 1994 to 1998

Data are also available on the presence of computers in public and private school teachers' and students' homes, collected as part of the CPS. The following sections describe the growth in the availability of home computers among elementary and secondary public and private school teachers and students between 1994 and 1998. The availability of computers in teachers' homes is compared with that of adults in other occupations, and the number and ages of computers in the home are also given for the most recent year (1998).

Teachers' Computer Availability at Home

Results from the 1994 to 1998 CPS indicate that the availability of computers in public and private school teachers' homes increased significantly between 1994 and 1998 (54 percent compared with 74 percent). Furthermore, elementary and secondary teachers were more likely to have a computer at home than adults in all other occupations in 1994 through 1998 (e.g., 74 percent compared with 46 percent in 1998-figure 3.7). The majority of adults who had a computer in the home in 1998 reported having one computer (71 percent of teachers with computers and 75 percent of adults in other occupations); fewer had two computers (20 percent of teachers and 18 percent of adults in other occupations).Additionally, in 1998, most teachers and adults in other occupations reported having computers that were three years old or newer (71 percent of teachers and 75 percent of adults in other occupations with computers -table A-3.9 table A-3.9 Continued B table A-3.9 Continued C).

Students' Computer Availability at Home

The CPS also collected data on public and private school students' computer availability at home in 1994 to 1998. According to these data, the percent of students who had at least one computer in the home increased from 36 percent in 1994 to 56 percent in 1998 (table A-3.9 table A-3.9 Continued B table A-3.9 Continued C).

Availability of Technology to Teachers and Students in 1999

The remaining sections of this chapter describe teachers' reports of the availability of computers in public school teachers' schools and classrooms followed by the availability of the Internet in these locations, and the availability of both computers and the Internet at home. Finally, the relationship between computer availability in the classroom and teachers' computer-related activities is explored.

Computer Availability in the School

Nearly all public school teachers (99 percent) reported having computers available somewhere in their schools in 1999 (table A-3.9 table A-3.9 Continued B table A-3.9 Continued C). Eighty-four percent of public school teachers had computers available in their classrooms (table 3.1), and 95 percent of teachers had computers available elsewhere in the school. 1

Number of computers in the classroom. In addition to asking teachers if they had computers available in the classrooms, the 1999 FRSS survey also asked for the number of computers available in the classroom. As previously indicated, most public school teachers (84 percent) reported having at least one computer in their classrooms in 1999 (table 3.1). Thirty-six percent had one computer in their classrooms, 38 percent reported having two to five computers in their classrooms, and 10 percent reported having more than five computers in their classrooms (table 3.2).

Differences in school and classroom computer availability by school characteristics.

Teachers' computeravailability in 1999 varied by several school characteristics, including instructional level, enrollment size, location, minority enrollments, and poverty concentration. Elementary teachers were more likely to have computers in their classrooms (89 percent) than secondary teachers (75 percent-table 3.1). Teachers in schools enrolling less than 300 and 300 to 999 students were more likely to have computers in their classrooms (87 and 88 percent, respectively) than teachers in schools with the largest enrollments (71 percent). Furthermore, teachers in schools located in towns were more likely to have computers located in their classrooms than teachers in schools located in cities and in urban fringes (92 percent compared with 80 percent and 83 percent, respectively). Last, teachers in schools with 21 to 49 percent minority enrollments were more likely to have computers in the classroom than teachers in schools with 50 percent or more minority enrollments (89 percent of teachers compared with 77 percent of teachers).

There were also differences among teachers who had varying numbers of computers in the classroom (table 3.2). Not only were some groups of teachers less likely to have computers in their classrooms (e.g., teachers in secondary schools or large schools), but they were also more likely than other teachers to have only one computer in their classrooms. Teachers in secondary schools were more likely to have one computer than elementary teachers (45 percent compared with 33 percent), and less likely to have two to five computers than elementary teachers (20 percent compared with 46 percent).

Computer availability also varied by school size. For example, teachers in schools enrolling 1,000 or more students were more likely to report having one computer in their classrooms than teachers in schools with less than 300 students (41 percent compared with 28 percent). Teachers in schools enrolling 1,000 or more students were less likely, however, to report having two to five computers than either schools enrolling 300 to 999 students or schools enrolling less than 300 students (20 percent compared with 43 percent and 46 percent, respectively).

Internet Availability at School

Sixty-four percent of public school teachers who reported having computers in their classrooms also reported having Internet availability in their classrooms in 1999. Ninety percent of teachers who reported having computers available elsewhere in their schools also reported that the Internet was available elsewhere in the school (table 3.3). 2

Number of classroom computers connected to the Internet. Among the teachers who reported having computers available in their classrooms, approximately one-third had no computers connected to the Internet and about half had one computer connected to the Internet (figure 3.8). It was less commonly reported that teachers had two to five computers connected or more than five computers connected to the Internet (13 percent and 4 percent, respectively).

Differences in school and classroom Internet availability by school characteristics. There were differences in overall Internet availability (in class or elsewhere in the school) and in the number of classroom computers connected to the Internet by several school characteristics. For example, secondary teachers with computers in their classrooms were more likely to have Internet availability in their classrooms (72 percent) than elementary teachers (60 percent-table 3.3). As indicated previously, elementary teachers were more likely to have computers in their classrooms than secondary teachers; this indicates that although elementary teachers were more likely to have computers in their classrooms, secondary teachers were more likely to have the Internet available on the computers that they did have in their classrooms. Furthermore, among teachers who reported having computers available elsewhere in the school, secondary teachers were also more likely to have Internet availability elsewhere in the school than were elementary teachers (96 percent compared with 87 percent).

Additionally, teachers in schools located in towns were more likely to have Internet availability elsewhere in the school (96 percent) than teachers in urban fringe schools or city schools (87 percent and 90 percent, respectively). Moreover, teachers in schools with less than 6 percent or 6 to 20 percent minority enrollments were more likely to have the Internet available in the classroom than teachers in schools with 50 percent or more minority enrollments (69 percent and 71 percent compared with 51 percent). Similarly, teachers in schools with lower minority enrollments were generally more likely to report this availability elsewhere in the school than teachers in schools with the highest minority enrollments (93 percent of teachers in schools with 6 to 20 percent minority enrollments and 92 percent of teachers in schools with 21 to 49 percent minority enrollments, compared with 83 percent of teachers in schools with 50 percent or more minority enrollments).

Internet availability also varied by poverty concentration. For example, public school teachers in schools where 11 to 30 percent and 31 to 49 percent of the students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch were more likely to have the Internet available in the classroom than teachers in schools with 71 percent or more students eligible (71 percent each compared with 51 percent). Teachers in lower poverty schools were also generally more likely than teachers in the highest poverty schools to have Internet available elsewhere in the school. Specifically, teachers in schools with less than 11 percent, 11 to 30 percent, and 31 to 49 percent students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch were more likely to have this availability than teachers in schools with 71 percent or more students eligible (92 to 93 percent, compared with 80 percent of teachers).

As with overall Internet availability in the classroom, the number of classroom computers that public school teachers reported as having Internet connections varied by instructional level and minority enrollments, but not percent of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch (table 3.4). For example, secondary teachers were more likely than elementary teachers to have either one computer connected to the Internet (55 percent compared with 43 percent) or more than five computers connected (6 percent compared with 3 percent).

In addition, teachers in schools with 6 to 20 percent minority enrollments were more likely than teachers in schools with 50 percent or more minority enrollments to have one computer connected to the Internet (55 percent compared with 39 percent). Moreover, teachers in schools with less than 6 percent minority enrollments were more likely to report having two to five computers connected than teachers in schools with 50 percent or more minority enrollments (19 percent compared with 9 percent).

E-mail Availability in School

Public school teachers were asked whether e-mail was available in their schools in 1999. Among those who reported having any computers available in their schools, 74 percent indicated that e-mail was also available (table 3.5). E-mail availability varied by location of school, minority enrollments, and poverty concentration. Rural teachers were more likely to report e-mail availability (81 percent) than city teachers (70 percent). Moreover, teachers in schools with lower minority enrollments were more likely to report that e-mail was available than teachers in schools with the highest minority enrollments (78 percent of teachers in schools with less than 6 percent minority enrollments, 80 percent in schools with 6 to 20 percent minority enrollments, and 74 percent in schools with 21 to 49 percent minority enrollments, compared with 62 percent of teachers in schools with 50 percent or more minority enrollments). Furthermore, teachers in schools with less than 11 percent, 11 to 30 percent, and 31 to 49 percent students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch were more likely to have e-mail available than teachers in schools with more than 70 percent eligible students (76 percent, 78 percent, and 80 percent of teachers, compared with 61 percent).

Availability at Home: Computers, Internet, and School Network

Teachers' Computer, Internet, and School Network Availability at Home

As reported earlier, results of the 1998 CPS indicate that 74 percent of elementary and secondary public and private school teachers had a computer at home. According to the 1999 FRSS survey of teachers' technology use, 82 percent of public school teachers reported having a computer at home (table 3.6). The 1999 FRSS teacher survey also asked teachers if they had the Internet available at home, and if their school had a network that they could access at home. Sixty-three percent of public school teachers reported having the Internet available at home in 1999. In addition, 27 percent reported that their school had a network that they could use to access the Internet from home.

There were several differences in teachers' availability of computers and the Internet at home by school characteristics in 1999. For example, teachers in schools with 1,000 students or more enrolled were more likely to have a computer at home than teachers in schools with less than 300 students enrolled (86 percent compared with 74 percent). Similarly, teachers in schools with 300 to 999 students enrolled and schools with 1,000 or more students enrolled were more likely to have Internet at home than teachers in schools with less than 300 students enrolled (64 percent and 65 percent, compared with 52 percent). Teachers in urban fringe schools and schools located in towns were more likely to have the Internet available at home than rural school teachers (67 percent and 66 percent, compared with 53 percent). Furthermore, less than a third of all teachers reported having a school network that could be accessed from home, and teachers in the largest schools and the lowest poverty schools reported the highest network availability, compared with teachers in the smallest schools and the highest poverty schools.

Students' Computer Availability at Home

Because 48 percent of the teachers surveyed in 1999 reported assigning projects using the computer outside of class, it is useful to know if students had the resources to complete these assignments at home. This section uses data from the 1999 FRSS teacher survey 3 to describe the availability of computers in students' homes during that year. Results of this survey indicate that 36 percent of the teachers reported that more than half of their students had computers at home (table 3.7). This means that 64 percent of teachers did not believe that the majority of their students had a computer available at home. The percent of teachers who reported that more than half of their students had computers at home varied by several school characteristics. For example, teachers in urban fringe schools were more likely to report that the majority of their students had computers at home than teachers in any other location (48 percent compared with 26 percent to 30 percent).

Teachers in schools with the highest minority enrollments (50 percent or more) were less likely to report that the majority of their students had computers at home than teachers in any other schools (9 percent as compared with 39 percent to 50 percent). In addition, teachers in the lower poverty schools (less than 71 percent of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch) were more likely to report that their students had computers at home than teachers in the highest poverty schools (71 percent or more eligible students).

Teachers' Use of Technology and Computer Availability in their Classrooms

The push to increase the availability of technology in the classroom is based on the assumption that availability will increase students' and teachers' use of this technology, and that this use will lead to positive outcomes for students (U.S. Department of Education, 1996). 4 This section explores the relationship between the numbers of computers available in the classroom in 1999, and teachers' use of those computers for instructional purposes.

Preparatory Tasks and Computer Availability

Among teachers who reported having computers located in their classrooms, those who had more than 5 classroom computers were more likely than those with fewer classroom computers to report doing various preparatory activities "a lot" (figure 3.9). For example, 28 percent of teachers with more than five computers reporting using computers or the Internet a lot to gather information for lesson plans, compared with 17 percent of teachers with two to five computers and 13 percent of teachers with one computer. A similar relationship was found for using computers or the Internet a lot to prepare multimedia presentations.

Classroom Instruction and Computer Availability

Teachers' reports of assigning students to use computers or the Internet for various instructional purposes differed by the number of computers in their classrooms. For example, 59 percent of teachers with one computer in the classroom reported not assigning students to use computers or the Internet to solve problems or analyze data, compared with 40 percent of teachers with two to five computers and 23 percent of teachers with more than five computers (table 3.8). Conversely, teachers with more than five computers in their classrooms were most likely to report assigning problem solving or data analysis computer work to a "large extent," followed by teachers with two to five computers and teachers with one computer (21 percent compared with 9 percent and 5 percent, respectively). Similar relationships were found for word processing and practicing drills.


1These two categories were not mutually exclusive.

2These two categories were not mutually exclusive.

3The FRSS data reported in this section are teachers' estimates of students' home computer availability, and therefore may not accurately reflect whether students had computers at home. Data from the 1998 CPS on the percent of students who reported having a computer at home were presented earlier in the chapter.

4The positive outcomes cited include increased job opportunity, learning experiences, and academic achievement (U.S. Department of Education, 1996). It should be noted, however, that disagreement exists in the research literature on the benefits of technology as it relates to academic achievement. Some studies report a positive relationship between the use of education technology and student achievement (e.g., Mann, Shakeshaft, Becker and Kottkamp, 1999; Wenglinsky, 1998), while others report marginal to no effect (e.g., Becker, 1990a; Clark, 1994).

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