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Beyond School-Level Internet Access: Support for Instructional Use of Technology
NCES: 2002029
April 2002

Overview

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) report Teachers' Tools for the 21st Century: A Report on Teachers' Use of Technology, teachers in schools with high poverty and schools with high minority enrollments were generally less likely to use computers or the Internet for instruction during class time than teachers in schools with low poverty and schools with low minority enrollment in 1999 (Smerdon et al. 2000). This gap existed despite the fact that nearly all public schools had access to the Internet, regardless of poverty level (Williams 2000). Two factors that may be related to teachers' use of computers and the Internet are whether they have access to the Internet in their classrooms and the level of support they receive for the use of the Internet (Ronnkvist, Dexter, and Anderson 2000). This Issue Brief presents data from two surveys conducted through NCES' Fast Response Survey System (FRSS)—a 1999 survey of public school Internet access and a 1999 survey of public school teachers' use of computers and the Internet—to examine whether teachers who report having classroom access and support (as measured by both training and assistance for Internet use) are more likely to report using computers and the Internet for instruction during class time. This Issue Brief also examines teacher-reported school-level differences in support for Internet use and classroom access to the Internet.

Does universal school-level Internet access mean universal instructional use of the Internet?

In 1999, 95 percent of all public schools had Internet access (Williams 2000). This percentage did not vary by the concentration of poor students in the school. Despite similar school-level access, 63 percent of academic teachers in schools with the lowest enrollment of poor students (less than 11 percent of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch) reported that they used computers or the Internet for instruction during class time, while 47 percent of teachers in schools with 50 to 70 percent of students eligible reported this use (Smerdon et al. 2000, 23).1 Furthermore, 56 percent of teachers in schools with less than 6 percent minority enrollment used computers or the Internet for instruction, while 45 percent of teachers in schools with minority enrollment of 50 percent or more reported this use.2

What resources encourage increased use?

Overall, 53 percent of teachers reported classroom-level access to the Internet, 80 percent of teachers reported that training in use of the Internet was available to them, 75 percent of teachers reported that assistance in use of the Internet was available to them, and 43 percent of teachers reported having all three resources (Table 1). Each of these resources was related to the likelihood that teachers also reported using the Internet for instruction. Sixty-five percent of teachers reporting classroom access to the Internet reported using computers or the Internet for instruction during class time, compared with 38 percent of teachers reporting no classroom access (Table 1). Similarly, 56 percent of teachers who reported that training was available to them from their state, district, or school in the use of the Internet reported using computers or the Internet for instruction during class time, compared with 43 percent of teachers who said training was not available and 34 percent of those who did not know. Fifty-six percent of teachers reporting availability of technical assistance for using the Internet reported using computers or the Internet for instruction during class time, compared with 42 percent of teachers who said assistance was not available.

Teachers were most likely to use the Internet for instruction during class time when they reported that both classroom-level access and support in the form of training and assistance were available to them. Sixty-eight percent of teachers reporting classroom access to the Internet and the availability of training and assistance for using the Internet reported using computers or the Internet for instruction during class time, compared with 52 percent of teachers who reported classroom access but not training and assistance, 40 percent of those who reported training and assistance but no classroom access, and 37 percent of those who reported neither classroom access nor training and assistance (Figure 1:).

Are some teachers more likely than others to use the Internet when they have classroom access and support?

Among teachers who reported classroom Internet access and the availability of training and assistance for the Internet, the school-level disparities in reported use discussed earlier no longer appear. Of teachers reporting classroom Internet access and the availability of training and assistance for the Internet, 68 percent reported the use of computers or the Internet for instruction during class time (Figure 1:). No statistically significant differences based on school poverty concentration or school minority enrollment were found (data not shown).

What school characteristics are related to the presence of classroom Internet access and support?

Generally, teachers in schools with high enrollment of poor students were less likely to report classroom Internet access and the availability of training and assistance in the use of the Internet. Teachers in schools with 50 percent or more of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch were less likely than teachers in schools with 11 to 30 percent of students eligible to report that the Internet was available in their classroom, and they were less likely than teachers in schools with less than 50 percent of students eligible to report that training in the use of the Internet was available (Table 2). Teachers in schools with more than 70 percent of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch were less likely than teachers in schools with less than 50 percent of students eligible to report that assistance in the use of the Internet was available.

Overall, half or less of all teachers reported the availability of all three resources—classroom Internet access, and training and assistance for Internet use (Table 2). Differences in classroom access, training, and assistance existed by the level of minority enrollment in a teacher's school. Teachers in schools with minority enrollment of 50 percent or more were less likely than those in schools with less than 50 percent minority enrollment to report having a combination of all three resources—classroom Internet access, training in the use of the Internet, and assistance in the use of the Internet— as well as having each resource individually.


1 As was the case in the Smerdon et al. analyses, the remainder of this report focuses on teachers in schools with Internet access.

2 The relationship between poverty concentration and minority enrollment should be considered when interpreting data presented in this report; schools with a high minority

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