Most U.S. schools lack key technology and teachers aren’t trained properly to use the equipment that will lead education into the 21st century, government reports contend.
The General Accounting Office, Congress’ investigative arm, said Tuesday that a survey of 10,000 schools found that most don’t have the facilities to make full use of computers and video.
“Although at least three-quarters of schools report having sufficient computers and televisions, they do not have the system or building infrastructure to fully use them,” the report said.
More than half the schools reported a lack of modems and phone lines. And one-third of schools reporting that they have enough computers complained of insufficient electrical wiring, according to the report, released by Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun, D-Ill.
Computers that aren’t linked to internal or external networks are limited “in their access to the vast amount of electronic information available and do not allow … for the interaction between students, students and teachers or the school and the outside world,” the report said.
The GAO survey followed up on an earlier report that found that it would cost $112 billion to repair or upgrade facilities at the nation’s 80,000 schools.
In another report, the congressional Office of Technology Assessment said there is one computer for every nine pupils in U.S. classrooms, but students don’t fully benefit from the equipment because their teachers lack technical training.
“In the process of acquiring hardware and software for students to use, teachers - perhaps the most valuable part of the education equation - often have been overlooked,” the office reported.
The nearly 300-page study also found that almost every school in the country has a television and a video player and 41 percent of classrooms have televisions.
But only one teacher in eight has a telephone in class and less than 1 percent has access to voice mail, which can make it easier to communicate with parents. Thirty-five percent of public schools - but only 3 percent of classrooms - have access to the Internet computer information network, the study found.
More importantly, according to the Office of Technology Assessment, teachers need more training and time to experiment with new instructional technology.
“Helping teachers effectively incorporate technology into the teaching and learning process may not only help students become competent technology users but may also help them become more accomplished learners overall, with skills necessary for the information age,” the report said.
The office urged a greater federal role in improving the use and teaching of technology by tailoring grant programs to favor schools with comprehensive technology plans.