Ed-tech leaders brace for smaller budgets

The majority of ed-tech leaders said they expect their school technology budgets for the 2009-10 school year to decrease at least somewhat, if not substantially, despite available funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), according to a survey on school technology use and purchasing.

Thirty-one percent of school leaders said they expect their 2009-10 technology budgets to remain the same, 23 percent expect their budgets to decrease somewhat, and 31 percent expect their tech budgets to decrease substantially.  Thirteen percent indicated they anticipate their 2009-10 tech budget will increase, and 2 percent expect it to increase substantially.

The data come from educator responses found in “K-12 Technology Tools and Trends 2009,” a report that details what school and district technology coordinators and curriculum directors think about the technology they are currently using and explores future technology growth in schools. Simba Information and Market Data Retrieval (MDR) teamed up to conduct the educator surveys and produce the report.

“Schools and districts are moving into a phase of careful deliberation about what they want to achieve academically, and how technology can help them achieve that goal,” said Kathleen Brantley, leader of channel management for MDR.

The majority of educators reported using desktop computers (99 percent), laptops or notebook computers (84 percent), and interactive whiteboards (78 percent) in their schools. Almost half, 49 percent, reported using distance learning.

Interactive whiteboards (IWBs) showed the biggest and most noticeable growth in use from the previous years, and data indicate that one in seven classrooms will have an interactive whiteboard by 2011, Kathy Mickey, senior analyst for education at Simba Information, said during a June 9 webinar to discuss the survey’s findings.

IWBs and laptops are the two most useful classroom tools, according to technology leaders who were surveyed. Ed-tech leaders reported that those two technologies, along with desktop computers, have the greatest impact on student performance.

“They can easily facilitate whole-group instruction and also preserve and enhance the traditional role of the teacher,” Brantley said, explaining the popularity of IWBs.

Eighty-eight percent of educators said they would use IWBs, or would use their existing IWBs more often, if more digital content were available. That sends a message about the desire for content, Brantley said.

Distance learning implementation is growing at about 30 percent each year. Forty percent of educators said they have a distance learning system and would like to implement it more extensively, and 31 percent said they would like to implement a distance learning system.

“We’ve seen extensive growth in this particular area,” Brantley said. Currently, 44 states offer significant online learning opportunities for students, and Michigan and Alabama require students to take at least one online course to receive a high school diploma, she said.

The K-12 field is in a period of great change and uncertainty owing to challenging economic times, pending funding from the federal stimulus package, and new technologies that are changing the way teachers teach and students learn, Mickey said.