Access at School
IT in Math and Science Instruction
Teacher Preparation and Training in Using IT
IT Access at Home
As IT becomes more pervasive in U.S. society, unfamiliarity with
IT will increasingly limit students' economic and educational opportunities.
Data on student access to IT at home and at school provide indications
of the degree to which Americans become acquainted with IT and the
Internet during their school years, including the degree to which
exposure varies with demographic characteristics.
Schools have sought to take advantage of IT to improve education.
Much remains to be learned about how IT can be used to help students
learn mathematics and science, and much experimentation is under
way. The NCLB Act authorizes funds for states and districts to increase
IT use, and it places particular emphasis on equalizing access for
students in all schools.
This section describes data on student access to IT in school,
ways in which schools currently use IT for instruction in mathematics
and science, and teacher preparation for its use. It also looks
at student access to IT at home.
IT Access at School
A vast majority of students now study in schools and classrooms
with computers and at least some form of Internet access. Where
differences in school access persist, they concern student-computer
ratios, teacher preparation for using IT, and ways in which teachers
use IT. These issues go beyond sheer access to encompass quality
and effectiveness in IT use.
Access to computers and the Internet has increased rapidly during
the past decade. Virtually all schools have Internet access in at
least one location; in fact, most classrooms have access. By fall
2001, an estimated 99 percent of public schools and 87 percent of
instructional rooms had Internet connections. (Instructional rooms
include classrooms, computer and other labs, library/media centers,
and any other rooms used for instructional purposes.) This represents
a dramatic increase over 1994, when only 35 percent of public schools
and 3 percent of instructional rooms had Internet connections (Kleiner
and Farris 2002).
Schools with high concentrations of
students eligible for the Free/Reduced-Price Lunch Program or with
high minority enrollment tend to have somewhat less access. Classrooms
in these schools were less likely to have computers and the number
of students per Internet-accessible instructional computer was higher.
In schools with 75 percent or more students eligible for the Free/Reduced-Price
Lunch Program, the ratio of students to Internet-accessible computers
reached 6.8:1, compared with 4.9:1 in schools with fewer than 35
percent eligible students. The figures for minority enrollments
show a similar difference: a 6.4:1 ratio for schools with 50 percent
or more minority enrollment versus a 4.7:1 ratio in schools with
5 percent or less minority enrollment. However, access in low-income
and minority schools increased between 2000 and 2001. The proportion
of instructional rooms with Internet access rose from 60 to 79 percent
in schools with the highest concentration of poverty, and from 64
to 81 percent in schools with the highest minority enrollment (Kleiner
and Farris 2002).
IT in Math and Science Instruction
As early as kindergarten, a majority of students have access to
IT at school. According to the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study
(ECLS), in spring 1999, most kindergartners used computers in the
classroom at least weekly to learn mathematics (61 percent), and
some used them to learn science (20 percent) (Rathburn
and West 2003).
At the high school level, large majorities of public school teachers
in all fields report using computers for instructional purposes
Teachers who had used computers in classes during the previous 2
weeks were asked to select one of their classes and indicate how
often they used computers for various purposes in that class. Teachers
reported using computers for practicing skills, solving problems,
learning course materials, and working collaboratively more often
than they reported using them to produce multimedia projects or
correspond with experts or others outside the school. In this respect,
mathematics and science teachers did not differ greatly from their
colleagues who teach other subjects.
NAEP data show substantially increased use of computers in mathematics
and science classes between 1996 and 2000. In 2000, the percentage
of mathematics teachers in grades 4, 8, and 12 who reported that
their students had access to computers in their classrooms at all
times increased at least 20 percentage points above the 1996 level.
Computer use in fourth and eighth grade science classes also increased
during this period. NAEP did not collect data on 12th grade science
classes (NCES 2001c and 2003b).
In 2000, more than half of 12th grade science students used computers
in each of the following ways: collecting data, analyzing data,
downloading data and related information from the Internet, and
using lab equipment that interfaces with computers. Almost half
reported using the Internet to exchange information with other students
or scientists about experiments (NCES
2003c). Educators are currently exploring a variety of new uses
of IT (see sidebar "New IT Forms and Uses").
High school mathematics and science teachers in schools with a
high percentage of minority students who had used computers within
the previous 2 weeks reported somewhat different use patterns than
their counterparts in other high schools. These teachers were more
likely to use computers to practice skills, solve problems, and
teach course material in more class periods than teachers in schools
with a lower percentage of minority students.
Teacher Preparation and Training in Using
Advocates for IT in schools stress that teachers need both targeted
and meaningful professional development and timely, accessible,
and ongoing technical support to help them use IT effectively in
their teaching (Bray 1999, CEO
Forum on Education and Technology 1999, and Hruskocy
et al. 1997). The NCLB Act requires each local education agency
receiving formula funds from state technology grants (Title II,
Part D, Subpart 1) to allocate 25 percent of its funds for high-quality
professional development toward integrating technology into instruction.
Recent large-scale studies indicate that teachers want more support
in integrating IT into everyday classroom practice. In 1999, two-thirds
of teachers listed inadequate teacher training as a barrier to effective
IT use. However, new teachers (those with 3 or fewer years of teaching
experience) were less likely to report that they were not at all
prepared to use computers and the Internet for classroom instruction
(10 percent) than teachers with 10 to 19 years of teaching experience
(14 percent), or with 20 or more years (16 percent). In addition,
teachers in this survey identified other barriers to using IT effectively
as being as important as lack of training: lack of release time
(82 percent), lack of scheduled time for students to use computers
(80 percent), insufficient computers (78 percent), lack of good
instructional software (71 percent), outdated computers with slow
processors (66 percent), and difficulty accessing the Internet connection
(58 percent) (NCES 2000c).
States are addressing the need for computer literacy among teachers.
As of 2002, 26 states and the District of Columbia required IT training
or coursework before initial teacher licensure. In seven states,
teachers must demonstrate their technological skill in order to
receive a license. Thirteen states offer various incentives, such
as free laptop computers or continuing education credits, to encourage
teachers to use IT in their classrooms. In 2002, 22 states offered
incentives for principals and administrators to use IT in schools,
up from 11 states in 2000 (Editorial
Projects in Education 2002).
Teachers who participate in IT-oriented professional development
activities appear likely to increase their use of IT (Becker
1999, Fatemi 1999, and Wenglinsky
1998). Teachers who spent 9 or more hours per year on professional
development in this area felt substantially better prepared to use
computers and the Internet in class than those who had spent less
time (NCES 2000c).
In addition to classroom applications, the Internet also provides
teachers with the opportunity to expand their professional learning
communities and to share curricula and instructional strategies
with other teachers. Databases of curriculum materials and electronic
discussion lists provide teachers with access to a broad range of
resources and colleagues. Telementoring has become a popular way
of providing effective coaching and training for teachers, especially
in technology integration (Harris 1999).
The Internet also facilitates schools' partnerships and communications
with external organizations, parents, and the community. Industry
partners sometimes help train teachers in how to use IT effectively
or provide schools with financial resources and equipment (CEO
Forum on Education and Technology 1999; Means
1998; and Rocap, Cassidy, and Connor
IT Access at Home
Because Internet access provides educational and social opportunities
that can be increasingly important for school-aged children, it
is important to look at access to this relatively recent technology
outside the classroom. Approximately 77 percent of preteens (ages
1013) and 86 percent of teens (ages 1417) use the Internet
when doing their school-work (figure
Families with children more often have computers and Internet connections
than do other households. According to a National Telecommunications
and Information Administration report (NTIA 2002) based on September
2001 Current Population Survey (CPS) data, 70 percent of such families
had computers compared with 59 percent of families with no children
and 39 percent of nonfamily households.
Similar differences existed in Internet access, at 62 percent access
for family households with children under the age of 18, 53 percent
for family households with no children, and 35 percent for nonfamily
households. Home access is much more unequally distributed than
school access. Low-income (figure
and minority (NTIA 2002) children
are much less likely than their peers to have Internet access at
Approximately one-third of children ages 10-17 in the lowest income
category have home access to computers, but access in the highest
income group is nearly universal. Overall computer use at school
is much more equal, at 80 percent for children in the lowest income
category and 89 percent for those in the highest income category.
As a result, reliance on school for access is common for children
in the lowest income category, where 52 percent use computers at
school but not at home. However, it is rare in the highest income
category, where the corresponding figure is 6 percent. Although
schools do play a role in equalizing access, figure
also shows that the lower a family's income, the more likely it
is that the children do not use computers at all.
NAEP data present similar findings about the relationship between
income and home computer access. Overall, 78 percent of fourth graders
and 84 percent of eighth graders reported having a computer available
at home. Among students eligible for the Free/Reduced-Price Lunch
Program, however, only 62 percent of fourth graders and 67 percent
of eighth graders had computers at home (Editorial
Projects in Education 2002) (figure
Home access to the Internet is likewise strongly associated with
family income. Figure 1-34
shows that 22 percent of children in the lowest income category
use the Internet at home compared with 83 percent in the highest
income category. A substantially larger disparity related to income
exists in children's access to the Internet at school (35 percent
of children in the lowest income households versus 63 percent of
children from the highest income households) compared with the disparity
for school computer access overall. As a result, a much greater
difference exists in Internet use between children in the highest
and lowest income groups (42 percentage points) than exists for
computer use overall (13 percentage points) (figures
and 1-34 ).
Thus, although schools have helped reduce the disparities associated
with family income in children's overall access to computers, they
appear to do much less to reduce income-related disparities in children's
access to the Internet.
Racial and ethnic differences are also big. Black and Hispanic
students lag far behind their white and Asian/Pacific Islander counterparts
when it comes to home computer access, with 45 percent of black
children and 39 percent of Hispanic children having access to a
home computer compared with 79 percent of whites and 74 percent
of Asian/Pacific Islanders (U.S. Bureau
of the Census 2001).
At almost every income level, fewer households in rural areas own
computers compared with those in urban or central city areas (NTIA