Schools' tech use is slight in Md. Survey: Only half of Maryland's teachers know how to surf the Web, a report shows.

September 28, 1998|By Mary Maushard | Mary Maushard,Sun Staff

While nearly 90 percent of Maryland's public schools have at least one computer that can connect to the Internet, only half of the state's teachers know how to surf the World Wide Web or send e-mail, according to a new survey of educational technology.

Furthermore, less than 2 percent of the state's teachers routinely use technology in their classrooms.

The report, entitled "Where Do We Stand Now?", was sponsored by the Maryland Business Roundtable for Education and released to the state Board of Education last week.

The survey shows considerable improvement statewide in the quality and quantity of equipment available, in the computer-to-student ratio and in the percentage of schools with Internet access. Some 89 percent of schools now have Internet capability, compared to 43 percent in the Roundtable's baseline survey in early 1996.

"We think that we've made significant progress," said June Streckfus, executive director of the Business Roundtable, which developed the technology plan that the state board adopted in 1995. "It doesn't mean we don't have a long way to go."

One concern is the disparity between high-and low-poverty schools. Only 57 percent of schools in which more than 70 percent of students receiving free or reduced-price lunches had Internet access - slightly below the national average of 63 percent for high-poverty schools.

Although the report shows that 51 percent of Baltimore City schools were connected to the Internet when the survey was conducted in December, Streckfus said almost all city schools have access now.

Teacher training remains another concern, though the primary focus of the technology initiative was to get schools wired and equipped.

"Once access is there, we believe we will begin to see an increase in teacher knowledge on how to use this equipment," Streckfus said.

Joyce Caldwell, the library-media specialist at Perry Hall Middle School, sees this happening in her school, which now has an Internet lab in the middle of the library.

"At a school like mine that has lots of access these teachers will have more motivation to use it," said Caldwell, who has taught courses for teachers at all grade levels.

"I feel like the resistance is going away. In their personal life, [teachers] are finding that technology has meaning. They can plan a trip or talk to their daughter at college," and then they begin to see applications in their classrooms, Caldwell added.

The Roundtable's technology plan was buoyed by the Technology in Maryland Schools Program, a five-year plan to spend $62 million on hardware, software and teacher training in 700 schools by 2001. So far, the program has helped nearly 400 schools, which are required to match state money with local funds.

Streckfus said the round table is still trying to determine how much money has been spent on school technology from private, local, state and federal coffers, but she is certain they have reached the round table goal of $150 million in four years.

Among the other findings in the survey:

Only 47 percent of school computers are rated as low-capacity machines, down from 51 percent in the last survey. A low-capacity machine uses an Intel 386 or older processor and does not offer Internet access.

Twenty-three percent of the state's classrooms have access to the Internet.

The statewide student-to-computer ratio is 7 to 1, but that ratio goes up to 12 to 1 when the low-capacity computers were excluded. The national ratio is 9 to 1.

Eighty-two percent of Maryland teachers can operate computers and software programs, while 57 percent feel they can use technology comfortably with students. While 53 percent can lTC access the Internet, only 1.8 percent routinely use technology in their classrooms.

There are gaps in less exotic technology, too. While 90.8 percent of the schools have television and 84.5 percent are equipped with cable TV, 12.2 percent of the state's classrooms have telephones.

Pub Date: 9/28/98

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