Austin Public Schools reviews student, teacher technology survey results

Published 6:00 pm Saturday, January 24, 2015

Tech is taking over

The amount of students accessing technology at Austin Public Schools has gone up since last year.

The district took the clarity technology inventory review survey for the second year in December of 2014, and the numbers have shown improvement.

The survey is taken by students in third through 12th grade, as well as teachers and staff.

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Director of Research Evaluation and Assessment Corey Haugen said the survey is designed to provide clarity and insight on the school’s technology integration efforts. Last year, the district scored a 1029 in the CASE skills, or classroom, access, skills and environment. This year they scored 1043.

“We’re making progress, we’re seeing some gains in each individual skill area,” Haugen said.

The survey collected data in multiple areas, including the CASE skills, if students are taught how to cite online information, if students are taught how to act respectfully online, how much the students use a computer in the classroom, and access at home.

One thing the district did not score so well on was access in the classroom. Because they are still learning how to use technology to its full potential, the district has placed technology integrationists in most of the schools. These specialists focus on helping teachers and staff use technology to the best of its ability, not just as a replacement to an old style of teaching.

“It’s about, how can we get kids more engaged, share ideas, just like we do in daily life, with everything being online the way it is now,” Haugen said.

But teachers haven’t only relied on the technology integrationists.

“There’s nothing wrong with asking a kid, ‘how would you do this,’ or maybe they know more based on their experiences,” Haugen said. “And technology can sometimes level the playing field in that regard, and what’s nice about that is it’s not about looking stupid in front of somebody, it’s that we’re in a business of learning and teachers learn just as much as students do so we have to embrace that change and that shift.”

He noted one part of the survey that was particularly interesting was looking at access students have to the Internet at home. Since the district has a large number of students on free and reduced lunch, many would suspect those students don’t have access at home. That is not the case.

“We’re finding that 90 percent are able to access that in their homes,” Haugen said.

Of those 90 percent, 93 percent have access to wireless internet. Haugen said this is important because classes have begun to utilize the Internet more, and if an assignment requires the student to look something up online when they go home, the district has to ensure those students have a way to complete the assignment. Haugen noted many students go to the library or McDonalds to use the free wi-fi.

“We do try to make sure that we’re considerate of those without access at home, but that’s a relatively small percentage,” Haugen said.

He also noted an increase in tablet usage compared to computers.

“The tablet trend has gone up 10 percent over the last year in our students’ homes,” Haugen said.

Students also show a large trend of having their own phone. Haugen said 56 percent of students reported owning their own smartphone, and of those, 84 percent of them said it was their own, personal phone. He pointed out 90 percent of those students were in ninth through 12th grade.

“The reality is that, in terms of students having access to this, whether they’re at school or at home, as a district we’re in a really good position with that,” Haugen said.

Although there are some areas the district is still working on, overall Haugen said they are happy with where the numbers are.

“We’re satisfied with those things but always working to find how we can move to those next levels and become more advanced in those topics,” he said. “But right now a lot of our focus is on that classroom area.”

“We also realize that we’re not perfect at this yet, everybody’s learning from the teachers to the students to the administration, and overall as a district we’re really satisfied with where we are in technology,” Haugen added. “I think that we have a model school in the state.”