21st-Century Classroom Report

Technology skills are essential to a successful future, according to students surveyed in the second annual 21st-Century Classroom Report, a nationwide survey of more than 1,000 high school students, faculty and IT staff. Ninety-four percent of students said learning and mastering technology skills will improve their educational and career opportunities, and 97 percent of faculty agreed.

Despite those results, just 39 percent of students say their high schools are meeting their technology expectations. Noted one student, “I don’t want to type things just to say I used technology; I want to be doing something I couldn’t do without it.”

The report, released today by CDW Government LLC (CDW-G), provider of technology solutions to government, education and healthcare customers, seeks to understand how students and faculty want to use technology, measure how classroom technology is evolving and identify opportunities for continued growth.

Faculty and IT staff are making a concerted effort to advance technology in the classroom, CDW-G found. Today, faculty say technologies such as wireless Internet, interactive whiteboards and digital content are essential to the 21st-century classroom. Just one year ago, faculty limited must-have technology to an internet connection, teacher computing device and LCD projector. This year’s survey also found that 64 percent of IT staff say the technology at their high schools is cutting edge or current, up from 41 percent in 2010.

Despite technology advancements, 86 percent of students note that they use more technology outside the classroom than inside. Nearly all – 94 percent – say they use technology to complete homework assignments, yet just 46 percent of faculty say they regularly assign homework that requires the use of technology.

“Students’ expectations of technology as a learning tool are evolving nearly as fast as the latest technologies,” said Thomas E. Richards, president and chief operating officer, CDW. “The most successful districts are adapting, even amid constrained resources, in order to foster new opportunities for critical thinking and collaboration.”

Leading school districts are using digital content, an emerging component of the 21st-century classroom, according to this year’s survey. Eleven percent of districts are using digital content as an alternative to traditional print textbooks, and 62 percent of IT staff said their districts are considering it. Nearly three-quarters of faculty noted that digital content is essential because of its ability to provide faculty and students with better access to updated information.

Other key findings of the CDW-G 21st-Century Classroom Report include:

  • Districts are looking beyond current budget challenges: Despite the expectation that 47 percent of district IT budgets will decrease from current levels during the next school year, 65 percent of districts plan investments in classroom technology over the next two years
  • Districts have an opportunity to leverage mobility devices in the learning process, as students say smartphones (30 percent) and MP3 players (36 percent) are essential tools in a 21st-century classroom
  • High school students and faculty use technology to communicate – but not necessarily collaborate – with peers. Asked about technology as a communication tool, 59 percent of students say they communicate with other students every day, but only 23 percent use it to collaborate on assignments and projects with other students

In order to successfully prepare students for their future, the 21st-Century Classroom Report recommends that districts:

  • Understand the impact: Getting teachers to a point where they can easily integrate technology into the curriculum requires additional planning time. Professional development can help faculty increase the efficiency and effectiveness of their lesson planning
  • Invest in engagement: Experimenting with innovative teaching methods may help students collaborate more amongst themselves. Create an environment where teachers can test instructional techniques and share best practices with each other
  • Seek student input: While more than 70 percent of faculty and IT staff believe they understand how students want to use technology as a learning tool, just 49 percent of students agree. Consider using the 21st-Century Classroom survey tool to get an accurate picture of student, faculty and IT staff needs on your campus. Use the results to discuss 21st-century skills with students to determine what technology they find most beneficial and seek guidance on how to effectively incorporate technology into the curriculum