Today, American teachers and students will together celebrate Digital Learning Day. Organized by the Alliance for Excellent Education, Digital Learning Day applauds teacher efforts to effectively integrate technology into their classrooms. So far over 29,500 people have taken the Digital Learning Day pledge, promising that they will attend a local event or incorporate an aspect of digital learning into their classroom on Wednesday. Some teachers have even instituted a “no paper, no pen” rule for the entire day.
In honor of Digital Learning Day, the Edcite team would like to pause and celebrate the great technology changes happening in classrooms across the US. In the first three months of our Beta program, more than 1,700 users — teachers, coaches and administrators alike — have signed up for our site and used our resources with their students. We’ve had conversations with many amazing and inspirational teachers (and students!) and we look forward to continuing the conversation as we grow. For us, we feel the excitement about digital learning on a daily basis!
So we asked ourselves: to what extent has digital learning progressed in the United States? We sorted through the data and found something completely unsurprising. Though technology may have been slow to permeate the education sector, we have made great strides:
First, access to technology has increased dramatically over the last 30 years. The number of computers in American homes has grown more than eightfold, jumping from 8% in 1984 to 75% in 2011. Similarly, Internet access nearly tripled from 18% in 1997, to 54.7% in 2003 to 71% in 2011. The numbers were even more positive for K12 students, as the figure below demonstrates. Research from 2011 shows that over 83% of students lived in a house with at least one computer and 58% possessed Internet access.
Students started using more technology not just at home, but in their classrooms as well. In 2009, the ratio of students to computers in school classrooms was 5.3 to 1, but we know that classroom technology use has greatly improved since 2009. Many districts have allocated more money for more technology equipment, and many teachers have independently and proactively incorporated technology into their curricula. In addition to computers, classrooms are using iPads and smartphones well or becoming BYOD classrooms. In fact, according to Apple, 1.5 million iPads were used in educational institutions and schools in 2012.
Internet availability in schools also improved. In 1996, only 14% of schools had access to Internet. In response, Congress developed the E-rate program, which aimed to increase broadband availability in schools and libraries nationwide. According to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, this initiative helped raise the percentage of schools with Internet from 14% to 95%. In 2013, President Obama launched a special program called ConnectED, aimed to connect 99% of American students to Internet within 5 years and invest in teacher training programs. This past Saturday, February 1st, the Federal Communications Commission (F.C.C.) announced that it would double its budget for increasing broadband services in schools and libraries, from 1 billion to 2 billion dollars.
Clearly this is an exciting time to be a part of the K-12 digital revolution. Let’s hear it for more digital learning days!