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Tulsa Teachers Voice Concerns About Technology's Use in District

By guest blogger Victoria O'Dea

A majority of teachers and principals in the Tulsa, Okla., school system consider technology to be "very important" for student achievement, but they find the technology resources available in their district unsatisfactory, rating the effectiveness of those resources as "less than acceptable" in a recent survey.

More than 1,300 employees participated in the districtwide survey. The survey's discouraging results have prompted the Tulsa's board of education to appoint a 20-member bond-development committee to advise the board on whether or not to proceed with a technology-focused bond initiative in 2013, according to a statement released by the district.

According to the survey, when asked to rate the importance of technology in "positively impacting student achievement," teachers gave a positive response, with an average rating of 4.38 on a 5-point scale.

Yet when the same teachers were asked to assess the "effectiveness of current technology" in their classrooms, the average rating fell to a 2.8 on a 5-point scale, or "less than acceptable."

The results of the survey in Tulsa are in some ways reflective of concerns shared by leaders of school districts across the country, who worry that tech tools don't meet classroom demands. In 2010, Education Week and Blackboard partnered to run a Survey of Online Learning Preparedness, and drew responses from more than 2,200 district leaders nationwide. The survey found that while an overwhelming majority of school officials—96 percent—said that students demonstrate improved achievement when technology is integrated into their curriculum, only 51 percent of those officials agreed that their district met the online learning demands of students.

In the executive summary of the survey, Tulsa Superintendent Keith Ballard said that a lack of technology was not to blame for low student achievement in the district, but that it has compounded the problem. "With the right tools," he said, "I believe our teachers can leverage classroom technology to improve student performance and improve achievement substantially."

Jericho Hobson, who teaches at Anderson Elementary School, said that she hopes the survey will bring about positive change in the school district. "We don't necessarily have an equitable situation with every school or classroom having the same technology, so my hope is that with this survey classrooms that don't have this technology will be able to gain more access," to it, Hobson told Education Week.

The Tulsa survey was developed using teacher feedback, and 80 percent of the 1,357 employees who participated in the survey were teachers.

Of course, while surveys of school employees are one way to gather perspectives on school conditions at the national, state, and district levels, those polls typically don't offer guidance on the steps school leaders should take to improve technology or other aspects of district operations. In Tulsa, those decisions will be made by the school board and members of the bond-committee in the coming months.

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