As tech-savvy as Americans like to think they are, a new report by the World Economic Forum ranks the U.S. 7th in terms of its development and use of technology. At the top of the heap is Denmark, followed by Sweden, Singapore, Finland, and Switzerland. Although the U.S. is still technologically formidable, according to the forum, its pesky regulatory rules and the snail’s pace at which individuals and organizations adopt new technology is allowing other countries to pull ahead. The forum’s report echoes assertions made in a recent study by the U.S.-based AEA (formerly known as the American Electronics Association), which blames some of the problem on math and science education deficits.
But don’t blame the kids. They’re the ones—at least in Massachusetts, where at least 80 districts are not keeping up with technology needs—who end up bringing their own laptops to class. That’s the only way some schools, otherwise stuck with outdated PCs, are able to make use of educational software and CD-Roms. This is a bit of a nightmare scenario for the IT folks, who have to worry about viruses and securing networks. In addition, the state Department of Ed reports that half of Massachusetts’ teachers are still in the early stages of tech literacy. Education Commissioner David Driscoll is understandably concerned that the state’s schools are not keeping up with the pace of technological change. “It’s not a question of schools and districts making progress,” he says. “It’s a matter of ... not making as much progress as there should be.”