WASHINGTON – Maryland students and teachers who have access to computers have become increasingly comfortable with technology, according to a study released Wednesday by the Maryland Business Roundtable for Education.
The report was cited as evidence that the state’s investment in the Technology in Maryland Schools (TIMS) program is paying off in teachers and students who are better educated in technology.
“Research shows that kids who compose on computers have higher quality work,” said June Streckfus, executive director of the business roundtable. But she added that “it is a lot of money to put into education if it doesn’t have gains.”
“We want to make sure the technology is getting to the teachers,” Streckfus said.
The report focused on the first 90 schools to join TIMS in 1996, surveying teachers in those schools before they joined the program and then again in 1998.
It found that the percentage of teachers who said they faced barriers like lack of equipment and inadequate staff training dropped by about one quarter after their schools joined the program. A significant number said they felt more comfortable with computers and now use them for more classroom activities.
Students have also drastically increased their computer use, the report said. Streckfus said that students who have access to computers learn to write better because it is easier for them to edit their work.
There was only a small increase in the number of teachers who use computers to perform tasks like collecting and analyzing data, the report said.
TIMS provides Internet and e-mail access for each of the 565 schools that have signed up since the program began. When it first began training teachers to use computers, less than half of them had ever been on the Internet, said Streckfus. As a result a significant portion of the funding goes toward teacher training, she said.
“We knew we had a long way to go,” she said.
Since there are so many technology-challenged teachers in the state, more funding needs to be given to train teachers, said Karl Pence, president of the Maryland State Teachers Association.
“A lot of teachers need training on how to use this stuff,” he said. “We believe we should have received a higher percentage (of funding) for professional development than we did.”
Pence said he supports the program and believes it will help children prepare for future jobs.
“It would be a mistake not to train teachers to use more technology,” he said. “Teachers and students need to know technology as part of their basic skills.”
TIMS grew out of the Maryland Connected for Learning program, a 1996 initiative by Gov. Parris Glendening that called for Internet access for every public school student.
The Maryland Public School Construction Program funds wiring for the computers under TIMS and the state Department of Education provides funds for the hardware, software and staff training. Local school systems and individual schools are also asked to match the Education Department funds.
In certain cases, schools that could not afford to be in the program received funds from individual companies, Streckfus said. Individual companies from the business roundtable may make donations to schools, but the organization itself does not contribute.
The roundtable is a private group made up of Maryland businesses that monitors how technology is used in the schools.
Schools must apply to the Education Department to join TIMS, explaining how technology will help their students learn, what equipment they will need and where the equipment will be placed in the school.