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District administrators and principals own more smartphones and tablets than the general U.S. adult population, according to the 2011 Speak Up survey from Project Tomorrow.
The education nonprofit organization surveyed more than 416,000 K-12 students, parents, teachers, librarians and administrators in fall 2011 and released the results in two separate reports.
On Wednesday, May 24, Project Tomorrow published the Speak Up report [PDF] findings from K-12 teachers, librarians and administrators. The study included responses from 814 district and 3,319 school administrators.
While 46 percent of U.S. adults own smartphones according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, more than 70 percent of school administrators own these devices.
"When they actually are realizing the benefits of using those devices, that's when it is having a corollary impact on their attitudes on for example, bring your own device to school," Julie Evans, president and CEO of Project Tomorrow.
Administrators are generally innovative with technology such as mobile devices, but they can't always put their ideas into action in schools because of lack of funding, Evans said. When they do have funds, administrators who have mobile devices, take online courses and get their professional development on social networks are more likely to encourage those things in their districts.
Of the district administrators with smartphones or tablets, 41 percent are evaluating "bring your own technology" initiatives and 13 percent are piloting them. Administrators who didn't own smartphones or tablets were evaluating and piloting "bring your own technology" initiatives at lower rates of 19 and 13 percent respectively.
Increasingly, administrators are considering digital content and e-textbooks to cut costs and move away from being reliant on textbook publishers. Of the administrators who use digital content, they mentioned five benefits of bringing digital content into the curriculum:
While 46 percent of administrators are considering digital textbooks, 39 percent are looking at online professional development for teachers. This mix shows that administrators aren't just interested in classroom technology, but also in changing how students learn, Evans said.
With more educators taking online professional development courses, just over half of district administrators and a third of school principals include online student learning for in their vision of the 21st century school. Two-thirds of district administrators said they agreed with policies that require students to take an online class before they graduate high school. Of the administrators who took an online class, three-quarters of them agreed with such a requirement.
In 2008, only 22 percent of teachers and 8 percent of administrators regularly used a social networking site for professional growth and networking. But in the 2011 survey, those numbers skyrocketed. Now 45 percent of teachers, 27 percent of principals and 35 percent of district administrators network on sites such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
"For so long teachers have felt isolated in their classroom," Evans said. "The classroom door closes, the bell rings and there you are in the classroom with your students. And so some of the social media has really given them an opportunity to transcend the walls of those classrooms and to be able to collaborate and communicate with their peers — not even just at their school, but anywhere."
As the role of librarians and media specialists changes, they're increasingly becoming the bridge that connects teachers to open digital resources. They're pulling together online resources for teachers, finding digital content and evaluating software. Two-thirds of librarians participate in professional learning communities with the teachers who are their colleagues.
The technology that administrators use often influences the technology they'd like to see in their schools, whether it's students bringing their own devices into classrooms or the utilization of online courses. Digital content and social networking are becoming more popular with educators. And librarians are becoming digital resources for teachers.
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