Technology in Schools


Edited by: Kevin P. Brady, Charles J. Russo & Allan G. Osborne

  • Citations
  • Add to My List
  • Text Size

  • Chapters
  • Front Matter
  • Editorial Board


    University of Dayton

    Principal (Retired), Snug Harbor Community School, Quincy, Massachusetts

    Volume Editor

    Kevin P. Brady

    North Carolina State University

    Advisory Board

    Francine DeFranco

    Homer Babbidge Library, University of Connecticut

    Ralph D. Mawdsley

    Cleveland State University

    Martha M. McCarthy

    Loyola Marymount University and Indiana University

    Mark E. Shelton

    Monroe C. Gutman Education Library, Harvard University


    View Copyright Page

    About the Editors-in-Chief

    Charles J. Russo, JD, EdD, is the Joseph Panzer Chair in Education in the School of Education and Allied Professions and adjunct professor in the School of Law at the University of Dayton. He was the 1998–1999 president of the Education Law Association and 2002 recipient of its McGhehey (Achievement) Award. He has authored or coauthored more than 200 articles in peer-reviewed journals; has authored, coauthored, edited, or coedited 40 books; and has in excess of 800 publications. Russo also speaks extensively on issues in education law in the United States and abroad.

    Along with having spoken in 33 states and 25 nations on 6 continents, Russo has taught summer courses in England, Spain, and Thailand; he also has served as a visiting professor at Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane and the University of Newcastle, Australia; the University of Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina; South East European University, Macedonia; the Potchefstroom Campus of North-West University in Potchefstroom, South Africa; the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; and the University of São Paulo, Brazil. He regularly serves as a visiting professor at the Potchefstroom Campus of North-West University.

    Before joining the faculty at the University of Dayton as professor and chair of the Department of Educational Administration in July 1996, Russo taught at the University of Kentucky in Lexington from August 1992 to July 1996 and at Fordham University in his native New York City from September 1989 to July 1992. He taught high school for 8½ years before and after graduation from law school. He received a BA (classical civilization) in 1972, a JD in 1983, and an EdD (educational administration and supervision) in 1989 from St. John's University in New York City. He also received a master of divinity degree from the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in Huntington, New York, in 1978, as well as a PhD Honoris Causa from the Potchefstroom Campus of North-West University, South Africa, in May 2004 for his contributions to the field of education law.

    Russo and his wife, a preschool teacher who provides invaluable assistance proofreading and editing, travel regularly both nationally and internationally to Russo's many speaking and teaching engagements.

    Allan G. Osborne, Jr. is the retired principal of the Snug Harbor Community School in Quincy, Massachusetts, a nationally recognized Blue Ribbon School of Excellence. During his 34 years in public education, he served as a special education teacher, a director of special education, an assistant principal, and a principal. He has also served as an adjunct professor of special education and education law at several colleges, including Bridgewater State University and American International University.

    Osborne earned an EdD in educational leadership from Boston College and an MEd in special education from Fitchburg State College (now Fitchburg State University) in Massachusetts. He received a BA in psychology from the University of Massachusetts.

    Osborne has authored or coauthored numerous peer-reviewed journal articles, book chapters, monographs, and textbooks on legal issues in education, along with textbooks on other aspects of education. Although he writes and presents in several areas of educational law, he specializes in legal and policy issues in special education. He is the coauthor, with Charles J. Russo, of five texts published by Corwin, a SAGE company.

    A past president of the Education Law Association (ELA), Osborne has been an attendee and presenter at most ELA conferences since 1991. He has also written a chapter now titled “Students With Disabilities” for the Yearbook of Education Law, published by ELA, since 1990. He is on the editorial advisory committee of West's Education Law Reporter and is coeditor of the “Education Law Into Practice” section of that journal, which is sponsored by ELA. He is also on the editorial boards of several other education journals.

    In recognition of his contributions to the field of education law, Osborne was presented with the McGhehey Award by ELA in 2008, the highest award given by the organization. He is also the recipient of the City of Quincy Human Rights Award, the Financial Executives Institute of Massachusetts Principals Award, the Junior Achievement of Massachusetts Principals Award, and several community service awards.

    Osborne spends his time in retirement writing, editing, and working on his hobbies, genealogy and photography. He and his wife Debbie, a retired elementary school teacher, enjoy gardening, traveling, attending theater and musical performances, and volunteering at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.

    About the Volume Editor

    Kevin P. Brady is currently an associate professor in the Department of Leadership, Policy and Adult and Higher Education at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, North Carolina. Previously, he was an assistant professor in the Department of Educational and Community Programs at the City University of New York–Queens College.

    His current research interests include student and teacher free speech and expression, legal issues involving student discipline, special education law, school finance, blended learning distance education course development, and educational technology issues involving today's school leaders.

    Brady's peer-reviewed scholarship appears in a wide array of leading educational law, policy, and technology journals, including the Brigham Young University Education and Law Journal, Children's Legal Rights Journal, Distance Education, Education and the Law, Education and Urban Society, Journal of Education Finance, Journal of Interactive Online Learning, Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, Journal of School Leadership, International Journal of Educational Reform, NASSP Bulletin, Review of Research in Education, and West's Education Law Reporter.

    About the Contributors

    Leanna Matchett Archambault is an assistant professor of Instructional Technology at Arizona State University. Her research interests include K–12 online teacher preparation, the nature of technological pedagogical content knowledge in online environments, and the use of innovative technologies to improve teaching and learning.

    Michael Barbour is an assistant professor in instructional technology and educational evaluation and research at Wayne State University. He has been a K–12 online learning researcher, teacher, course designer, and administrator in several countries for more than a decade. Barbour researches the effective design, delivery, and support of K–12 online learning.

    Justin M. Bathon is an assistant professor of educational leadership studies at the University of Kentucky, where he is a director of the University Council for Educational Administration Center for the Advanced Study of Technology Leadership in Education.

    Christine M. Battista received her PhD in English, general literature, and rhetoric at Binghamton University in 2011. She is currently a lecturer and a writing associate at Binghamton University. Her interests and fields of research include American studies, feminism, ecocriticism, and studies in composition. Her essay is based on her own experiences in the classroom, and she currently is researching the intersections between areas of globalization, environmentalism, technology, and literary studies.

    Steven M. Baule is superintendent of North Boone Community Unit School District 200 in Poplar Grove, Illinois. He has written and presented on a variety of educational technology and historical topics. He was named one of the Ten Tech Savvy Superintendents in 2009 by eSchoolNews.

    Jill Castek is a postdoctoral scholar at the University of California, Berkeley. She has taught striving readers in grades K–12 for more than a decade. Her research examines the skills and strategies needed for online reading comprehension and explores instructional techniques for inquiry learning and online collaboration among academically diverse learners.

    Margie W. Crowe spent 30 years teaching general and special education in public and private schools before joining the special education faculty at the University of Southern Mississippi. Her interests include assistive technology, differentiating instruction, and curriculum design.

    Philip T. K. Daniel is the Flesher Professor of Educational Administration and an adjunct professor of law at the Ohio State University. He is the author of numerous refereed publications and is coauthor of the books Law and Public Education, Education Law and the Public Schools: A Compendium, and the upcoming Law, Policy, and Higher Education.

    A. Jonathan Eakle is an associate professor of The Johns Hopkins University School of Education. His research involves communications and cultures; in particular, the relations among images and words used in formal and informal learning environments and how these relations create various subjects, including education policy, philosophy, curriculum, and instruction.

    Margaret Hagood is an associate professor of literacy at the College of Charleston. She teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in early childhood, elementary, and middle grade literacies, focusing on new literacies, pop culture, and digital technologies relevant to life in the 21st century.

    Abigail Hawkins is a senior instructional designer at Adobe Systems Incorporated, where she designs learning solutions for Adobe managers and employees. Her research interests include K–12 online learning, learning analytics, and management development. In 2011, she completed her PhD in instructional psychology and technology from Brigham Young University. Prior to that, she earned her MS in the same field from Indiana University. Hawkins has authored several articles on the subject of K–12 online learning and interaction.

    Geraldine R. Johnson graduated with a PhD from Texas A&M–Commerce. She presently serves as chair of the Educational Instruction and Leadership Department at Southeastern Oklahoma State University, Durant, Oklahoma, and teaches educational technology. She is a former secondary science teacher, librarian, and principal.

    Kathryn Kennedy is an assistant professor at Georgia Southern University. She holds a PhD from the University of Florida in curriculum and instruction, with a concentration in educational technology. Her research interests include teacher preparation for technology integration and instructional design in traditional, blended, and online learning environments.

    Jerrid W. Kruse, assistant professor in the School of Education at Drake University, teaches courses in educational technology, science education, learning and assessment, and chemistry. His research interests include the natures of learning, science, and technology, and how students of all ages might come to understand these natures.

    Robert Stewart Mayers, former teacher and high school department chair, is an associate professor in the Department of Educational Instruction and Leadership at Southeastern Oklahoma State University in Durant, Oklahoma. His research interests include legal issues in education and teacher evaluation. He earned his PhD at the University of Georgia.

    Timothy E. Morse is an associate professor at the University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast, where he directs the Mississippi Department of Education's Autism Project. In addition to having taught undergraduate and graduate special education courses at the university, he has worked as a public school special education administrator and teacher.

    Curtis R. Nash has an MA in communication from Illinois State University and is a doctoral student in the Educational Leadership program at the University of Dayton (UD). He is currently a graduate assistant at UD. His current research interests focus on legal aspects of university student codes of conduct.

    Kevin M. Oliver is associate professor of curriculum and instruction at North Carolina State University.

    Patrick D. Pauken is vice provost for Governance and Faculty Relations at Bowling Green State University, where he teaches school law, higher education law, special education law, and ethical leadership. He has presented and published in various areas of ethics and law, including school violence and technology.

    Allison Powell is the vice president for State and District Services of the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL). Before joining iNACOL, she helped build the Clark County School District's Virtual High School and an online professional development program. She completed her PhD from Pepperdine University in educational technology.

    Jayson W. Richardson is an assistant professor in the Department of Educational Leadership Studies at the University of Kentucky. He researches educational leadership, emerging technologies, technology leadership, and technology in less developed countries. He is the associate director of the Center for the Advanced Study of Technology in Education.

    Raymond Rose is cofounder of Rose & Smith Associates of Austin, Texas. He is an online learning evangelist and a fierce advocate for the radical reform of U.S. education. He has been a classroom teacher and school administrator, and he now focuses his career to working for school improvement nationwide.

    Nick Sauers is currently a graduate student at Iowa State University and the leadership training coordinator for the Center for the Advanced Study of Technology Leadership in Education. Prior to his current position, he had served as a classroom teacher and a principal.

    Meredith Stewart teaches middle and high school history at Cary Academy in Cary, North Carolina, where she developed the school's first blended learning class. In addition to her teaching responsibilities, she serves as an instructional technology facilitator. She holds both a graduate theology and a law degree from Duke University.

    Anne F. Thorp is the regional educational media center director and an instructional technologist for the Ottawa Area Intermediate School District in Holland, Michigan. Blended and online instruction are areas of specialization commonly taught through related professional development opportunities at the Ottawa Area Intermediate School District.

    Bruce Umpstead serves as the state director of educational technology and data coordination at the Michigan Department of Education. He is responsible for implementing Michigan's online learning graduation requirement and the State Educational Technology Plan. His formal education includes a BA in public administration, an MBA in finance and general management, and professional certifications in management accounting, project management, and online instruction.

    Korrin M. Ziswiler has an MBA from Wright State University and is currently a doctoral student in the Education Leadership program at the University of Dayton in Dayton, Ohio. She is currently a graduate assistant for the University of Dayton and has taught numerous online classes for Sinclair Community College in Dayton, Ohio.


    Technology Access in Today's K–12 Schools

    In the past decade, considerable progress has been made in terms of increasing student access to technology in public K–12 schools across the country. In 1993, for example, approximately two-thirds of public K–12 schools in the United States could claim that they had Internet access for both their students and staff (Wells & Lewis, 2006). A decade later in 2003, K–12 public schools across the United States could boast nearly universal Internet access in their schools (Wells & Lewis, 2006). According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), a national count of computers in public schools across the country revealed a ratio of 3.8-to-1, compared to a ratio of 5.7-to-1 in 1999, for the number of students sharing a computer for instructional purposes with Internet access (Wells & Lewis, 2006). While it is evident that overall student access to technology in public K–12 schools in the form of a computer with Internet access has improved, there still exist significant disparities in student access to technology across states. For instance, in states with high student technology access, such as Maine and South Dakota, there is only a 2-to-1 ratio of students sharing a computer with Internet access compared to an estimated 5-to-1 ratio in states with low student technology access, such as California, New Hampshire, and Utah.

    Equity: The Continuing “Digital Divide” of Technology in Schools

    The well-documented “digital divide” in technological access between wealthier and poorer school districts, based on the unequal access to computers in schools, has substantially diminished. While the existing research demonstrates an improvement in the availability of computers with Internet access in schools, the research also indicates great inequities in the availability of certain technologies and the quality of technology-related instruction. For example, access to high quality professional development in the use of technology for instruction for both teachers and school administrators varies widely among school districts. In order to reduce this existing “digital divide,” improved efforts need to be made, especially in poorer urban and rural school districts, to offer improved and quality technology training opportunities for educators who are attempting to use technology in the classroom, especially if previous technology training initiatives were inadequate and ineffective.

    In terms of equity, there is still much work to be done involving the proper and educationally beneficial adoption of technology in schools to see that all students have both fair and extended opportunities to utilize school technology in rich and educationally productive ways. Currently, leading private technology companies, including Apple, Google, and Microsoft as well as the U.S. Department of Education, continue to invest hundreds of millions of dollars into providing schools across the country with the newest technology gadgets ranging from e-books to iPads. In 2011, for example, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation donated $20 million to develop a “tech revolution in education” and the U.S. Department of Education contributed more than $7 million to fund technology-based learning programs in schools across the country.

    Despite a nationwide economic downturn, the financial rate of investment in technology for today's K–12 schools continues to increase. Unfortunately, however, much less research-based evidence is currently available, detailing the actual return on investment in terms of time and financial resources into technology adoption in our schools, especially in terms of outcome performance predictors of either student or school-based success, including improving student academic performance, best professional development practices for teachers and school administrators using technology as part of the instructional process, the viability of national and state-level technology standards for today's teachers and school administrators, best practices for using assistive technology effectively for students with special needs and disabilities, the cost-effectiveness associated with virtual schools, proper school policies and procedures for teaching students the responsible and ethical use of technology, and ensuring that technologies in schools are used in ways that ensure student safety and school security.

    The 13 chapters that comprise this volume titled Technology in Schools vigorously debate many of the present and controversial issues surrounding the proper role of technology in today's schools. All of the chapters in this volume address whether certain aspects of technology adoption or practices in schools provide an appropriate return on investment based on whether technology has a favorable impact on factors such as student performance, budgeting, professional development, and safety and compared to a traditional brick-and-mortar student learning environment.

    Growth in Online Learning, but Concerns over Educational Quality Remain

    In 2011, 48 of the 50 states and the District of Columbia provide full-time or part-time online learning opportunities to approximately 3 million K–12 students with access to either supplemental or full-time online learning opportunities (iNACOL, 2011). In a national report by the Sloan Consortium titled K–12 Online Learning: A Survey of U.S. School District Administrators, online and blended courses, or those courses that combine online and face-to-face course delivery, grew 47$ between 2005–2006 and 2007–2008 (Picciano & Seaman, 2009). In fact, blended courses, or those courses that combine both online and traditional, face-to-face instruction has emerged as the model believed to be the most effective in merging the best instructional practices from both online and traditional, face-to-face instruction (Staker, 2011). Although more technology is needed for this, the principal need is for development of the right goals, curricula, pedagogy, assessment, and overall educational vision.

    In their provocative 2008 book Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns, authors Clayton Christensen, Michael Horn, and Curtis Johnson highlight the significance of online student learning as a technology that can allow educators to customize instructional experiences for individual learners. The authors claim that by 2019, 50$ of all high school courses will be delivered fully online. This pattern of growth is characteristic of a disruptive innovation—an innovation that transforms a sector characterized by products or services that are complicated, expensive, inaccessible, and centralized into one with products or services that are simple, affordable, accessible, convenient, and often customizable. More specifically, the authors argue that disruptive innovation, such as emerging technologies being used in today's schools, will force schools to abandon traditional curricula and pedagogical approaches to using technology. According to the Sloan Foundation's report, K–12 Online Learning: A 2008 Follow-Up of the Survey of U.S. School District Administrators, it is estimated that 1.03 million K–12 students took at least one online course during the 2007–2008 school year, a statistic that grew 47$ from only 2 years earlier (Picciano & Seaman, 2009).

    While it is clear that there is growth in the provision of online education to K–12 students, a cautionary review of the existing research reflects that only a few rigorous studies have been done thus far at the K–12 level detailing the educational effectiveness and overall quality of online education in terms of improving achievement and educational outcomes for K–12 students. One of the most controversial research reports was a meta-analysis of more than 1,000 controlled studies comparing online and traditional, face-to-face instruction in K–12 school environments, released by the U.S. Department of Education. The Speak Up National Research Project, which annually polls K–12 students, parents, and educators about the role of technology for learning in schools, identified factors that school administrators believed were barriers to offering quality online courses to students. These five barriers to effective online student courses include the following:

    • Limited state funding
    • Difficulties associated with evaluating the quality of online courses and the curriculum
    • Lack of experience to create student online courses
    • Teacher compensation
    • Teacher discomfort with, or lack of teacher training in, teaching online student courses

    Despite an increased demand for and interest in online courses for K–12 students, there are still barriers that schools must address before online learning will effectively engage, enable, and empower a new paradigm for student learning (Project Tomorrow, 2011).

    Customizing Student Instruction Using Assistive Technology and Universal Design

    In the first chapter of this volume, the authors debate whether assistive technology or universal design is a more effective method of technology implementation for students with special needs and disabilities. As more students with special needs and disabilities are spending a larger part of their day in general education classrooms, it is imperative that teachers learn how certain technologies can assist students in the learning process. In fact, the U.S. Department of Education currently funds two agencies, the National Center for Technology Innovation and the Center for Implementing Technology, which research and promote the use of technology specifically to improve the education of students with special needs and disabilities. Recent research suggests that as technologies evolve to help customize instruction, some assistive technologies that were traditionally used by students with special needs and disabilities are now being seriously considered useful learning tools for the general student population (Ash, 2011).

    For example, Apple's iPad has applications, such as text-to-speech and speech-recognition software, which can be used by both students with disabilities and the general student population. Clearly, the advancement of newer technology in schools minimizes the distinction between assistive technology devices and general education technology tools. The universal design approach to technology relies on using elements of support for some student populations, including students with disabilities, that can benefit everyone. As the number of special education students in regular education classes increases across the country, it is even more imperative that teachers and school administrators learn how technology can help customize or individualize instruction for potentially all students.

    The Educational Promise of E-Book Technologies

    The second chapter in this volume, titled “Should E-Books Replace Traditional Textbooks and Paper-Based Books in Schools?” details the benefits and concerns associated with some schools' decisions to replace traditional, hardcopy textbooks with e-books. Since the 2007 release in the United States of Amazon's e-reader device, called the Kindle, the increased availability and low-cost of using e-book technology has become a reality. This increased availability and low-cost of e-book devices has made them particularly attractive to K–12 schools across the country. However, the potential of e-readers as effective technology tools for student learning has not yet been determined. As with many issues involving the implementation of technology in K–12 schools, there is much discussion of the potential of these technologies but sparse information on the documented educational effectiveness of these technology devices as effective student learning tools. As school districts across the country experience budgetary deficits like no other time in recent memory, it will be interesting to see whether cost considerations affect a shift toward e-readers over traditional textbooks. A central concern must continue to be the educational benefits associated with today's e-readers, especially in terms of student learning.

    State and Local Policies and the Impact on Technology in Schools

    Chapter 4 of this volume debates the issue of whether today's policies and procedures governing online student course offerings are appropriate to realize the unique technology advantages of these online classes. Some argue that K–12 education in the United States is at a policy crossroads when it comes to educational technology policy (Quillen, 2011). As momentum for online instruction grows at the K–12 level, many K–12 school- and district-level policies reflect the traditional brick-and-mortar, physical classroom that never envisioned terms such as distance learning, blended learning approaches, or virtual schools. Many of these existing state and local policies, such as school funding models, textbook adoption procedures, and teacher certification requirements, actually hinder the growth of the emerging online-based learning models. For example, while many publishing companies are adapting to digital textbook formats, most school districts do not have policies in place that address how to combine traditional print and digital textbooks in an effective way. Even fewer districts have policies in place that would facilitate the technological integration of all digital textbooks.

    The Educational Viability of Virtual Schools

    Several chapters in this volume debate the current viability of today's virtual schools, either as effective student learning environments or as cost-effective compared to traditional brick-and-mortar schools. Chapter 5 debates the controversial issue of whether virtual schools, either full-time or supplemental, are effective student learning environments. As the number of states with virtual K–12 schools continues to grow, some researchers maintain that virtual schools provide unique and increased educational benefits to students compared to traditional brick-and-mortar schools, including the ability of K–12 virtual schools to meet the specific academic needs of students who previously struggled academically in traditional, face-to-face classroom settings, as well as students with special needs and disabilities. Additionally, public K–12 virtual schools have the ability to increase student access to specific classes, such as Advanced Placement (AP) or credit recovery classes, that students would not otherwise have the opportunity to take at their traditional brick-and-mortar schools, especially in rural school communities. The primary counterargument to the existing educational benefits of today's virtual schools as effective student learning environments is that there is not enough rigorous, empirical research being done on virtual schools. A major critique against the existing limited research studies that examine whether virtual schools are effective student learning environments is that they are not representative of today's diverse K–12 student virtual school population.

    Chapter 6 addresses whether today's virtual schools are more cost-effective compared to traditional brick-and-mortar public schools. Unquestionably, there is very little research detailing how today's virtual schools are funded. It is important to recognize that virtual schools have unique costs and do not share some of the daily operating cost considerations of traditional brick-and-mortar schools, such as capital and construction-related costs or transportation-related expenses. However, both virtual and traditional brick-and-mortar schools face some similar costs necessary to become successful student learning environments, including teacher professional development expenses, quality assurance, instruction, and continuous research, development, and planning associated with curriculum development (Anderson, Augenblick, DeCescre, & Conrad, 2006). As this debate concerning the funding of virtual schools compared to traditional brick-and-mortar schools reveals, many of the costs associated with providing a high-quality education are identical in both online as well as face-to-face classroom environments.

    National and State Technology Standards for Educators

    Chapter 8 addresses the controversial issue of whether national or state-level technology standards should be required for today's teachers. The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) has been and continues to be the primary organization that has advocated the movement toward national technology standards for both educators and students. Since 2007, ISTE has developed a set of National Educational Technology Standards (NETS) for students, teachers, and school administrators.

    Clearly, a central question in the debate about whether to have national and/or state-level technology standards for educators is whether the standards will actually help teachers across the country properly use technology to improve instruction. Another issue involving the adoption of national and/or state-level technology standards for educators is what impact, if any, such standards might have on quality or credibility. For example, the growth of virtual schools across the country and the need to ensure that these online-based schools are credible and of high quality has prompted the need to consider technology-based standards. Some argue that the use of national or state-level technology standards for teachers from a legitimate accreditation agency would verify that students who are receiving online instruction or instruction using emerging technologies are meeting the same educational standards expected in traditional brick-and-mortar school environments (Ash, 2011). A potential downside to national or state-level technology standards is that they would be set too low and not allow for innovation by teachers. Nevertheless, the debate over whether national or state-level technology standards should be mandatory for today's teachers addresses the issue that technological investments in schools raises questions of quality and credibility of technology as a student learning tool. Whenever the educational community loses sight of the importance of quality and credibility when using emerging technologies, it minimizes the high priority of student learning.

    Digital Citizenship: Responsible Student Technology Use in a Web 2.0 World

    While many of the contributors to this volume actively debate issues involving the effectiveness of certain technologies on student learning and educational quality, several of the chapters debate the issue of whether certain technologies, such as social networking sites and smart phones should be banned in schools or whether educators should develop policies and procedures that focus on the responsible use of technology in schools by students. Currently, many K–12 school administrators across the country view the use of mobile technologies and social networking sites, such as Facebook and Myspace, as inappropriate in schools and these sites are banned. While concerns about student safety on the Internet is certainly a valid concern for today's educators, some of the authors in this volume question whether there is a more balanced approach to consider the educational benefits of technologies such as social networking sites.

    Some of the contributors to this volume argue that both the media and critics of the use of mobile technologies and social networking sites in schools give far more attention to what is wrong with these emerging technologies compared to the potential educational benefits these technologies can provide students in an increasingly global 21st-century world. For example, a growing number of media reports highlight the misuse of social networking sites for the purposes of cyberbullying and cyberharassment, or the use of mobile devices for sexting—the act of electronically sending sexually explicit messages or photographs. Rarely do the mainstream media concentrate on the ways social networking sites or mobile technologies are being used by students and teachers to enrich learning in schools.

    For instance, a 2007 report by the National School Boards Association (NSBA), titled Creating and Connecting: Research and Guidelines on Online Social and Educational Networking, details the difference in opinion between school administrators compared to students and parents regarding the use of social networking sites in schools. In the report, more than half of the school administrators surveyed wanted to prohibit the use of social networking sites in schools. Nearly 60$ of students surveyed indicated that they used social networking sites for online discussions to assist with their schoolwork. Additionally, a majority of both the students and parents surveyed expressed high expectations regarding the positive role social networking technologies can play in a student's education.

    Since social networking is increasingly playing an important role in education at both the K–12 and higher education levels, there are alternatives for students and educators who want to experience the potential educational benefits of social networking without the student safety and school security concerns often associated with using mainstream social networking sites, such as Facebook or Myspace. For instance, worries about security, information-sharing, and safety have led some educators to turn to the use of social networking sites such as Edmodo, which was specifically designed to be used in schools. The increasing development of education-based social networking sites, such as Elgg, Edmodo, Gaggle, and Ning might serve both students and educators as a viable alternative to the commercial social networking sites, such as Facebook and Myspace, that many people are familiar with. It seems that education-based social networking sites provide a safer and more secure environment that can be monitored by the school district while simultaneously allowing students and educators the opportunity to participate in the use of 21st-century social networking technologies (Brady, 2010).

    Safety and Security Issues Involving Technology in Schools

    In addition to debating whether current investment levels in certain technologies, such as virtual schools or pocket assistive technologies in schools, are yielding high returns in terms of educational productivity for students, several chapters in this volume concentrate on whether the use of certain technologies, such as video camera surveillance or commercial social networking sites, pose school safety or security concerns that outweigh any educational benefits they might provide. Several chapters in this volume debate the appropriate legal rights of teachers and school administrators and the use of social networking sites. For instance, Chapter 9 addresses the issue of whether today's teachers have the legal right to create and post online content about their school on commercial social networking sites.

    Chapter 7 of this volume examines whether the use of video surveillance cameras in today's schools is an invasion of student privacy. One contentious issue involving the use of video surveillance cameras in schools is whether these surveillance cameras violate a student's right to privacy or provide today's school officials greater control to manage school safety and security on school premises. For example, in Chicago, video surveillance cameras in 14 public high schools with a history of school violence have been linked directly to local police stations in an effort to create a safer environment in those schools. As surveillance technologies become more sophisticated and less costly, the question becomes, will school officials be more likely to use video camera surveillance in lieu of actual security officials located physically in the schools?

    As a continuing economic downturn forces school districts to make drastic budgetary cuts, including in personnel, some reformers are turning to online-based technologies, such as social networking sites, as potentially valuable educational resources. Simultaneously, however, increased reports of sexual predators and cyberbullying on the Internet have raised concerns for some parents and state legislators about whether the safety concerns of using social networking technologies outweigh the educational benefits these technologies might provide. As a result, many states across the country have passed legislation to address incidents of cyberbullying and cyberharassment in schools, as well as to limit the use of social networking sites in schools. Chapter 9 of this volume debates the legal issues concerning whether or not teachers should have the right to create and post online content about their school on social networking sites, even when the teachers post the online content on their own time and without the use of any school resources.

    Similarly, what levels of legal authority do school administrators have in terms of regulating the online-related activities of their students as a means to protect student safety and the overall security of the school. Chapter 10 examines whether school administrators should have greater legal authority to discipline students for online behavior resulting in cyberbullying or cyberharassment. Similarly, Chapter 11 examines whether school administrators should have greater legal authority to discipline students for false online statements regarding school personnel on social networking sites. A problem in the current legal landscape is that the U.S. Supreme Court has not yet ruled on or developed legal guidelines associated with either teacher or student free speech and expression in an online environment. As a result, today's school administrators are in a state of legal limbo regarding the handling of teacher and student conduct involving the use of certain technologies. Arguably, one effective means of handling such misuse of technology is not through the adoption of tougher laws or policies. Instead, educators need to take the responsibility of teaching proper “digital citizenship” to both students ands school staff. Possibly, responsible technology usage and online behaviors are more effectively taught than legislated.


    Based on the current investment, in both time and monetary resources, the next decade promises to be a defining period for the use of technology and online learning in today's schools. In their provocative book Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns, authors Clayton Christensen, Michael Horn, and Curtis Johnson proclaim that the educational system of the United States is at the point of an online learning revolution. The authors make this controversial prediction regarding the technology landscape for U.S. K–12 schools in 2018:

    The result of these four factors—(1.) technological improvements that make learning more engaging; (2.) research advances that enable the design of student-centric software appropriate to each type of learner; (3.) the looming teacher shortage; and (4.) inexorable cost pressures—is that 10 years from the publication of this book [2008], computer-based, student-centric learning will account for 50 percent of the “seat miles” in U.S. secondary schools…. Given how long some have been in the trenches of school reform, this will be quite a breathtaking trip. (p. 103)

    The increased infusion of technology in today's schools is pushing the boundaries of customized student learning. The educational community needs to consider technology's return on its investment in terms of factors such as student achievement, student safety, school security, and emerging technology's contributions to creating an effective student learning environment that meets the expectations of educators. This diverse and interesting series of 13 debates involving many facets of technology in schools hopefully will provide readers an opportunity to reevaluate, retool, and rethink how we use emerging technologies in the classroom.

    Kevin P.BradyNorth Carolina State University
    Further Readings and Resources
    Anderson, A., Augenblick, J., DeCescre, D., & Conrad, J. (2006). 20/20 costs and funding of virtual schools. Atlanta, GA: BellSouth Foundation. Retrieved from
    Ash, K. (2010, April 23). Accreditation is seen as high priority. Education Week. Retrieved August 15, 2011, from
    Brady, K. P. (2010). Lifting the limits on social networking sites. The School Administrator, 67(2), 8.
    Christensen, C. M., Horn, M. B., & Johnson, C. W. (2008). Disrupting class: How disruptive innovation will change the way the world learns. New York: McGraw-Hill.
    International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL). (2011). Research, trends, and statistics: K-12 online learning and virtual schools. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved from
    National School Boards Association (NSBA). (2007, July). Creating and connecting: Research and guidelines on online social and educational networking. Washington, DC: Author.
    Picciano, A. G., & Seaman, J. (2009, September). K-12 online learning: A 2008 follow-up of the survey of U.S. school district administrators. Newburyport, MA: The Sloan Consortium.
    Quillen, I. (2010, April 23). E-learning delivery debated. Education Week. Retrieved August 15, 2011, from
    Speak Up Project. (2011). Learning in the 21st century: 2011 trends update. Washington, DC: Project Tomorrow.
    Staker, H. (2011, May). The rise of K-12 blended learning: Profiles of emerging models. Mountain View, CA: Innosight Institute.
    Wells, J., & Lewis, L. (2006). Internet access in U.S. public schools and classrooms: 1994–2005 (NCES 2007–020). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics.
Back to Top