Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Smaller School Districts in Smaller Towns have More 1:1 Classrooms

I recently sent out a survey to over 12,000 teachers in South Dakota and received a response rate of about 10%. Responses came from all across the state and provide a good picture of educational technologies available in South Dakota public schools. I reported on overall findings in a previous post. After cleaning and analyzing the data further, I found that 49% of classrooms are 1:1 environments in our state of South Dakota. That means that about half of South Dakota classrooms have a technology device (laptop, tablet, or desktop computer) available for each student. As I have presented these numbers to my own Education students, they are shocked that so many classrooms in South Dakota are 1:1 environments.

This is part of the reason why we have an iPad initiative for Elementary Education students. In our initiative, every Elementary Education student receives an iPad and as a consequence, our classes are also 1:1 environments. Northern State University instructors use these devices for a variety of different educational activities and students learn what it is like to work in a classroom in which all students have a technology device. You don't know what is possible until you have experienced such a classroom, and our students are getting a taste for the types of activities possible in a 1:1 environment.

Going back to the survey data, I decided to take a closer look at the different types of school district sizes, town sizes, subjects and grade levels in which we can find 1:1 classrooms. After analyzing the survey data, it turns out that smaller school districts (under 1,500 students) are statistically significantly more likely to have 1:1 environments than larger ones (over 1,500 students). Also, schools in smaller towns (under 5,000 people) are statistically significantly more likely to have 1:1 environments than larger ones (over 5,000 people).

In my own observations, school districts with smaller numbers of students in South Dakota are better able to purchase devices for each student because fewer devices are needed to be purchased to meet the 1:1 requirement. Smaller districts are also able to work outside of large bureaucracies when making decisions about spending for technology. Larger districts are less likely to make investments for 1:1 devices because they have too many students or because they work within a more difficult bureaucratic environment to make spending and technology decisions.

Further analysis of the survey results reveals that these 1:1 environments are about evenly spread between, elementary, middle school and high school environments. There is no statistically significant difference between the amount of 1:1 classrooms available in high schools, middle schools and elementary schools.

Overall, it appears that school districts with smaller numbers of students in smaller towns in South Dakota are able to provide more technology to their students, giving them more opportunities for 21st century learning. I am sure there are many different factors for larger school districts as they consider adopting 1:1 devices, but hopefully the knowledge that already about half of all classrooms in South Dakota are 1:1 classrooms will serve as a tipping point for larger school districts to start making technology more of a priority as they strive to catch up with the smaller districts.

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