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District survey finds most Austin students have Internet

Nico Forte, an Austin Public Schools eighth-grader, left, and David Nelson work on math problems before basketball class All students in that grade are given a laptop to use as part of the district's push to add technology to the classroom.

AUSTIN — An Austin Public Schools survey last month found that 90 percent of the district's students in grades three through 12 have Internet at home and 88 percent have access to an Internet device.

That percentage surprised district officials, who expected a much lower number of students would have their own access to the Internet since 60 percent of the students receive free or reduced cost lunches. The number of students on the lunch program is an indication of how many have lower socioeconomic status.

Austin Public Schools is seeing an increase in how many computers are used in the classrooms and how well they are used, but is still pushing to boost the use of technology in the schools.

The overall score in the Classroom Access Skills Environment survey rose from 1029 in 2013 to 1043 last year, on a scale of 800 through 1,300, said Corey Haugen, director of Research, Evaluation and Assessment. That puts the overall district in the proficient category.

In four individual categories, the district was rates as: "emerging" in classroom use; "proficient" in skills and the environment at school; and "advanced" in access.


The district has been heavily promoting the use of technology, including giving a laptop to all students in grades five through eight, and it's looking at how to provide technology to those students as they advance into high school, Haugen said.

That technology has to not just replace pencils and paper, he said.

"If it's taking it to the next level and is something we can use to enhance collaborative environment, then that is definitely where we want to go," he said.

For example, Haugen said that teachers can now get instantaneous feedback with the computers. Before, they might call on one student to find out if that student knew an answer, but now, teachers can ask the entire class and show results on the interactive whiteboard.

"Everybody gets a voice now," he said.

The teacher can also help those who don't understand a concept while letting others move forward, he said.

The survey found many students also have smart phones with 80 percent of high school students having access to them; and of those students, 94 percent don't have to share a phone.

The study found that 97 percent of teachers have access to the Internet at home and 96 percent have access to a device at home.


"We are relatively advanced in access," Haugen said.

More teachers also also using the Internet in the classroom.

"We are seeing teachers embrace that technology over the years," he said.

The survey found 48 percent of teachers and 63 percent of students use computers in the classroom almost daily; 20 percent of teachers and 21 percent of students say they use it weekly. Fifteen percent of teachers and 3 percent of students said they never use it.

A final question in the survey related to how much the district teaches digital citizenship, which is the proper use of the Internet. It found that 27 percent of students say they hear about it at least weekly, 29 percent monthly, 28 percent once every few months and 18 percent never.

In the future, all of Austin could have access to the Internet because a goal of the city's Vision 2020 project, which is trying to push Austin ahead on many fronts, is to provide citywide Internet access, Haugen said.

The district will do another technology survey in December and that should give it a better trend line, he said.

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