July 1, 1998
The Rhode Island Teachers and Technology Initiative (RITTI) is a $5 million, four-year effort sponsored by the Rhode Island Foundation. Over a four-year period the project is supplying training and laptop computers to approximately 3,000 public school teachers in the state of Rhode Island. RITTI is a collaboration among the Rhode Island Foundation, the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE), and the University of Rhode Island's School of Education. The state's teachers' unions, the governor's office, and the State Assembly serve as important RITTI advocates; the Microsoft Corporation is a significant partner, contributing $1.5 million worth of software applications during the first year alone. Serving as the initiative's evaluator, CCT tracked and documented the pilot year implementations.
We conducted a survey of 183 of the 314 elementary, middle, and high school educators who participated in the pilot year implementation of the Rhode Island Teacher Training Initiative (RITTI). All of the educators who responded to the survey did so voluntarily, at the end of a daylong training conference held at the University of Rhode Island in May 1998.
The educators represented in this survey are highly educated and very experienced. Nearly 80 percent of the respondents have earned at least a master's degree, and almost half have taught for twenty years or more.
Respondents to this survey report dramatic increases in their confidence with and ability to use a variety of software applications and resources since their participation in RITTI. Nearly all respondents moderately (30.9 percent) to strongly (67.4 percent) agree that they now have more confidence in their own capabilities to use technology. Since participating in RITTI the percentage of teachers who report a medium to high ability to word process jumped from 43.9 percent to 98.9 percent.
These teachers spend significant amounts of time (an average of 13.7 hours per week) using technology; two-thirds of the time spent online occurs at home. The data suggest that this time is spent primarily on curricular and professional development activities rather than direct classroom instruction with students.
The most highly rated incentives for using computers and the Internet with students include preparing students for life in an increasingly technological society and ensuring that all students have opportunities to gain access to technology resources. This concern on the part of the teachers is also reflected in the barriers to successful technology integration that they identified; 75 percent of respondents strongly agree that there are not yet enough computers connected to the Internet in their schools.
Respondents report substantial changes in their professional outlook and in their interactions with students and colleagues. Two-thirds of these teachers report that, since RITTI began, they have become more reflective about their teaching practices. In addition, 58.7 percent say they are now more likely to act as coach or adviser to their students, and 52.3 percent report that they are spending more time working with other teachers on curricular and instructional planning.
It is evident that teachers involved in RITTI are having an impact on decisionmaking processes related to technology in their schools and districts. Among the most striking changes are an increase in collegial support among teachers; the development of models for integrating computers into the curriculum; and the review, selection, and purchase of hardware or software products. In addition, respondents report increased involvement in the development of school and district-wide policies for computer and Internet use.