November 1, 1999
The Rhode Island Teachers and Technology Initiative (RITTI) is a $5.7 million, three-year effort sponsored by the Rhode Island Foundation, in collaboration with the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) and the University of Rhode Island's School of Education. Since 1997 the program has provided training and laptop computers to approximately 2,400 public school teachers in the state of Rhode Island, representing nearly a quarter of all teachers in the state. The 153 Trainers in this program are teachers from across the state. Microsoft Corporation is a significant partner in this endeavor, having contributed over $1.5 million in software applications. CCT evaluated the RITTI pilot program.
This report summarizes findings from a survey of 570 of the 1,242 elementary, middle, and high school educators who participated in the Pilot and 1998-99 Program implementations of the Rhode Island Teacher Training Initiative (RITTI). All responses were made voluntarily. Pilot-year data was collected at the end of a daylong training conference held at the University of Rhode Island in May 1998; the following year, in May 1999, the same survey was administered to both Pilot and Program participants via mail. In addition, research staff spent significant time in six schools across the state collecting qualitative data during the course of the 1998-99 academic year. Within this report these data are referenced to illustrate trends that have emerged from the survey data.
RITTI educators work in schools which reflect student demographics both state- and nationwide. They 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.
RITTI has been highly successful in increasing respondents' confidence with and ability to use a variety of software applications and resources. Respondents report dramatic increases in their ability to make use of email and the Internet (from 43.7 percent to 99 percent and from 39.8 percent to 98.2 percent, respectively). Nearly all respondents moderately (31.6 percent) to strongly (62.7 percent) agree that they now have more confidence in their own capabilities to use technology, a finding consistent with Pilot-year responses.
RITTI teachers spend significant amounts of time (an average of nearly 13 hours per week) using technology. This time is used primarily for curricular and professional development activities.
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. Over three-fourths of RITTI educators rate the use of computers as moderately to extremely essential to their teaching.
A lack of computers connected to the Internet at the classroom level continues to be the number one barrier to the use of use of technology in education.
RITTI educators report substantial changes in their professional outlook and in their interactions with students and colleagues. Both school-based observations as well as survey data support the finding that since the initiative began, RITTI teachers have become more reflective about their teaching practices and have substantially increased collegial relationships via technology-assisted communication. RITTI educators are more likely to take the role of 'coach' or 'adviser' with their students, and to engage their students in a variety of computer learning activities.
Both qualitative and quantitative data evidence the increased involvement and impact that RITTI teachers are having on decision-making processes related to technology in their schools and districts. Among the most striking changes are the development of models for integrating computers into the curriculum; as well as 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. In summary, in training approximately 25% of the state's teachers, RITTI has laid a solid foundation which can be effectively leveraged by school communities across the state as they continue the process of building their technology infrastructure.