Internet Integration in High Schools: Patterns, Opportunities, and Barriers

Publication August 2002

The Internet represents a new dimension of computer technology that is prompting rapid expansion of computer distribution throughout K–12 schools. The distribution of Internet access has very recently encompassed nearly all K–12 schools (98% in 2000) and most high school classrooms (79% in 2000; National Center for Education Statistics, 2000a, 2000b). Because it is now possible for many high schools to move toward integration of the Internet throughout the curriculum, data regarding Internet integration in schools are needed on multiple levels.  

Classroom-level data can further our understanding of how the Internet affects teachers’ practices, teaching and learning processes, and student learning. School-level data can give insights into what is entailed in school-wide Internet integration, what patterns emerge as schools move to this level of implementation, and the forces and conditions that support or impede it. Both classroom- and school-level data can illuminate how educators and schools mediate Internet access and use by students. Finally, data concerning schools’ contexts (both internal and external) can add to understanding of forces and conditions within and beyond schools that affect their Internet integration efforts.

This research report examines the integration of the Internet on a school-wide scale in five high schools in order to shed light on the patterns of Internet use, what affects it, and its consequences. The study summarized here was initiated in early 2000. It focused on high schools, where the concentration of Internet connections is highest and where career and technical education programs are focused.

The study addressed the research needs outlined above through in-depth, detailed case studies of five schools engaged in school-wide Internet integration. The objectives were to identify:

  1. Internet-based learning opportunities potentially available to and perceived as useful to professional educators and students;
  2. Patterns of participation by professional staff and students in Internet-based learning opportunities, including the kinds of opportunities used and the characteristics of professional staff and students who use the Internet to varying extents or not at all;
  3. Reasons of professional staff and students for using the Internet, and specific factors that facilitate and hinder their participation in Internet-based learning opportunities;
  4. The impact of participation in Internet-based learning opportunities on student and professional staff learning, motivation for and engagement in learning, and the teaching-learning system within schools;
  5. The impact of the school teaching-learning system and its contexts on participation by professional staff and students in Internet-based learning opportunities;
  6. Theoretical models that contribute to interpreting and explaining findings regarding the preceding five objectives.

Research Methods and Procedures

Five public high schools from across the United States were chosen for in-depth study based on the following criteria: a mix of urban, suburban, and rural schools located in different geographic areas; a range of student demographic characteristics; Internet use in the school for at least 2 years and across the curriculum; comprehensive curriculum, including career and technical education programs; and accessibility within project resources. The multifaceted search process used to select the schools included examination of Web 66 (a Web site that registers Web sites of schools), solicitation of nominations from site directors of the National Research Center for Career and Technical Education and individuals involved in state- and national-level efforts regarding technology in schools, and recommendations from a consultant.

Data were collected in two phases. In the first phase, survey questionnaires were provided to all professional staff and students at each school. Survey data were collected from 322 teachers, 19 administrators, 19 counselors, 7 technology coordinators, and 3,822 students in the five schools. African American and Asian students were equally represented, and together made up 30% of the student respondents; Hispanic students accounted for 10%, Caucasian students for 43%, and other groups for the remaining 16%. In the second phase, 219 on-site interviews with school professional staff and students were conducted, the schools were observed by investigators, and school documents were obtained.

Thomas, R., Adams, M., Meghani, N., & Smith, M. (2002, August). Internet integration in high schools: Patterns, opportunities, and barriers. St. Paul, MN: National Research Center for Career and Technical Education, University of Minnesota.

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