Only 32.6% of Black households own a computer, compared to 65.6% among Asian-Americans, 55.7% among Whites, and 33.7% among Hispanics. Similarly, only 23.5% of Black households have Internet access compared to 56.8% among Asian-Americans, 46.1% among Whites, and 23.6% among Hispanics" (p. 31). This so-called "digital divide" gap, though, between the "information haves" and the "information have-nots" continues to shrink and more and more young people are using these technologies in and out of the classroom (Subramony, 2007). As a result, high school teachers today must not only understand how these technologies work, they must be able to help guide their students in their effective use for educational pursuits. In this regard, Labbo notes that, "The push forward of new digital literacies involves the critical need for educators to better understand how to help students learn how to use new computer technology tools and digital genres" (p. 200).
Consequently, to the extent that these young learners fail to find ICT resources in their classrooms or teachers who do not know how to use them effectively will likely be the extent to which they are disappointed and frustrated (Ng, 2008), two conditions in particular that are not conducive to actively engaging students in the learning process and helping them develop the critical thinking skills that are needed for success in school as well as in the workplace after graduation (Waters, 2008). In this regard, Villano (2008) emphasizes that, "Students seem to be more in tune with 21st-century skills than the adults who hold sway over their education" (p. 53). Likewise, Lacina (2009) notes that, "In some cases, teachers are not prepared to make technology a critical element, or an interactive component, of classroom instruction" (p. 270). Clearly, then, high school teachers must not only thoroughly understand how to use ICT-based resources effectively, they must identify the best way to use these resources for the unique set of students who enter their classrooms based on what the skills sets these student possess, or do not possess, and how these can be used to achieve superior academic outcomes. In some cases, this may involve helping high school students learn how to use these technologies in the first place while in others it may require helping them use what they already know to their best effect in the classroom.
Some teachers may be reluctant to invest the time and effort needed to achieve these blend of expertise, but a growing body of evidence indicates that it is definitely in their students' best interests to do so, but it is also in the teachers' best interests as well. For example, Saddington and Clarke (2006) note that ICT resources can help teachers in the countless administrative tasks that detract from classroom instruction, and these resources can also help them provide students with the timely feedback they want and need. For instance, Saddington and Clarke write, "A number of studies have shown the strength of ICT for use in assessing students. In particular, ICT can help teachers by storing and recording information about how students understand material and in easing the process of feedback to students" (2006, p. 20). Other benefits of integrating ICT resources in the classroom include:
1. Meeting the needs of visual learners;
2. More interactively teaching whole-class lessons;
3. Better engaging students; and,
4. Using a variety of multimedia within a whole-class lesson -- such as video, pictures, diagrams, and websites (Lacina, 2009, p. 271).
Taken together, the use of ICT resources in the classroom has been shown to provide a wide range of benefits for students and teachers alike and all signs indicate that their use is here to stay. Moreover, the use of these ICT resources can be reasonably expected to increase in the future and these issues are discussed further below.
Current and Future Trends in ICT Applications in Education
As noted above, innovations in ICT continue to introduce new technologies that are being adapted to classroom applications every day, and this pace of change appears to be increasing as well. How these future innovations in ICT resources will affect classroom instruction remains unclear, but some future trends can be extrapolated from the current trends in the use of ICT in the classroom. According to Kiridis, Drossos and Tsakiridou (2006), "Nowadays, ICT has become a significant component of school curricula, a supportive tool for providing teachers and students with enhanced teaching and learning opportunities in the whole range of school subjects" (p. 74). These trends in ICT applications in the classroom can be explicated based on the current curricular offerings of a number of industrialized nations around the world. For example, Kiridis and his associates add that, "The content of the national curriculum statements of countries such as the UK, the United States and Australia provide clear evidence for this shift from the teaching of ICT alone to the infusion of ICT as a significant tool in the school curricula" (p. 75).
Other current trends can be seen in what types of ICT resources are most commonly being used for classroom applications. For instance, Ng (2008) advises that, "The amount and variety of resources freely available on the World Wide Web (WWW) at no cost to students and teachers have increased dramatically over the last ten years. These applications include collaboration, virtual experimentation, virtual field trips, project work and distance education" (p. 24). Yet other ICT-based innovations that have fundamentally altered the manner in which educational services are being delivered in the classroom include both informal and formal applications. As Labbo notes, "New electronic literacy genres include the informal (e.g., emails, chat rooms, discussion boards, video conferences), and the formal (e.g., web site design, power point presentations of an assembly of knowledge, multimedia video compilations)" (2006, p. 200).
A survey conducted by Hurd (2006) concerning how ICT resources are typically used in classroom settings provides a useful snapshot of current trends as well. According to Hurd (2006), more than 50% of the teachers surveyed use interactive whiteboards for classroom instruction that is focused work using PowerPoint and other software applications. In addition, Hurd notes that, "Relatively few teachers use single computers within class as part of a circus of activities, and computer moderated team games, which were once relatively popular, are now used only occasionally by less than a quarter of teachers" (2006, p. 36).
Extending these current trends in ICT development and application in the classroom into the future, it is reasonable to suggest that the Internet will remain the common denominator that is involved, but the ways in which young learners will interact with online resources and use these in classroom activities will continue to be redefined by more powerful, sophisticated and interactive peripheral devices. In this regard, Leithner (2009) points out that, "The goal when using the Internet in the classroom is the creation of independent learners through scaffolding lesson plans and authentic tasks, such as using podcasts" (p. 34). It is therefore contingent upon teachers to keep abreast of these innovations in ICT resources and how they are being used to facilitate learning, but it will also be important for them to identify how these technologies can be best applied to their own unique circumstances to help keep learning activities relevant to the lives of their students. If school districts elect to focus their ICT resources in a computer laboratory, they may not be making the most of the advantages these resources have to offer in classroom settings.
Current trends in the use of interactive whiteboards, for example, can help overcome this limitation, but the use of these ICT resources requires a thoughtful approach to their use to ensure that learning is relevant and actively engages student interest. As Hurd emphasizes, "Networked interactive whiteboards tend to free teachers from this constraint. However, they can reinforce a teacher-centered focus within the classroom unless teachers work hard to develop strategies for active student engagement" (p. 36). Furthermore, many school districts have purchased expensive interactive whiteboards based on the benefits and advantages listed in the product description only with little thought being given to how to use these in their own classroom environments (Lacina, 2009). The rapidity of the pace of innovation in ICT resources being used in the classroom also makes the development of a set of best practices challenging, but these trends all point to the increased use of ICT resources for educational applications in the future.
The proposed study will follow the preliminary timeline shown in Table 1 below.