D. Verne Morland

D.V. Morland & Associates
Educational Technology Consulting
624 Enid Avenue
Kettering, Ohio 45429

Tel: (937) 434-3245

January 1995


In May and June 1994 I conducted a two-phase Internet survey investigating technology support levels in K-12 institutions. The results of this survey, while not statistically representative of US public schools as a whole, do tell us how 18 public schools and school districts representing more than 58,000 students in 171 buildings with over 8,000 computers are dealing with the very pressing problem of supporting their new technologies. That is more information than most of us have readily available and I again thank those who shared their data, experiences, and opinions by responding to my surveys.

The first phase of the survey dealt with demographics (8 questions), the level of technology in the respondents' schools (6 questions), and the level of support for that technology (10 questions), plus an open ended comment area. In the second phase I asked 6 questions that qualitatively explored the respondents' beliefs and attitudes about their technology and support programs. A breakdown of respondent demographics is attached to this report as Appendix A and copies of both survey sections are attached as Appendix B.

I fielded the first part of my survey in May 1994 (some quantitative budget and headcount questions) on the EdTech, CoSN, NIITeach, and SuperK12 listservs and received eighteen responses from eight states (AZ, CA, FL, MO, NE, OR, TN, WI) and Canada. In June 1994 I sent an opinion-oriented follow-up to each of these respondents and received nine replies. Eighteen responses are but a few drops in the bucket of US and Canadian K-12 technology users. And since the respondents were selected from four advanced technology listservs they are certainly not representative of most K-12 schools. (They may be representative of technology pioneers, however, and well worth listening to!) As a result, although I will present some quantitative results, they have no statistical significance. Caveat emptor!

"Had I but world enough and time" (to paraphrase Andrew Marvel) I would ask for a grant, do this again properly, and get my PhD!... ;-)


All respondents represented public institutions (although private and parochial responses were solicited). Half were districts, half were single buildings. Three reported that they are urban, eight are suburban, and seven are rural (by their own definitions). The districts ranged in size from 1,140 to 17,500 students; individual school buildings held from 350 to 1,850 students. All grades, K-12, were represented. The respondents themselves were mostly technology directors, coordinators or specialists, though some were "normal" teachers and one was a district administrator ("normality" not disclosed).


As a result of the far-reaching school reform movements now underway at national, state and local levels, one of the leading questions being asked of schools is: How do the effectiveness and efficiency of school operations compare with those of modern businesses? The question of effectiveness is both difficult and contentious since it goes to the heart of what schools are for. Regarding efficiency, however, we can follow a relatively nonpartisan and objective line of inquiry. Most people today would agree that schools need to employ many of the same tools used by modern business to improve communication, productivity, and quality. These would include technologies such as telephones, fax machines, computers, and computer networking. In the K-12 Technology Support Survey I focused on the most common forms of the last two: personal computers (PCs) and local area networks (LANs).


Most schools in the survey introduced PCs in the early 1980's; the earliest were two who claimed 1974 and the most recent was 1991. For the 58,260 students served by the schools in the survey there were 8,179 PCs or one PC for every 7.1 students. Somewhat surprisingly, when I broke down the data by population density, the results were:

    Urban schools and districts:  15.7 students/PC
    Suburban schools and districts:  7.2 students/PC
    Rural schools and districts:  6.0 students/PC

The fact that the 7 rural schools reported the lowest ratio of students to PCs contradicts what I think I know about rural schools and their annual budgets relative to the other two categories. It suggests that the schools in this study are not representative of the rural school population at large (see caveat above). The kinds of PCs present in these schools is shown below.

      All Schools      Adjusted Data*
    IBM and compatibles:   9%  11%  
    Macintosh:  60%  64%  
    Apple:  22%  22%  
    Other:   9%   3%  
*Note: The 9% "Other" in column 1 was heavily influenced by one district that had purchased 500 NeXTstep PCs. When this district is removed from the data set the percentages are those shown in the righthand column.

A majority of the respondents had some or all of their PCs connected via LANs. In view of the predominance of Macs and Apple PCs, most of the LANs were running Ethernet or AppleTalk or LocalTalk.

When asked about software, most respondents indicated that they were running individual, single-focus, instructional and productivity software packages that they had hand-picked. A few were running such packages together with a more comprehensive Integrated Learning System (ILS), like Jostens. None were relying exclusively on an ILS.

I asked two questions concerning technology budgets: How much are you spending and how is it allocated across three categories: hardware, software, and services? The actual amounts reported to me varied so widely that I must assume either that the respondents misunderstood the question (i.e. they did not take the total budget including personnel costs into account) or that they were ignorant of the actual amounts their schools or districts are spending. Concerning the breakdown of the costs, they may have been more accurate. On average they reported:

    Hardware:   69%
    Software:   12%
    Services:   19%

This seems to conform to my experience in which many schools seem to spend most of their technology dollars on equipment (something you can show the board!), leaving software and services to be acquired on a catch-as-catch-can basis.

Interestingly, in the second phase of my survey I asked the respondents to tell me how they thought these monies SHOULD be allocated. The right column below shows their responses.

      Actual      Ideal    
    Hardware:  69%    35%  
    Software:  12%    24%  
    Services:  19%    41%  

In words the figures on this table are even more emphatic. The respondents apparently believe they should be spending HALF as much on hardware and TWICE as much on software and services. I believe that this is the voice of hard-won experience and it should be listened to!

I also asked a few questions about support headcount and how the people are deployed. This is a complex area since most schools and districts have at least some employees (teachers or specialists) assigned "part-time" and many use volunteers for technology support. This makes it very difficult to determine how much support is really being provided on the basis of a theoretical "full-time equivalent" (FTE) employee. Furthermore, some larger schools and districts have some true specialists (for example technology planners, curriculum consultants, and trainers) while others have a couple of generalists who must be "Jacks-(and Jills)-of-all-trades."

When I add up all the specialized and non-specialized support and divide it into the total number of PCs that the respondents have, I come up with about 140 PCs per FTE. I note that this figure is influenced by some economies of scale since some of the larger institutions and districts reported ratios of 400-600 per FTE, but two with the highest numbers also reported being heavily overburdened. The respondent with the highest ratio (640:1) commented wryly that "Support is not in the vocabulary of most school districts," and another respondent with a 440:1 ratio stated that his district has "an intense need for more support staff."

On the second phase of the research, nine of the original 18 participants responded. When they were asked to rate their current levels of support, the phase 2 respondents answered as follows.

    Outstanding (a national model program)  33% (3)
    Good (most users are satisfied)  45% (4)
    Weak (many users are dissatisfied)  22% (2)
    Unacceptable (entire program is in jeopardy)  0% (0)

Then I asked them how they thought their support budget compared with that of the average commercial business with the same level of technology. Specifically, I asked them to complete the following sentence.

    My support budget is __________ that of a comparable business.

      A. Well above  0% (0)
      B. Above  0% (0)
      C. About the same  11% (1)
      D. Below  56% (5)
      E. Well below  33% (3)

One respondent from a medium size district (9,000 students) said, "I would choose F if you had it." Looking at the sum of responses in categories "D" and "E" we see that almost all respondents (89% or 8 out of 9) consider their support levels to be "below" or "well below" those of businesses with comparable numbers of computers.

Yet when asked how they felt their schools compared with other schools or districts with the same levels of technology they responded:

    A. Better than most  44% (4)
    B. About the same  44% (4)
    C. Worse than most  12% (1)

Those few respondents who did express satisfaction with their support programs also indicated that they considered themselves to be national model programs for technology in education. One respondent stated the following:

"We have one of the best technical support programs in K-12. We have been reviewed by MIT, GMU, UCR, ARPA, ISI, etc. and all have cited [our district] as having the premier network and support system in the coun- try... We have a 24-hour hardware response time and a 3-4 [hour] online software response time. Our trainers develop workgroup training seminars that are curriculum and operational-based instruction that solve real-time problems for staff and students."

The respondent reported that his district employs 7.5 full-time equivalent people to support about 400 teachers and 8,000 students on more than 1,000 PCs linked into networks at 11 sites. Finally, I asked the respondents to rank five areas of support in order of importance where 1 = most important and 5 = least important. The results are shown below.

    Teacher training (how to use)  1.56
    Project planning (what to do)  2.22
    Curriculum integration (how to apply)  2.67
    Software selection (what to buy)  3.89
    Hardware selection (what to buy)  4.67

I believe these results represent a major change from what we would have found 10 years ago when hardware selection issues were the order of the day. Yet when I compare this ranking with the budget breakdowns shown above, I feel that we are still placing too much emphasis (and money and personnel) on the hardware and too little (much too little) on teacher training, planning, and curriculum integration. This seems to be another instance of our funding processes lagging way behind our practical experience and our current thinking.


I invite interested readers to consider the support numbers given for the school described in the last section. By extrapolation, you can calculate the resources it would take to provide a similar level of support to the teachers and students in your school or district. Even assuming certain economies of scale, I suspect that the results will be 2-5 times what most schools have allocated today in terms of effective, FTE staffing in the planning, training, and support areas.

I have been in the computer business for over 20 years. Three years ago I left the commercial world and entered the realm of education. Here I have found a pattern of technology adoption that is not dissimilar to that which I experienced in business 1015 years ago. This pattern can be summarized as follows.

  1. Focus on hardware (tangible things)
  2. Shift focus to software (functional potential)
  3. Shift focus to training & support (effective use)

In some ways, this progression is not surprising. It is a logical pattern dictated to some extent by the learning curve associated with any new technology or practice. In an even more abbreviated form it might be described as "Get it, understand it, apply it."

The problem is that these three stages of technology adoption often take several YEARS each to accomplish.

We don't have that kind of time!

To the extent that this survey, with its small sample, says anything, it says, "Technology must be well supported if it is to be well used." And it would appear that computer technology in schools is still a long way from being "well supported" in the same sense that successful, competitive businesses use that term.


Here is a sample of some of the statements I received in the "Open Comments" section at the end of the survey.

  • Our school system receives one-quarter of the national average in local support. ...All our networking and computer technology has come through grants.

  • Our district technology plan is currently being used as a model for the state... Principals are the keys to technology integration.

  • Support is not in the vocabulary of most school districts.

  • We have an intense need for more support staff... We plan to have all classrooms online by mid-1995 (all staff and students will have Internet accounts).

  • Our budget has been cut 13% last year and 13% projected for next year. We don't even have a nurse and only half a librarian... Just think what we could have done with a little help.

  • At present we are getting by with volunteers of ex-corporate personnel, our media specialist, and myself [a part-time technology coordinator].

  • I recommend that schools maximize the business related technical infrastructure [e.g., business operations, standardized testing, state reporting requirements, etc.]...for instruction purposes. Schools should integrate all information systems in support of learners.

D. Verne Morland
D.V. Morland & Associates
January 1995



1. Level of institution:   9 District    9 School
                          ~~            ~~

2. Type of institution:   18 Public      0 Private/parochial
                          ~~            ~~

3. District setting:       3 Urban       8 Suburban    7 Rural
                          ~~            ~~            ~~

4. Number of students:      LOW      AVERAGE     HIGH
                            ~~~      ~~~~~~~     ~~~~
       Public District:    1,140      5,400     17,500
       Public School         350      1,280      1,850

5. Number of teachers:      LOW      AVERAGE     HIGH
                            ~~~      ~~~~~~~     ~~~~
       Public District:       72        354      1,500
       Public School          20         69        120

6. Number of buildings:     LOW      AVERAGE     HIGH
                            ~~~      ~~~~~~~     ~~~~
       Public District:        4         13         28
       Public School           1          3.5       10

7. Grade levels:           K-12

8. Respondent's title:     4 - District Computer/Tech Coordinator
                           3 - Director of Information Technology
                           3 - School Computer/Tech Coordinator
                           3 - Teacher
                           2 - Media Specialist
                           1 - Technology Specialist
                           1 - Mentor Technology Teacher
                           1 - District Administrator




This message contains a short survey of public and private K-12 school districts. The survey inquires about the number of people employed (or $ allocated) to support the planning, installation, and adoption of instructional and administrative technology.


Studies have shown that the successful introduction of high technology in K-12 education requires good planning, professional implementation, extensive in-service training, rapid repair service, and consistent, helpful teacher support. Too often, schools new to technology allocate nearly all of their resources to the purchase of hardware and software.

This survey is designed to provide some insight into the extent to which technologically advanced districts (those with personnel participating in this list!) are providing the essential support services.

The following survey should take no more than a few minutes for someone with a good overview of their district's technology position, headcounts and budgets. All responses will be kept confidential. District-level answers are preferred, but school- level information is also welcome. Your answers need not be exact; rough estimates will do. Answers should be sent directly to me. I will provide a summary of the results back to the list.

Thank you, Verne Morland

D.V. Morland & Associates



   1. This response covers:  A. District  B. School

   2. Type of institution:   A. Public    B. Private/parochial

   3. District setting:      A. Urban     B. Suburban    C. Rural

   4. Number of students:    __________

   5. Number of teachers:    ________

   6. Number of buildings:   _____

   7. Grade levels:          _____

   8. Respondent's title:    __________________________


   1. First PC installed:  19___

   2. Number of PCs:       _____  (__% DOS __% Mac __% Apple

                                   __% Other)

   3. Number of LANs:      _____  (__% Ethernet    __% T-R

                                   __% Other)

   4. Principal software:  A. ILS's (Names: ________, ________)

                           B. Individually selected packages

                           C. Mixture of both

   5. Ave. annual tech-
      nology budget:      $______K  (over last 2 years; nearest

   6. Budget breakdown:    ___% HW   ___% SW   ___% Services
       (nearest 10%)

                                          FULL   PART   FULL-TIME 
III. LEVEL OF SUPPORT                     TIME   TIME     EQUIV.
     ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~                     ~~~~   ~~~~     ~~~~~

   1. Number of planning consultants:     ____ + ____  =  _____

   2. Number of curriculum specialists:   ____ + ____  =  _____ 1

   3. Number of training support people:  ____ + ____  =  _____

   4. Number of software support people:  ____ + ____  =  _____

   5. Number of hardware repair people:   ____ + ____  =  _____

   6. Number of network support people:   ____ + ____  =  _____

   7. If your district doesn't have separate staff members in
      each of these categories (i.e., if you have a few people
      wearing many hats), please indicate the total number of
      technology support people you employ.

        Number of general support people: ____ + ____  =  _____

   8. Budget for external trainers:       $____K (nearest $1,000)

   9. Budget for external repair service: $____K     "       "   

  10. Budget for technical consultants:   $____K     "       "

NOTE 1: Curriculum specialists assist teachers with the integra-
        tion of new technology into their lesson plans.



   1. Do you feel that your current levels of support are:

        A. Outstanding   (a national model program)
        B. Good          (most users are satisfied)
        C. Weak          (many users are dissatisfied)
        D. Unacceptable  (entire program is in jeopardy)

   2. Where, in your opinion, is your support:

        A. the STRONGEST:     1. Technology planning
               ~~~~~~~~~      2. Teacher training
                              3. Curriculum integration support
                              4. Hardware/software maintenance
                              5. Other: _____________________

        B. the WEAKEST:       1. Technology planning
               ~~~~~~~        2. Teacher training
                              3. Curriculum integration support
                              4. Hardware/software maintenance
                              5. Other: _____________________

   3. How do you think your support budget compares with that of
      the average commercial business with the same level of

      My support budget is _______ that of a comparable business.

                        A. Well above
                        B. Above
                        C. About the same as
                        D. Below
                        E. Well below

   4. Please order the following aspects of an educational tech-
      nology program from 1 = Most Important to 5 = Least

             ____  Project planning (incl. network design)
             ____  Hardware selection
             ____  Software selection
             ____  Teacher training (how to use)
             ____  Curriculum integration (how to apply)

   5. What do you think is the most appropriate allocation of
      funds (incl. personnel costs) for a technology project?

             ___%  Hardware
             ___%  Software
             ___%  Services (planning, training, support, repair)
           = 100%

   6. With regard to support, do you feel that your school or
      district is:

        A. Better than most other schools or districts
              with the same level of technology?
        B. About the same as most others?
        C. Worse that most others?


Thank you!