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Education Technology

Teachers Resist High-tech Push In Idaho Schools 311

First time accepted submitter Jack W writes "This morning's NY Times highlights the issue of learning in our public schools and the proper role of technology. The Idaho governor and his state school superintendent are advocating a legislative bill for a massive infusion of computers and on-line technology in schools and is meeting resistance from state teachers, particularly the part of the bill that requires high school students to take online courses for two of their 47 graduation credits. Superintendent Luna is quoted as saying, the computer 'becomes the textbook for every class, the research device, the advanced math calculator, the word processor and the portal to a world of information.' The article notes that the governor had received campaign contributions from technology companies and that Apple and Intel had played a part in drafting the bill."
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Teachers Resist High-tech Push In Idaho Schools

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  • What is new? Not so long ago Microsoft and Red Hat fought hard on that kind of thing.

    But it's not always that bad. Just look at the Gacaca project in Rwanda, Microsoft spent a lot of money to showcase .Net and this allowed a better funding. Could this have been done (better) with another technology? Probably, but a bill had to be paid and expecting companies to do charity is not a prudent gamble.

  • Pointless (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Antony T Curtis ( 89990 ) on Wednesday January 04, 2012 @08:28PM (#38591006) Homepage Journal

    The pointless application of technology just for the simple sake of technology seems a waste.

    Now, a subject course where students have to buy and learn to program a $25 computer, no more expensive than a typical textbook, that would be a worthwhile application of technology in schools.


    • Yes but given that in this specific case Apple and Intel are behind this I don't think they are going to be learning to program anything let alone program on anything that cost $25. Just sayin'.... When administrators rely on big corporations to write a bill the corporations run the show. In this case they relied on these corporations for the "Technical Advice" in drafting the bill they will rely on them for the "Technical Advice" when deployment comes. That is how these things have always worked. I d
  • by mathmathrevolution ( 813581 ) on Wednesday January 04, 2012 @08:28PM (#38591022)
    Some students and some classes could and should be taught online. However, these decisions need to be made by school districts, parents, and students. The governor shouldn't be placing a huge unfunded mandate on local schools just because Apple cut him a check.
    • by ackthpt ( 218170 )

      Some students and some classes could and should be taught online. However, these decisions need to be made by school districts, parents, and students. The governor shouldn't be placing a huge unfunded mandate on local schools just because Apple cut him a check.

      Online teaching works for students with an aptitude for it. I can succeed wonderfully -- but for that group.

      Having computers in a classroom requires having the need and plan in place, before actually acquiring the technology, otherwise it's a distraction.

  • by digsbo ( 1292334 ) on Wednesday January 04, 2012 @08:29PM (#38591038)
    The quality of education is not a result of the amount spent on technology. It is almost pointless to fight it, though, because these decisions are made for political reasons in a vacuum of real debate, metrics, or general considerations about what gets the best results. On some level the teachers have a right to resist this, as it's a further encroachment on their autonomy and freedom to teach as they prefer. On the other hand, if teacher unions did not fight every attempt to rationally measure student success, they might get a seat at the table discussing how to handle certain kinds of problems.
    • Our children get the education that we deserved. Not really fair but that's the way it is.

    • That insight is quite a bit more general than what you state. The quality of anything is not a result of the amount you spend on it.

      That is just more accentuated on governments, but is a general truth.

  • by Trepidity ( 597 ) <> on Wednesday January 04, 2012 @08:37PM (#38591100)

    The first major push for computers in schools had more than just some computers. In addition to putting the Apple IIs (usually) into school computer labs, there were also initiatives like MECC [] to produce useful software for them, research from educators like Seymour Papert [] on how to use them to teach technical skills, etc.

    By the late 80s this had mostly withered away, so that when my own high school in the 1990s replaced its Apple IIs with Macintosh LCs, the main thing they were used for besides word processing was... running the old Apple II software on the IIe attachment card [].

    • Mod parent up.

      Seymour Papert used computers as a TOOL along with legos to promote THINKING and his approach translated into other topics that didn't use technology. The quality MECC software didn't need newer technology to fulfill its job; some lesser software like the pointless Oregon Trail was really a video game and could benefit from upgrades; sadly it continues having not made any constructive progress. (the WWW helping reading is just a by product.)

      Technology is NOT needed in K-12 at all. Its just a

  • by Locutus ( 9039 ) on Wednesday January 04, 2012 @08:45PM (#38591162)
    then they are pretty much computer illiterate. Sure they can use Microsoft Word but would be stupefied if LibreOffice or Google Docs were put before them. They memorized what menus to click through but not the concepts of the tasks so it is no surprise the educators in Idaho would oppose more use of technology if they were anything like here. They would be unable to use the technology to teach the kids. And "here" is in one of the top 20 largest cities in America.

  • teachers' unions (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bcrowell ( 177657 ) on Wednesday January 04, 2012 @08:55PM (#38591236) Homepage

    I'm a dues-paying, card-carrying member of a teachers' union (at a community college), but I can't help feeling that this is the kind of thing that teachers' unions in the US have brought upon themselves.

    What should happen is that K-12 teachers should be professionals, and they should be treated just like other professionals, such as doctors and engineers. When is the last time you heard an engineer claiming that although his bridge fell down, he shouldn't be held accountable? When's the last time you heard a premed saying that it was unreasonable to expect him to do well on the MCAT, because African-Americans do worse on it, on the average, than whites and Asians, thereby proving that the test is racist? Or a doctor whining that it was unreasonable to expect him to use MRI scanners, because he hasn't had the training?

    What left the K-12 teaching profession vulnerable to political interference was its history of failing to hold itself to high professional standards. That opened the door to NCLB and a general tendency of politicians to try to tinker with things that ought to lie within teachers' own sphere of professional competence and discretion.

    What the politicians in Idaho are doing is stupid, but that kind of incompetent tinkering is the natural result of K-12 teachers' unwillingness to act like professionals.

    • Or a doctor whining that it was unreasonable to expect him to use MRI scanners, because he hasn't had the training?

      Oh, they don't have to whine. They don't even have to refuse. Docotors simply don't pursuit working with MRI scanners when they think they aren't able, and don't try to prove that they are.

      Well, it does not take anything from your point. Just the analogy was a bad one.

    • by Maow ( 620678 ) on Wednesday January 04, 2012 @10:53PM (#38592056) Journal

      When is the last time you heard an engineer claiming that although his bridge fell down, he shouldn't be held accountable?

      I appreciate what you're saying (and how you stated it), but comparing teachers to engineers isn't very valid.

      My proposal is more like if the engineers had to be responsible for 30, 35, 40 projects (students) at once, and the materials they have to work with are enough steel & rivets & cable for 25 bridges, plus some 2x4s, twine, and some ... bananas (being the troubled students).

      Engineers under such circumstances would most certainly not want to be held accountable for the bridges not made of steel that collapse.


      • Agreed. I heard the same sort of thing in a speech by the CEO of Dairy Queen that they were constantly evaluating everyone's performance for excellence.

        However, DQ *also* gets to choose it's inputs, both in terms of raw materials and people. They don't hire the stupid ones (they hope), and they don't buy substandard products.

        Public school is more like a business that gets a random assortment of input raw material and a random cross-section of people showing up to work. And then assert that they can't fir

  • I think that a lot of people that push for technology (and don't have a vested interest) in the classroom don't realise that, good grades doesn't equal a good education. They try to make out that technology will increase their intelligence, i think it will just make it easier to spoonfeed students, it won't make them any better at developing their own ideas, conducting their own research, nor improving the quality of someones education.

    Probably the biggest problem is, tests only identify those who are the b

    • by c0lo ( 1497653 )

      What is education


      I think people should realise that technology has its place, and isn't an extension of somebody, technology is just a tool and not always the right tool.

      Right. Others have said it before.

      "Education is what survives when what has been learned has been forgotten". (BF Skinner) []

      "Education is the progressive realization of our ignorance". (A Einstein) []

  • by __aaltlg1547 ( 2541114 ) on Wednesday January 04, 2012 @09:03PM (#38591294)

    In Colorado, on-line schools have been shown to be less effective than face time with the teacher -- dramatically so.

    There's no reason to think that doesn't scale, and if it scales that means that those on-line courses would be ineffective.

  • by Tanman ( 90298 ) on Wednesday January 04, 2012 @09:04PM (#38591302)

    The best math teachers I ever had shared one thing in common -- they disallowed calculators in their class. And as fun as a kindle or ipad may be, I'd wager a hefty sum that reading a novel in paper is (at least currently) more intuitive and less of a barrier to the material than reading it electronically. I hate to be a "get off my lawn" type, but I feel that schools should be actively resisting any technological "aid" to teaching that is not something directly taught by the class.

    Math classes should be "show your work."
    Language, history, and Literature should be "show your notes."
    Intro to programming should be "show your algorithms" -- more switch design and less "hello world."

    I can see benefit to computers in more advanced programming courses, as well as in history courses that want to include videos and/or art. But really, there is very little place for a computer in sub-college school work. People need to learn to think on their feet.

    Just my $0.02.

    • by Dynedain ( 141758 ) <> on Wednesday January 04, 2012 @09:26PM (#38591478) Homepage

      The best math teachers I had encouraged calculators because they were focusing on the theory. And by golly the kids learned far more and the teacher focused on teaching rather than rote mechanical operations to drill things in by memorization.

  • by Pantero Blanco ( 792776 ) on Wednesday January 04, 2012 @09:07PM (#38591326)

    The plan requires high school students to take online courses for two of their 47 graduation credits.

    This sounds like a cost-cutting measure. Online classes are for times when the alternative is not having the class. They're "better than nothing", not "better".

    If a school wanted to offer students a course in programming but didn't have anyone capable, then it might make sense to arrange for them to take an online course offered by a third party (preferably a tech school or college in the same area). It doesn't sound like this is anything close to what they're doing.

  • ... it's all about how technology is used rather then using it as a bandaid or distraction. There are places in schools where technology makes sense.

    The real issue as always comes down to the staff and the students, unwilling uneducated/lazy staff or lazy/disinterested students are the real issues. No amount of technology or NO technology is going to change what is fundamentally a problem of understanding human beings strengths and weaknesses and tracking these people to curriculum appropriate to their

  • To help pay for these programs, the state may have to shift tens of millions of dollars away from salaries for teachers and administrators.

    Like any pig at a trough, they want it ALL, not just their share. Education of the students is secondary while both sides play politics with their lives.

  • by zerofoo ( 262795 ) on Wednesday January 04, 2012 @09:57PM (#38591656)

    We recently evaluated a new math curriculum/program for our school. When the time came to buy textbooks, almost all of our teachers told us they preferred the online material. The reasons they cited:

    Students lose textbooks, or do not want to carry them home. Online resources are more easily accessed.

    Parents want to check-in on their student's progress more frequently than a few times per year. Online access allows this.

    Teachers like "ready made" interactive materials they can display on smartboards/projectors without having to resort to paper and overheads. It makes class preparation quicker, and the lessons more engaging.

    We did eventually buy a few textbooks for students that prefer them, or lack technology resources at home, but the days of one book per student are going away fast.

  • Responsibility (Score:4, Insightful)

    by fwarren ( 579763 ) on Wednesday January 04, 2012 @10:23PM (#38591848) Homepage

    There is one thing that we know about education. The higher value the student places upon and takes responsibility for learning, the better the student does. If a student wants to learn, they can learn despite bad teachers, or bad online courses. The better the tools and more opportunity a student like this has. The more they will learn.

    Sometimes a student lights this flame inside all by themselves.

    Sometimes a teacher lights this flame for them.

    More often than not though. It is parental involvement at home that makes a difference. Everything from reading to a child, installing the love of learning, to just making sure learn good study habits and get their homework done.

    Parents who do not do this at home and rely on teachers to do it because "it is there job" are the real problem. Even the best teacher can not be guaranteed to be able to do this with the number of students and time they have in class. By definition, not all teachers can be exceptional. Many will fail at this because they don't have what it takes to inspire. It is still the parents job at home to do this.

  • by NoNeeeed ( 157503 ) <slash@pauPOLLOCK ... uk minus painter> on Wednesday January 04, 2012 @10:49PM (#38592030)

    My wife is a secondary school German and French teacher here in the UK.

    Her school has a very tech heavy setup, with smart-boards in all the classrooms and all the kids have netbooks.

    She really loves the smart-boards, they are incredibly useful because they allow her to use much richer teaching material much more easily than in the past, mixing video, audio, and even letting her create interactive games for the whole class.

    The netbooks on the other hand are much less useful. In a class of 30 the odds of all the kids remembering to bring them, and all of them working properly is pretty small. They get broken and lost or infected with viruses. The school's IT team have done a really good job, but with 1200 students it's a sisyphean task to keep them all running.

    Don't get me wrong, I think the kids having the netbooks has been a good thing overall, but it's not a magic bullet.

    But most importantly the use of the new tech has been driven by the teaching staff, not imposed on them from above, so what they have actually serves an educational purpose.

    Politicians should stay out of the minutia of teaching and let teachers and school mangement get on with it. Government should stick to just making sure that the results are good, and intervening where necessary, not ruling by dictat.

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