Fighting a reliance on computers, when it might be too soon for teachers

February 6, 2012 at 10:45 am 3 comments

A couple people sent me links to this story.  What I’ve seen written about this story has a tone of “Those luddites!”

There’s something deeper going on.  In the quote below, Sabrina Laine talks strings being attached and a lack of training and support.  Maybe the real issue is that we don’t know how to put computers into schools well, and spending time on it is taking time away from teaching and learning.

One could imagine a similar scenario playing out over earlier media, from pencil and paper, to filmstrips and televisions.  Administrator says, “You have to start using this technology — it will improve your students’  learning dramatically!” backed up with “That’s what I heard!” or “I read a study!” or even “Like the salesman said!”  The teacher asks, “How?  What do I do with it?  What’s it good for?”  And the administrator may reply, “Figure it out!”

It’s that last part that the teachers in Idaho may be complaining about: They don’t want to figure it out.  They have enough to do trying to teach and to cajole students into learning.  They’re willing to use it when the technology is ready.

The problem is that it may never be ready like that.  Using a new medium or technology for learning gets figured out in practice, and many innovations figured out in the lab, without the teacher’s input, never work.  The teachers have to be involved to make a technology work well, but it clearly places yet another demand on them.  It’s a tough situation.

This change is part of a broader shift that is creating tension — a tension that is especially visible in Idaho but is playing out across the country. Some teachers, even though they may embrace classroom technology, feel policy makers are thrusting computers into classrooms without their input or proper training. And some say they are opposed to shifting money to online classes and other teaching methods whose benefits remain unproved.

“Teachers don’t object to the use of technology,” said Sabrina Laine, vice president of the American Institutes for Research, which has studied the views of the nation’s teachers using grants from organizations like the Gates and Ford Foundations. “They object to being given a resource with strings attached, and without the needed support to use it effectively to improve student learning.”

via Idaho Teachers Fight a Reliance on Computers –

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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Jung Choi  |  February 6, 2012 at 11:23 am

    It also appears to be that money spent on the technology takes away from money spent on teacher salaries in Idaho. Administrators need to show teachers how the technology makes their jobs easier, better, and more effective.

  • 2. andyjko  |  February 6, 2012 at 11:45 am

    It’s definitely a tough situation. Some of the most viable ways might involve participatory design in continuing education programs, since many districts require them, and those that don’t often incentivize their teachers to go back for masters.

  • 3. gasstationwithoutpumps  |  February 6, 2012 at 3:35 pm

    There is not a lot of evidence that schoolroom technology actually improves education. The push for instructional technology is not coming on pedagogical grounds but on a mystical belief in the power of technology to fix anything, combined with hefty commissions for the salespeople.

    Some of the more expensive technology, like “interactive” whiteboards, offers little advantage over much cheaper approaches.
    See my post
    and Bill Ferriter’s


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