I agree with a recent editorial in the Ocala Star-Banner (Florida) paper questioning the value of Governor Jeb Bush’s T3 proposal (Technology Tools for Teachers) that would spend $188 million to provide each teacher in the state of Florida with a laptop computer. Laptop computers for teachers won’t revolutionize education, or by themselves lead to much change in classroom instruction or student achievement. Read Larry Cuban’s book “Oversold and Underused: Computers in the Classroom” or Todd Oppenheimer’s “The Flickering Mind: Saving Education from the False Promise of Technology” for support and elaboration on this opinion.
The instructional philosophy with which many teachers approach classroom instruction, which is strongly influenced by the curriculum directives of state legislatures, NCLB, campus administrators, and their own rich experiences with a content-transmission model of instruction, is what needs to change (in many cases) more than teacher access to technology. Teachers do NOT need access to technology to be effective educators who help students not only develop knowledge and skills, but also cultivate a love of learning and passion for things that matter. As Dr. Alan Glenn, former dean of the College of Education at the University of Washington has said, “It’s philosophy, not technology, that will change your classroom.” We need teachers who embrace project based learning, authentic problem solving, and in-depth rather than in-breadth learning for students. Reforms along the lines of The Common Principles of the Coalition of Essential Schools are needed much more than new teacher technology purchases: in Florida and elsewhere in the nation.
While we should recognize the more influential role of pedagogy / instructional philosophy over technology in supporting school reform and improved student achievement goals, we should also acknowledge the importance of providing access to digital technology tools for students. The digital divide is real. And students need our help in cultivating digital literacies.
Rather than giving all teachers a laptop, I recommend the state of Florida and other state education agencies vigorously pursue laptop pilot projects where ALL STUDENTS as well as teachers on a campus or in certain classrooms have laptop access 24/7. This initiative needs to be well supported with relevant digital curriculum, infrastructure needs (wireless networking connectivity), and professional development. The State of Maine’s laptop pilot project is a model more states should consider. Indiana’s state pilot project with Linux laptops needs further study as well: Especially if schools are considering laptops running the Windows OS, Linux is a much more cost effective and viable option.
Would some teachers like a laptop computer? Sure! Would provision of a laptop to every teacher in a state make teaching tasks any easier, necessarily help students acquire 21st century literacy skills, or even raise test scores (the myopic focus of most state legislators)? Not likely. This quotation in the article by Mark Pudlow, spokesman for the Florida Education Association, reflects the views of many teachers when it comes to computer technology upgrades:
It is a real problem and real drain on teachers, but I’ve always found that every time I get an upgrade of technology, my workload doesn’t get easier. It’s [the T3 proposal] kind of a Band-aid, a little gimmick that he’s using to sell teachers on this.
In addition to providing money for 1:1 laptop pilot initiatives, states need to fund certified, technology integration coaches / facilitators on campuses where broad-based integration of technologies within classroom instruction is a desired outcome. Otherwise implementation successes will remain spotty and isolated.
The video Technology Integration Done Right: Lewisville ISD provides some good insight into a school district’s use of technology integration facilitators to effectively help teachers learn to use technology in their classes more effectively. The process of doing this has much more to do with certified teachers providing hand-holding and personalized assistance (just in time) to other teachers than it does with hardware purchases.
I’m glad Florida Governor Bush is wanting to support teacher salary raises and expenditures on educational technology. Projects which focus on 1:1 laptop immersion for all students and teachers, however, seem more likely to make a noticeable impact on the educational landscape compared to a teacher-laptop proposal.
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