I could not disagree more with Speaker of the House Becky Lockhart’s proposal to provide a personal electronic device to every Utah student [“Tech Heaven,” Feb. 27, City Weekly].
I have been a teacher for 31 years, in three states. I have eight years of experience in public schools from K-12, as well as one year as a substitute, nine years teaching at a community college, and 13 years in Granite’s YESS Program. In every school where I have taught, teachers agree that class size makes the biggest difference in student learning. All the research backs up this one simple fact. It’s what always puts Utah at or near the bottom in education polls of the 50 states.
More access to expensive electronics is not a complaint that originates with teachers. Access to iPads further frustrates a profession beset by mandates for standardized testing, a lack of time, energy and resources to train teachers to use the technology, and the fact that most school buildings we work in are not wired for high-tech devices. Adding to the problem is that school-age kids—even (or maybe especially) junior high and high school kids—are notorious for losing and loaning their things. Expensive devices get stolen. These devices also break, or develop glitches that hamper everyone’s participation. Money is often not allocated for upkeep and repair of technology. More time is spent on the technology than on the lesson.
All of this is beside the fact that social media beckons the moment a teacher’s back is turned. If a student’s screen is not responding and the teacher tries to help, other students use the distraction to check their e-mail, play games or get on Facebook. Teachers already have to carefully screen sites that bleed through Granite’s porn filter.
None of this recommends Lockhart’s proposal to me—and that doesn’t even take into consideration the astronomical cost to taxpayers ($750 million in start-up costs and $290 million to sustain the program).
This would be money poorly allocated and poorly spent. Lockhart says, “I truly believe as I’ve looked at education over the last couple of years, this is the direction we need to go.”
Teachers, on the other hand, hope to reinstate funds that eliminated reading specialists and programs, address escalating employee health-care costs, reduce growing class sizes and restore teacher development/preparation days.
If legislators genuinely want to improve student learning, they should start by polling teachers as to what is needed in education. To quote BYU professor Richard Davis, “It isn’t enough that a teacher in a large classroom knows how to use an iPad and can teach students to do the same. Rather, it is essential for the teacher to provide personal attention to the student first, not using an iPad as a substitute. That requires more teachers, not more iPads.”
Teacher, Granite School District