On January 4, The New York Times published a story about how many Idaho teachers are resisting new technology mandates passed by the 2011 Idaho Legislature. (The mandates are subject to a voter referendum in November 2012.) The Idaho Statesman reprinted most of the story the following day, and a commenter wrote, “This is not about kids, it's about frightened teachers. They want to continue to do things the 'old way' and resist change that scares them.”
Here's how one teacher replied to that comment. We are reprinting the comment here by permission, although the author has asked to remain anonymous. We've added emphasis on several key points made by the author. If you are an Idaho educator with a similarly detailed story to share about what you and your students face every day in your classroom, please share it.
Teachers are not frightened by computers. Every teacher in Idaho has had to be certified in the basic use of technology in the classroom for over a decade now. I don't know of any teacher who hasn't incorporated computers, video projectors, iPods, and similar into their classroom WHEN APPROPRIATE. No, we're not frightened.
We're angry because a jumped-up lifer politico with NO credentials is dictating how we are to teach. “Technology” is simply one tool in a teacher's kit. Sometimes a piece of technology helps a student understand a concept better, so we use that tool. Sometimes a piece of chalk and five minutes of conversation will achieve the same end, more cheaply and with less fuss. The bottom line is this: teachers are motivated to help their students learn. After over thirty years in the classroom, I've gotten reasonably good at this but now, a truck-scale manufacturer tells me he knows more about how to conduct my classes than I do. Not unreasonably, I take offense at this level of hubris. We're angry because people like you, who believe computer technology hasn't been in wide use in schools for nearly twenty years now, have no idea what's going on in the real world. My tiny 1A high school has THREE computer labs, one for teaching basic computer use and another for IDLA classes. Every classroom has at least one computer. There's a wireless LAN covering the entire building.
Our electrical and internet infrastructure is maxed out; there's no capacity to support the addition of a couple of hundred new devices and Mr. Luna's “reform” was passed with no funding for upgrades. School districts will be on the hook to maintain these new computers, add electrical service and internet connection. (Yeah, yeah, they're portable wireless devices. They still have to be charged. I'll guarantee you that in a class of twenty students, at any given time at least five will have to plug their laptops in because the battery is running low.) In our area, there is no ISP with the hardware to support broad-band internet service. Even if my district could afford the upgrades, the service isn't available. Districts will have to purchase site-licenses for the software on these things and pay for maintenance and upgrades over time; another unfunded mandate. This still sound like a good idea to you?
We're angry because many of us need classroom technology OTHER than computers. Mr. Luna DELIBERATELY crafted his plan excluding ANY input from teachers because he doesn't care what the real professionals need, he was busy lining the pockets of his campaign contributors. If he bothered asking classroom teachers what kind of technological tools we actually need, his scheme would never have gotten off the ground. There's a line of hand-held data-loggers for science classes. I'd love to have a set with a set of probes for temperature, pH, force, motion-detection, etc. but they cost around $200.00 each, with probes. I'd love to have a basic gas chromatograph for my chemistry classes, but they run upward of ten grand. Several of the hot-plates in my chem lab are dying and need repair or replacement. No chance for any of this… my total annual equipment and supply budget is $300.00.
We're angry because this “reform” was passed without any idea on the part of Mr. Luna how it was going to be implemented. We're angry because we've been doing more with less for quite a while now, and this scheme will force districts to divert money into tools that we do not particularly need. We'll be doing even more with even less. Meanwhile, in the most “conservative” state in the nation, the state is wresting control of large amounts of money from the local districts under the doctrine of “Mr. Luna Knows Best.” We're angry because we're being led by petty politicians with no understanding of the mechanisms they're playing with; politicians without the native wit to actually come to the people in the classroom and find out what we need. They'd rather govern, incompetently, from the standpoint of “everybody knows” and “it says 'research-based' on the cover” than actually find out what's really happening.
Considering our list of grievances, I think angry is a reasonable reaction.