Do We Still Teach Typing?
Technology has become a central part of our daily lives. We no longer think of it as a luxury, but a necessity. Therefore, technology deserves a prominent place in today’s classroom.
President Obama’s National Education Technology Plan seeks to incorporate digital media in the “entire education system” to improve learning, enhance teacher effectiveness, and use data to drive classroom adjustments.
Minnesota policy makers have amended licensing laws, which now require teachers who will renew their licenses on or after June 30, 2012 to include effective technology usage in their 125 hours of professional development.
Role of Technology
Technology has the potential to significantly impact how students learn and how teachers instruct. The question, according to Mark Garrison, Instructional Technology Coordinator for White Bear Lake, is how teachers use technology to provide authentic learning and how well they integrate technology into teaching methods.
When utilized well, technology can create engaged, interactive, creative, collaborative, and efficient classrooms. Teachers at the Lynd Schools in southwest Minnesota use iPads to better communicate with English Language Learners.Other educators use Google’s teaching technology to read students’ work in real time, allowing them to more easily identify those struggling with a concept.
Response to Technology
Educators have responded to technology in classrooms differently. “Some teachers can’t wait and want as much as they can get while some want nothing or little to do with it,” said Dan Clark, who heads St. Anthony Park Elementary’s technology lab.
However, Sean Beaverson, Osseo Schools’ Tech Integration Specialist, observed a decrease in the pool of teachers reluctant to use technology.
When the district provides significant technical support and encourages tech integration, teachers show a greater willingness to incorporate technology in the classroom, said Molly Schroeder with the Edina School District.
Training for Technology
Staff training is critical to successfully implement technology. “When organizations add technology without staff development, the only thing that changes is the electric bill,” a quote Garrison shares to illustrate staff training’s value.
Effective training includes workshops, classes, guest speaker seminars, and one-on-one help depending on teachers’ needs. Teachers may also take advantage of the Google Teacher Academy, which offers competitive spots to 50 teachers.
Technology devices require costly maintenance, refurbishments, and upgrades. Moreover, schools are required to have computers for some state testing but are not provided sufficient funding for purchases.
“I worry about where the money will come from to purchase software updates and new hardware. How will we fix our broken equipment? Will I be hired next year?” asks Heather Fernholz, a technology specialist hired through a federal grant for the Lynd schools.
Current technology funding is unsustainable. Schools rely on limited grant money, levies, the goodwill of parents and communities to raise funds, and staff to volunteer time for technology training in some districts.
As a result, Julie Carter, Executive Director of Technology for Minnetonka has taken concrete steps to minimize technology’s costs without minimizing its reach. For example, Carter has substituted desktop computers with the thin client, a keyboard and screen where all programs run from a central server.
Moving Forward with Technology
“Technology is necessary in order for public schools to move forward on a global scale. We cannot do without it,” Osseo’s Bearverson observed.
Educators and leaders must commit to prioritizing effective technology integration in our classrooms. If President Obama’s National Education Technology Plan becomes law, it must include sufficient federal funding to provide sustainable technological tools and staff training.
When balancing Minnesota’s deficit, Gov.-elect Mark Dayton must find ways to increase revenue for education.
When used effectively, technology “empowers kids to be creators and producers, to be prepared to be functional for their future when they leave school in their professional and personal lives,” Minnetonka’s Carter explained.
Surely we want this for our children and for the promise of a thriving Minnesota.