Friday, October 31, 2014

Laptops Are Not Teachers


By Tim Walker

The third bill of Idaho schools Superintendent Tom Luna’s education reform plan is headed for final passage. The bill allocates new spending on laptop computers for high school students across the state. New technology in the classroom – what could be wrong with that?

In Idaho’s case, almost everything.

Luna’s plan isn’t really about integrating new learning tools into the curriculum. He’s using what he calls the “miracle of technology” to cut teachers’ jobs, salaries, and increase class size. Give every high school student a laptop by 2015 – they won’t notice any difference!

Testifying against Senate Bill 1184, Sherri Wood, president of the Idaho Education Association, said it “trades teachers for technology,” adding that laptops cannot replace “caring, competent” adults in the classroom.

“You simply cannot replace a teacher with a laptop,” Wood said.

Photo: Idaho Education Association

Of the three Luna bills signed into law, SB 1184 had the roughest sailing in the legislature. The final legislation is a narrower version of what Luna had been pushing – four mandatory online classes for every Idaho student, tied to an increase in class sizes and paid for by eliminating 770 teaching jobs over the next two years.

While the provision for online classes was dropped, the law will still provide laptops for students at the expense of teachers.

“If teachers are laid off to buy laptops, which is what this bill does, who will be in the classroom?” wondered Republican lawmaker Shawn Keough.

Idaho educators, like their counterparts across the country, strongly advocate the integration of technology in the classroom to enhance student learning. What so many find  objectionable about the bill (including Idaho students, who staged countless public protests against the measure) is Luna’s ham-fisted attempt to use these tools to supplant teachers.

“We think he missed he missed many of the bigger, much broader discussions about technology,” IEA Executive Director Robin Nettinga told KIFI-TV in Idaho Falls.

Nettinga’s concern is being echoed across the country as online classes and other technologies begin to take hold in classrooms, particularly in Florida.

Tempted by short-term budget cutting and the lure of private sector dollars, districts might be turning to tools that, while generally beneficial, are being implemented too fast.

Replacing experienced educators with online classes is undoubtedly a risky move, especially since the rush to do is not founded on reliable research. In 2010, the U.S. Department of Education stated, “Without new random assignment or controlled quasi-experimental studies of the effects of online learning options for K-12 students, policy-makers will lack scientific evidence of the effectiveness of these emerging alternatives to face-to-face instruction.”

Specifically, online classes and digital tools could undercut the need to take students’ individual learning styles into account. Any benefits new technology may bring would then be overshadowed by the damage done to student learning and the teaching profession.

“As educators, we talk with business owners all the time,” Sherri Wood explained to Idaho lawmakers. “We don’t hear them telling us they need workers with more technological skills. They say they need young adults who can address complex problems, work as a team, and find creative solutions. These are the things best learned face to face, not in front of a screen. Our students have more than enough screen time.”

Attending a rally against the Luna plan in February, eighth-grader Samantha Krier agreed that students need interaction with their teachers.

“We don’t want computers replacing our teachers,” she said. “Computers can’t talk to us or make us laugh. If you need someone to talk to, the teachers are there and computers can’t do that.”


For the latest news and events about legislative action in the states, visit EducationVotes


12 Responses to “Laptops Are Not Teachers”
  1. The bill passed today, 44-26. It now goes to the governor for his signature.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 5 Thumb down 6

  2. Jeff Johnson says:

    I added my comments here

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

  3. June Pearson says:

    This reminds me of trying to learn American History in the auditorium via Educational TV (the early 60′s)- 160 of us and the High School football coach supposedly monitoring our learning and grading our tests….!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  4. Yvette Sedlewicz says:

    What the article fails to mention is that Mr. Luna’s election campaign was heavily funded by online course companies, as well as ultraconservative groups such as the Koch Brothers…as was the Governor of Idaho, along with the Republicans in the Idaho legislature.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  5. You can use your demo account to test various
    configurations of your trading plan, such as to see if you may be too conservative with
    your stop loss markets. The buy and hold strategy is not popular among
    currency traders, and it will never be as long as Forex
    brokers offer high leveraging on Forex trading accounts
    and traders take the bait. Fibonacci discovered that as the
    Fibonacci sequence progresses, the ratio of each number
    to its immediate follower approaches a constant value of 0.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  6. I’m really loving the theme/design of your website. Do you
    ever run into any web browser compatibilioty issues?
    A handful of my blog audience have complained about my site not operating
    correctly in Explorer but looks great in Safari.
    Do you have any ideas to help fix this problem?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0


Check out what others are saying about this post...
  1. [...] against the measure) is Luna’s ham-fisted attempt to use these tools to supplant teachers.”(more)    Comments (0) Go to main news [...]

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  2. [...] to the National Education Association, SB 1184 would have required four mandatory online classes for Idaho students — tied to an [...]

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  3. [...] April 5, 2011 Nick Sauers, Uncategorized 4 comments In an April 1 post on NEA Today enti­tled Lap­tops Are Not Teach­ers, author Tim Walker pits tech­nol­ogy against teach­ers. He talks about the state’s plan to [...]

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  4. [...] by popular education blogger Tim Walker, he articulates this view, expressing the fear that the “‘miracle of technology’ [will be used] to cut teachers’ jobs, salaries, and increase class …  Believing that technology, at its core, is unable to adapt to the individual learning styles of [...]

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  5. [...] to the National Education Association, SB 1184 would have required four mandatory online classes for Idaho students — tied to an [...]

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

Speak Your Mind

Tell us what you're thinking...
and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!