California Educational Data Processing Association
DataBus - Vol. 38, No. 2
February-March, 1998
Letter to the Editor

Training Teachers for Technology

Editor's Note: An article titled "Class computers may not help; Report say teachers get little technology training" appeared in the November 11, 1997, issue of the Redding Record Searchlight (Redding, California). The article stated that California ranks with the national average in the teacher preparedness area, with only 15 percent of teachers reporting having completed at least nine hours of technology training. The article quoted Glen Thomas, chief of the California Department of Education's Educational Technology Office, as saying "the lack of professional development is our No. 1 issue." He added that California continues to "lag behind in educational technology with the majority of classrooms without a computer." Those who do have a computer, Thomas said, have only one. The article reported that a new state law (effective in the year 2000) requiring that teacher candidates demonstrate basic computer skills to qualify for a credential will not affect current teachers who average 15 years of experience and are "largely unfamiliar with computers."

The article was based on a special report titled "Teaching the Teachers" published by Education Week on November 10, 1997 and available electronically at http://www.edweek.org/sreports/tc/teach/te-n.htm.. This report concluded that the majority of the nation's teachers are not adequately trained to use the technology that is being installed in their classrooms.

To the Editor, the Databus,

The [referenced] article appeared in our local paper last month and concerns me greatly. A statement to the general public that "America's schools are investing billions of dollars annually in computers and technology, but there is little data to indicate whether that investment is paying off" does not speak well for our side. Right, wrong or otherwise, the perception that we are spending the public's money without knowing if it will yield results (a positive effect on academic achievement) can do nothing to help the growing criticism of public education. To make it worse, the article goes on to say "The lack of adequate professional development is our No. 1 issue," acknowledged Glen Thomas, chief of the California Department of Education's newly formed Education Technology Office. "It's one of the reasons we haven't progressed very far."

Excuse me! You mean schools are spending billions and not teaching the staff how to use the technology? What a waste of money. What's going to be the next excuse? "Everything is broken because we didn't know it would cost so much to support and keep it working." Or maybe a good one would be, "We haven't seen results yet because we picked the wrong products."

For those of you that are getting it right, spread the word. With public education increasingly under the microscope, articles like this do not help and rightly so. I suggest we not get caught up in the rush to purchase and skip the basics for success. A good MIS director would never dream of implementing a new financial system without first:

Why would technology for the classroom be approached differently? I suggest we start by asking the question, "Are we going to teach the students technology or are we going to use technology to teach the students?" You can do both, however, to teach technology is easy; the second is much more difficult and (in my opinion) must be accompanied by demonstrable academic achievement, otherwise what's the point? Once you know what you want from technology, follow the basic steps to success. I hope the next headline I read will be "Technology investment in schools pays off." I don't think we will have many opportunities to get it right.

Charley Williams, MIS Director
Shasta County Office of Education

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