Across Idaho, schools plan for technology upgrades

By Jessie L. Bonner

Associated Press

Published: Sunday, Jan. 15 2012 12:00 a.m. MST

The group was concern that if the laptops were first given to students in the 9th grade, teachers in classrooms with more than one grade would be unwilling to allow one student to work with a laptop alongside another student who was not issued one of the new computers.

The task force recommended the computers be deployed in 9th through 12th grades, starting with one-third of all high schools.

"If we do one-third of the schools, which I'm confident we will, then you are going to have some teachers who are going to have the device for two years or so before the students get it," Luna said. "But still, it's an opportunity for (teachers) to receive the training."

Public schools were hooked up to the Idaho Education Network, a broadband system, in a similar fashion, one-third at a time, he said.

"To think that we are going to roll out 80,000 to 100,000 devices, in one year, to every high school is just not manageable," Luna said.

Some school administrators remain skeptical about how districts will handle the flood of new technology.

In southeastern Idaho, school superintendents have said they're concerned they don't have enough staffing or funding to carry out the changes, which including training for teachers on how to integrate the technology into the classroom. The state Department of Education counters that a portion of the $13 million in technology funding set aside for the current school year — about $3 million — was dedicated to professional development.

The new education changes as a whole have been a lightning rod over the past year.

The laws are being carried out in public schools even as critics work to overturn the sweeping measures with a referendum in November.

Along with the technology upgrades, the new education mandates backed by Luna and the governor include provisions to limit teacher collective bargaining to salaries and benefits; dump seniority as a factor in layoffs; and require union negotiations to be held in public.

Idaho is also introducing teacher merit pay and shifting money from school salaries to help pay for the changes.

Jessie L. Bonner can be reached at www.twitter.com/jessiebonner

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