CEDAR CITY While some educators are on board the technology train, other teachers are going to need a little push and all could benefit from some tech training, a state education official said.
"Technology has changed the face of education forever," said Brenda Hales, Utah State Office of Education associate superintendent for student achievement and school success. She addressed the public education appropriations subcommittee and the State Board of Education during a joint meeting at Iron Springs Elementary School in Cedar City on Friday.
Educators need to use 21st century tools in effectively teaching children, agreed Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper. "We have found there is a reluctance to adopt new technology," he said, adding an incentive would help.
Hales says she wants teachers to be familiar with technology and feel as comfortable as she did with her tools of the trade chalk and pencil when she was a teacher more than 30 years ago.
To get to that level, the educators are going to need training. "Practices are changing rapidly," she said.
Stephenson said the world has gone high-tech and educators had better keep up.
If you go to an architectural firm, you won't find a drafting table. If you go to an accounting firm, you won't find a green-visored clerk with a 10-key, writing numbers in a column on a pad, he said.
"And yet we find that exact 19th century stuff happening in our schools," Stephenson said. "Why is that? Why are you happy in the 19th century?"
Stephenson added if companies don't keep up with technology, they end up going out of business. But education can't go out of business.
Some teachers say they don't want to learn technology. They're mid-career or at the end of their career, he said. "It seems to me, they need to go out of business or something needs to happen to give them a different opportunity than they currently have, if they're not willing to step up and use technology effectively," Stephenson said.
Hales said, "The time to start making the change was yesterday."
Board member Debra Roberts, of Beaver, said she believes some teachers just can't see "how technology can make them a better teacher." Roberts added it's not age it's personality that is the roadblock for educators. Some teachers are "just gobbling it up."
Smart Boards, or interactive whiteboards, are one example of technology that teachers are beginning to use in the classroom. Connected to a computer and projector, the board is like a huge computer screen in front of the class.
Iron Springs Elementary Principal Deon Goshorn told the group that the school is getting nine Smart Boards for fall. Training will be in August for her teachers. "They are not at all afraid of technology," she said. "The biggest problem is finding professional development."
Rep. Ken Sumsion, R-Lehi, said educators need to think outside the box when it comes to technology funding and access. "Why not take advantage of all the computers that are sitting in our homes?" Sumsion said.
This idea didn't sit well with Charlene Lui, chairwoman of the Coalition of Minorities Advisory Committee, who was in the audience at the meeting. "That's assuming the home even has a computer," said Lui, in an interview with the Deseret News following the meeting. She is also the director of educational equity for Granite School District.
Sumsion, in an interview after the meeting, said that junior high and high school students could even spend one day a week doing classwork online at home. "I recognize not every kid has a computer at home," he said. "But we know the vast majority of kids do have computers sitting at home. Let's use that resource."
Lui pointed out that even if the family does have a computer, in some homes both parents are working and they wouldn't be home to supervise the child on the computer. "We're looking at equity," she said. "If we're going to require this, then we need to be able to provide the means and the access."During the meeting, Rep. Tim Cosgrove, D-Murray, said parents need to step up to the plate. "The buy-in needs to extend past our teachers, past our schools," he said. "We need to get parents involved in being part of the solution."