Questions accompany efforts to upgrade classroom technology

The Oklahoman Editorial Published: January 23, 2013
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WE walk around with computers in our pockets. At a moment's notice, you can find the address of the nearest Chinese restaurant, learn whether snow is in tomorrow's forecast, or get a reminder of how to calculate circumference in case of a geometry memory failure.

The truth is we don't generally have an urgent need for all of the information now at our fingertips. We have, however, come to expect it. As they always have, schools are playing a furious game of catch-up, trying to figure out how to harness the power of technology to improve student learning.

Patrons of Putnam City Public Schools will vote next month on a $6 million bond issue dedicated exclusively to technology. If approved, the district plans to buy 10,000 iPads for distribution across the district. The money also would pay for technology for special-needs students and projection equipment for some schools.

The bond proposal follows a privately funded effort last year to provide iPads and related teacher training to some of the district's fifth-grade classrooms. The effort got rave reviews from teachers.

Tulsa Public Schools may not be far behind in putting forth a technology-centered bond issue. A survey of teachers rated the district's technology as “less than acceptable” while describing the importance of classroom technology as “very important” for student achievement. Teachers responded they want Internet access for all classroom computers, a printer/copier/fax/scanner, an iPad for each teacher; a laptop for each student desk or table, and electronic textbooks.

Tulsa teachers are concerned the district is lagging its suburban counterparts in technology. A committee is using the survey feedback in formulating a bond proposal.

“I have long suspected that there are growing disparities in the availability of technology resources at TPS when compared with neighboring school districts. Our students will pay a heavy price if we don't do something to catch up,” Tulsa schools Superintendent Keith Ballard said. “With the right tools, I believe our teachers can leverage classroom technology to improve student performance and substantially improve achievement.”

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