Lawmaker wants more technology in classroom instruction

Lawmaker wants more technology in classroom instruction

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A state lawmaker wants as much as $50 million in spending to go toward classroom technology in public schools.

Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, says he wants teachers exposed to cutting-edge tools that many don't know exist.

But some educators are concerned about how involved Stephenson is becoming.

"We appreciate the attention to technology ... but it is of concern anytime that something like that is legislated or micromanaged from the state level," said Kim Campbell, president of the Utah Education Association. "We are in support of the concept, but we do have concerns about being managed from the state level and feel like those decisions are best made at the local level."

Stephenson said his proposal is not about controlling funding. "(Teachers) are not knowledgable of what's available -- is brings visibility to the incredible tools that make a teacher's job easier and more effective," Stephenson said. "They can apply for it, and they will get to choose whether they want to engage this new technology."

Last year, lawmakers on the public education appropriation subcommittee attended an all-day meeting with demonstrations in computer-assisted technology software. Program capabilities included one-on-one interactive reading, English language instruction, math tutoring and more.

The Legislature allocated $60 million for the technology.

"I naturally assumed much or most of this money would have gone to computer-assisted instructional software to assist teachers in teaching core better," Stephenson said. "I thought they would be chomping at the bit for that kind of software --they weren't."

Only $3.6 million went to instructional software, while the majority of the funding went to computers, laptops and other hardware, which education leaders say was necessary.

"That kind of instructional software requires a lot of hardware that is accessible to students," said Larry Shumway, state associate superintendent. "The days where a computer lab with 30 computers in a school will suffice to meet the needs of a whole elementary school are long gone, so maintaining computers that are adequate for the kinds of interactive work we want children to be doing requires continuing investment in hardware."

Instead of allocating funding for computer technology, Stephenson wants to buy software licenses and distribute them to schools and districts in the form of grants.

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