Thousands of Michigan teachers could get laptop computers and internet access after receiving technology training, under a $110 million proposal announced by Gov. John Engler in his State of the State address.

“Technology is evolving at blinding speeds,” Engler told the legislature in his Jan. 19 address. “The question is: Are educators able to harness the information revolution for the benefit of our children?”

To prepare teachers to be confident with 21st century technology, Engler said, he wants to develop “a special technology curriculum for all teachers” to train them how to use computers and the internet to enhance their teaching.

Once teachers complete the technology training, they would receive a free laptop computer and classroom internet access.

“By connecting our teachers to each other and to the world, we are saying to our competitors, ‘We just upped the ante: try and catch us,'” Engler said.

He asked the legislature to delay the advent of increased classroom hours for two years to provide time for the 80,000 public school teachers in Michigan to complete the technology training program.

“Training and equipping our teachers is so important, because education is not the static, one-size-fits-all process that you and I knew as kids,” he said.

Teachers could use the laptops to communicate with parents, develop curriculum, foster professional development online, and work at home, Engler said.

“From accessible online lesson plans, to subject-specific chat rooms, to weekly eMails to parents about their children’s progress, the world wide web is waiting to be used to create a community of learning for teachers and students,” he said.

Engler proposed funding the project with two withdrawals of nearly $55 million each from the state’s rainy day fund over the next two years. Spokesman John Truscott said Engler believes the $1.6 billion fund has ample resources to finance the program after five years of expansion in Michigan’s economy.

The governor’s proposal has received mixed reaction from teachers.

Fifth-grade history teacher Sharon Walper from Spencer Elementary School in Brighton, Mich., doesn’t support Engler’s proposal but said she is happy the governor sees the importance of having technology in the schools.

“I don’t think our school has a need for a laptop computer,” Walper said. “It sounds cushy, but I don’t think it’s the best use of a technology fund.”

Like many teachers, Walper has a computer at home and isn’t fond of the idea of dragging a laptop home everyday. She also could sign out one of three laptops at her school if she wished.

Every teacher in her school already has internet access, because every classroom at Spencer Elementary has one computer connected to the web, she said. Instead of laptop computers and internet access, she said, she’d rather see more computers in the classrooms.

Walper does incorporate computer technology into her lessons by taking her class into the school’s computer lab, but she said that only happens about once every other week.

As a class, “we don’t have access to the computers every day,” Walper said. “We pretty much fight for computers.”

Walper said she is most interested in the governor’s plan to provide technology training for teachers.

“Even for people that are very computer literate, there is always more you can learn,” she said.

She would like to learn how to search the internet more effectively so she can find better sites in less time. “It generally takes hours to find a good lesson on the internet,” she said.

Links:

Michigan State of the State Address
http://www.state.mi.us/migov/gov/Speeches/StateoftheState.shtm


Gov. John Engler’s web site:
http://www.migov.state.mi.us/MichiganGovernor.htm


Spencer Elementary School
http://scnc.bas.k12.mi.us/~spencer/