Greater use of technology allows for decreased numbers, but improved quality, of teachers?

Terry Moe and John Chubb say…

There is every reason to believe that technology will only become more effective with time. The same cannot be said of the traditional “technology” of education – teachers and classrooms - unless that world changes fundamentally. (p. 77)

Scores of technology-based instructional programs are being used in schools throughout America. . . . A recent survey indicated that the two main issues holding back technology use are “It doesn’t fit in the schedule,” and “There is not sufficient time to train teachers.” Nowhere does it say that the software is inadequate or that technology has dubious instructional value. (p. 77)

If elementary students spend but one hour a day learning electronically, certified staff could be reduced by a sixth. At the middle school level, two hours a day with computers would reduce staff requirements by a third. High schools, with three hours of usage, could reduce staff by up to a half. This level of computer usage is quite feasible given instructional technology that exists today. (p. 80).

The quality of teachers would benefit from the increased use of technology in at least two important ways. Even after investing in hardware and software, which are trivial compared to the cost of teachers, schools would have funds from staff savings to increase teacher pay and to provide more time for teacher training and planning. Added time for professional development, with proper supervision and accountability, would improve teacher quality. Added pay would help attract and retain better talent. Better talent is the most important ingredient of better schools. The [Dayton View Academy and Dayton Academy] charter schools . . . are already demonstrating the feasibility of these ideas – in the toughest of circumstances. (p. 80)

[Liberating Learning: Technology, Politics, and the Future of American Education]

Previous posts in this series

  1. Education’s resistance to technology will be overcome

  2. It would be impossible for the information revolution to unfold and NOT have transformative implications for how children can be educated

  3. Technology will free learning from the dead hand of the past

  4. Technological change is destined to be resisted by the teachers unions

  5. Correlation or causation? Teacher resistance to state technology initiatives

5 Responses to “Greater use of technology allows for decreased numbers, but improved quality, of teachers?”

  1. I think there is some truth to the fact that technology allows schools to provide high quality instruction with fewer teachers. We need to get creative in how we use taxpayer resources to provide the best education possible for students. I think most administrators would agree that if we could spend the time and money we do to train less talented teachers on providing more training and resources for our most talented teachers, more students would be provided with a better education. However, moving to this type of system is not easy because all shareholders need to be educated on how this type of structure can and will work. That is why effective leadership is key to leading change in public education.

  2. There are some things that need to be worked out with the technology and increasing class sizes.

    First, parents will need to be on board. Especially at the elementary. Elementary school classrooms are generally self contained and it is easy to figure out the student- teacher ratio. Just go look. As a parent, I watch this and would consider my options when I thought things were out of alignment. All schools in my neighborhood would need to move to this at the same time because I am a fan of low class size and my student getting personal attention.

    I have some experience with trying to use technology to cover for short staffing. We are using SmartMusic to help students learn musical instruments. We went to from using it every once in a while in lessons to using it with all students at home and cutting the lesson opportunities by two thirds. ( I am blogging about it at )

    My take on the experience has been both positive and negative:
    1. Practicing is more fun.
    2. It has never been easier for a student to discover if they have practiced enough.
    3. It is easier than ever to identify a student with problems.
    4. It has never been so easy to document those problems.
    5. It has never been so hard to do anything to help a student with those problems.
    6. It has never been harder to encourage students personally (and a lot of students will want to hear that encouragement from a person, not hear it from a computer.)
    7. Some students are motivated by the game aspect of “beating the computer”

    The computer is still pretty black and white in its judgement…you either got it or you didn’t. Some kids get discouraged by this.

    My take is that education is still a very complicated process. We need to use the best tools possible for the job and yes, that does involve computers. Those tools aren’t completely ready to take over right now and teachers are still very necessary to the process.

    I get worried when someone thinks that you can automate education and take some of the people out of it. It sounds like what HMOs did to medicine with the capitation of doctor-patient visits. And I don’t think I am too far out on a limb when I say no one is really happy with that.

  3. They are assuming that there is no or little teacher feedback needed. Either the kids aren’t getting feedback in this system, or it’s all computer generated. That’s not an effective model of instruction for students. The online classes I’ve liked *least* have been like this, where I write stuff, post it, and have minimal feedback from my professor, and none from my peers.

  4. I am an elementary school teacher and I would like to address the two issues from the survey holding technology back. On the issue:“It doesn’t fit in the schedule,” It depends upon the technology that you are discussing. This is my second year having access to a digital desktop camera (elmo) and projector. I have implemented this into my teaching. Instead of standing at the board writing, I face my students and they can see exactly what I need them to see. This has improved the quality of my teaching. Here is the flipside, with the major budget cuts in California if my projector bulb burns out, there may not be a replacement. I have students use computers for word processing but my printer needs a $65 drum kit that I can’t get. On the issue:“There is not sufficient time to train teachers.” Education is a profession of people who go to school. We work there, we go to staff development or professional conferences. We get our Master’s (like I am doing). At my school there are both new teachers (under 5 years) and veterans. As the baby boom generation of teachers retire you will find they have been replaced by a generation that uses all kinds of technology daily. I agree that training is needed, but I think that the stumbling block to training teachers is not the time involved but the cost involved.

  5. The training piece is incredibly important. I am not so sure that been born at a certain time makes you an expert with technology. DO have a budget for training with all technology initiatives.

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