Random Thoughts

Why do I get a computer?

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Over the past couple of days I’ve had one simple question that I can’t get out of my head.

Why do we believe that every teacher having a computer on their desk will benefit teaching and learning, but giving one to students wouldn’t?

It’s a simple question isn’t it? I mean….when I started teaching in 1999 I walked into my 4th grade classroom with a computer sitting on my desk. Not every teacher had one at that time, but the next year, at a new school, every teacher had a laptop. We’re talking the 2000-2001 school year. Every school since has provided me with a computer.

At some point, someone somewhere decided that every teacher having a laptop benefited teaching and learning. That this “tool” no matter how expensive had benefits that out weighed the cost.

And you can’t tell me that there were not conversations before this happened around:

  • Will they use it appropriately?
  • How are we going to make sure they use it?
  • What if they screw around and get off task?
  • What happens if it breaks?
  • How are we going to measure its effect on learning?
  • How are we going to measure its effect on teaching?

and for those of you who were in some of these conversations I’d love to hear the other questions/concerns that were raised. Here’s the best part….10 years later here are the answers to those questions as I see it:

  • Will they use it appropriately? Some will some won’t
  • How are we going to make sure they use it? We won’t, it’s a tool that is there for them to use when they need it to help them do their job.
  • What if they screw around and get off task? They will, it’s a fact, we have teachers updating Twitter and Facebook during the school day, sending personal e-mails, looking up movie times for after school, and booking flights. They screw around on the computer all the time!
  • What happens if it breaks? We’ll keep a couple spares to replace it.
  • How are we going to measure its effect on learning? We won’t but we have a hunch that it does.
  • How are we going to measure its effect on teaching? We won’t but we have a hunch that it does.

10 years later and these are the best answers I can come up with?

We have no data, we have no facts, we just have a hunch that our schools are better when every teacher has access to a computer. Oh, and not a computer in a cart, or one they have to check out every day. No a computer that is customized to them, that allows them to do what they need it to do no matter what they teach.

I mean…why in the world does a PE teacher need a laptop?

Now that's what a teacher's desk should look like! Flickr ID: Corey Leopold
Now that's what a teacher's desk should look like! Flickr ID: Corey Leopold

So that’s it….I’m going to march into the Head of School’s office tomorrow and ask him to please either show me the data that every teacher having a computer leaders to better more in-depth learning, or I’m going to request that he take them all away and that we use that money for something else that we know without a doubt leads to better learning. Then I’m going to unplug his machine and walk out the door with it! We’re going to spend that money on SAT prep-books, Resources for teachers so they can teach the content they are suppose to be teaching instead of updating their Facebook status.

Yep…that’s it….10 years I’ve had my own computer and I have no data that shows that it ever effected true learning in my classroom or schools.

So I’m calling on all you tech people, our time is over, it didn’t work and I’m going to ask you to please start approaching your teachers 1 by 1 and asking for their computers. They can teach without them, they can communicate without them. They were a waste of money, and as someone who has helped to push technology over the past 10 years I apologize, I was wrong….you were right…they have no place in the hands of teachers or students.

My apologies,


Jeff Utecht is not responsible for bodily injury or lost of employment that may occur from above mentioned acts.

I started blogging in 2005 and found it such a powerful way to reflect and share my thinking about technology, this generation, and how we prepare students for their future not our past.


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    • kids should have computers because computers could help kids from having to carry their books around with out having to acctually carry each individual bok. i mean what if their is one kid with dypraxia that has a disability and has problems carrying their books, and if we could just print out our work then our work would be even more neat. We could have everything organized for the teacher.

  12. Thought you were going to tie in the reasoning used to keep laptops out of the hands of students… I hear the same six questions (Will they use it appropriately What happens if it breaks? etc.) as reasons NOT to put computers in the hands of students.

    • and I hope that this is the point. We have no data that says that laptops help teachers teach better, but we all know they do. Sure there are a million reasons why teachers or students shouldn’t have a computer, but there are a million reasons why they should.

      I just want someone to say to me that students don’t need computers to learn…well then you probably don’t need one to teach. 🙂

      • Jennette Kane Reply

        Bravo! However, I think the “proof” is in the level at which teachers can now work…they work more efficiently and communicate more effectively (with both staff, students, and parents). For example, our online grade book, parent/student communication program has proven to be invaluable. Without laptops teachers could not keep students and parents as up-to-date with work assignments, progress, and important class announcements. The initial fear was that the program would cause more problems and communications with parents but it has actually done the opposite. Students are taking more responsibility for their own work. I think it is going to be essential to provide students with their own laptop sooner than later, at least for the secondary level. More and more textbooks are online, access to web resources are proving to be invaluable, and communicating with students and teachers through electronic means has become an essential part of our curriculum, not to mention, our everyday lives.

        • Oh….well if you put it that way maybe we shouldn’t be taking laptops away from teacher but giving them to students! Thanks for the feedback and I agree technology does more for use than just improve learning…it a new culture of communication that we have….as teachers come to rely on…but why do we not see that benefiting students and the student/parent/teacher relationship?

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  25. Since taking over the IT Manager position at our Primary school campus three years ago, I’ve shared an office with out PE teacher, who is now a very good friend. I put one of the lowest spec eMac computers on his desk, and then later, replaced it with a low-spec Mac Mini – oh, how I watched him suffer. The amount of data he has to sort through and organise, such as after school activities, tournaments, reports, etc, is pretty immense, and I now find myself clamoring to kit him out with a higher-spec iMac as he’s one of the people helping to pioneer digital initiatives in the school. He now has an HD video camera (as do many other teachers now) which he uses to record students doing gymnastics, edits them in iMovie, and plays the videos back to the students and parents to help with their reflection on the assessment.

    Teachers using the tech like that (from people you would least expect) can really help pioneer initiatives throughout the entire school, once others can see the potential and context.

    Of course, now my servers are struggling to keep up with the amount of video on them, but that’s another story…

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  27. Interesting post! I’ve been hearing from years about how my neices and nephews are submitting homework via the Interenet so I always assumed charting and reviewing, and posting was a part of the teacher’s need. ; -) Can do it at work versus doing later at home? It’s been interesting to see the tools like document cameras, and smart boards, projectors, dvds, etc., being used in conjunction in some schools, so dependance on the teacher’s integration of technology into the classroom may have higher impact on impact on learning than others, maybe the PE teacher, who doesn’t integrate it? Good questions. Will stay tuned to see what results you uncover. ; -)

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  30. I feel that your arguement breaks into two parts. The first part reflects teacher professionalism and the second student achievement. Teacher professionalism extends beyong technology use. If you took computers away from the teachers misusing them, those teachers would continue to act unprofession. They would just find other avenues. This is an administrative issue. In regards to student achievement, computers aid teachers in differet ways. First, they allow teachers to perform tasks differently. Through the use of electronic gradebooks, e-mail communication, online lesson plan research and word programs to create graphic organizers (worksheets, recording sheets and so forth), time is freed up. With this time, they can create higher quality lesson plans. Secondly, they create a new way to deliver information. By coupling the computer with a projector, authentic materials can be displayed using powerpoints, streaming vieos, pictures, virtual field trips, etc. In my experience, teachers who misuse or don’t use technology are not advancing their pedegogy and have issues greater than facebook.

  31. Kristen Hartranft Reply

    You bring up a very interesting point! This is the third laptop computer my district has provided me and before that, we had desktops. If the administration believes it benefits our teaching so much, why wouldn’t it benefit the students? Even if we were given the computer just for managerial purposes, wouldn’t this also benefit our students? Think of all the paper we could save just providing our students with computers to do their writing. Add folders and drop boxes for the students, and you’ve eliminated all paper and added the benefit of spell checker, a thesaurus and grammar check.

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