By Bill Guy
Alicia Garcia, George Cheung
Alicia Garcia, Calipatria Unified Teachers Association, and George Cheung, Covina Unified Education Association, met at a technology workshop during CTA’s Good Teaching Conference South.
Alicia: I am hindered in using new technologies in my teaching because of a lack of both hardware and readily available professional development. Our district is trying to get us the equipment, and a few years ago we finally got teacher laptops for some classrooms on a lottery basis. But progress has been slow because of all the recent budget cuts.
George: I’ve seen a huge difference in how I was previously supported and in what I am able to do now. But my first ancient projector had one of those pop-up mirrors. It was so dim that if the classroom door was open, you couldn’t see anything on the screen. I had to purchase my own laptop for classroom use because we had little to no technology.
Alicia: When I started, I had an Apple IIe, the computers that were supposed to “revolutionize” education. They required floppies and then the 3×5 hard disks. But because we lacked the necessary professional development to know how to use them, they became monuments that just sat in the classrooms. I now have four computers, and I was so excited two years ago when I got a flat screen for my classroom.
George: I had a radio background before becoming a teacher, so I knew that I needed to merge technology into my students’ education. Plus, I was often bored in high school, so with all the advances in technology, I just knew that reliance solely on traditional methods would not work with today. Many of my students have their own cellphones, but even if they don’t have access to much technology at home, as soon as you make it available to them, they embrace it.
Alicia: Some teachers in my school are getting iPads, but many still do not know how to use them. They may search the Internet or take a photo or two. Just because someone has the hardware doesn’t mean that they are automatically going to know how to use it. If I find out that someone’s is in a drawer somewhere, I say, “Whoa! Give it to me and I’ll use it!” We need more professional development, but a good deal of our training comes from the Imperial County Office of Education, and that’s 30 miles away.
George: I’ve gone from purchasing my own laptop to the district launching an initiative for every student to have an iPad for classroom use. My class is a pilot project to help iron out the issues, and I am now the director of PD for my site. There are ongoing discussions about me training teachers throughout the district in how to incorporate and use new technologies. With an average class size of between eight and 14 students who rotate every period, I have 12 iPads that students use on a rotational basis. They don’t take the iPads home yet, but we are moving toward that. The district recognized that they can actually save money by purchasing each student an iPad over the cost of purchasing textbooks. Not having to make paper copies of lessons also saves money, as does using technology to communicate with students and parents — both in human effort in preparing the letters or fliers and in postage.
Alicia: We do have computer labs at every school site, and I have a pullout program where I teach first-graders one-finger keyboarding, and our district has classes at the high school level to teach students how to use technology for individual learning.
George: I think we can both agree that most CTA members could benefit from more professional development in how to bring technology into their teaching. I really appreciate having technology workshops at the Good Teaching Conference, but there’s only one strand — four sessions on Saturday and one on Sunday. I’d really like to see greater emphasis on this important issue.