The following letter was sent from Harford County Education Association President Ryan Burbey to Harford County Public Schools Superintendent Barbara Canavan. A copy was provided to The Dagger for publication:
Dear Ms. Canavan,
In my capacity as the HCEA president, I am required to serve as chief spokesman of the Association. As such, it is my responsibility to communicate the will of our members, the HCEA Representative Assembly and the HCEA Board of Directors. On Thursday, September 28, 2017, the HCEA Representative Assembly voted unanimously to present a specific list of concerns and recommendations regarding the planned implementation of one to one technology for students. The concerns and recommendations are as follows:
– It is unreasonable to expect Harford County Government to fund $14,772,000 for Technology in any single year
Harford County Government cannot and will not fund a request for technology of this magnitude. To dedicate this level of county resources to HCPS technology in any single year would strain other budget categories.
– It is unreasonable to expect Harford County Government to fund $6.1 or more for Instructional Technology every year for 5 consecutive years
Harford County Government cannot and will not fund a request for technology funding of this magnitude. To dedicate this level of county resources to HCPS technology would strain other budget categories.
– It is unreasonable to expect individual schools to consistently fund twenty-five percent of instructional technology purchases
Needs of schools and resources available already vary widely. School budget allocations are not tiered for community needs or community median incomes. Principals in at-risk communities already struggle to provide all the necessary resources to their school community and students.
– Any technology roll-out must be balanced with developing teachers’ capacity to appropriately utilize technology
Teachers have not received appropriate training to utilize technology within the classroom. Multiple, simultaneous curricular and technology deployments are already over-burdening teachers and other instructional staff. To properly implement technology and curricular programs, teachers must be provided additional, on-going professional development, training and support.
– Increased technology usage requires additional planning time
Teachers do not currently have sufficient time to adequately plan for daily use of one to one technology. Utilizing multiple technology platforms, applications and devices requires much more planning time than which is currently provided.
– Devices need to be strategically deployed
HCPS must strategically purchase and deploy devices. Purchasing the same devices for every classroom or every student will not meet the needs of either our students or teachers. Different children require different devices due to their age, developmental level and instructional content.
– Devices should not be left idle
Even the most aggressive implementation of one to one technology would result in every device being left idle for at least 20% for the instructional day. This may seem like a minor concern but when the expenditure is factored with “idle time”, this means that HCPS will be leaving $1.2 million dollars idle every year. (20% of $6.1 million is $1.2 million.) Correspondingly, these devices are intended to be kept in the schools overnight. This means that every single device will be idle at least 12 hour each day.
– Deployment will not address equity issues
As planned the deployment of one to one devices will not address equity issues. Students without devices at home will still lack access which students who have home devices have readily available. Any deployment of one to one devices should address prevailing equity issues.
– Deployment must include planned instruction in device and software operation
Students have not been given appropriate instruction in using various devices or software, to include keyboarding skills. HCPS curriculum does not currently include modules or lesson units which encapsulate keyboarding, software usage or device usage. Many students have little to no formal digital skills utilizing Microsoft applications or other instructional applications. These skills must be taught and must be incorporated into current curriculum before device usage will be optimal.
– One to one device management is fraught with problems
Allowing students to transport devices from room to room throughout the day is fraught with potential pitfalls. Besides the obvious concerns over loss, theft and damage, where will students store devices when not in use? What will be the protocol for device repair? Will students receive “loaner” devices? Will curricular materials be available in the event of an outage? HCPS must develop system-wide protocols for liability, storage, theft, damage, etc. These protocols and practices should be in place before systemic deployment of devices.
– Growing research suggest students should not work exclusively on digital content
While the need to provide students access to technology is inarguable, a growing body of research suggests that students should still utilize print media for learning. A recent article in Business Insider cites some of these studies. http://www.businessinsider.com/studentslearning-education-print-textbooks-screens-study-2017-10
While HCEA absolutely agrees that the access to technology in HCPS schools must improve, we also have grave concerns about the proposed deployment and the potential ramifications.
Please consider these suggestions. We believe the best interests of students do not rest with one to one deployment of uniform technology but rather with strategic deployment, which ensures students have the right devices for the right tasks at the right times.
If you have any questions or concerns, please contact me.