(submitted in response to Pamela Mendels' September 8, 1999 New York Times article
The headline and opening paragraph of Pamela Mendels’ September 8, 1999 article “Survey Finds Teachers Unprepared for Computer Use” are misleading. Ms. Mendels begins by saying, “While millions of American children are trooping back to school this week, a new study suggests that their teachers may need some instruction of their own if they are to master the computers in their classrooms.”
The Market Data Retrieval survey upon which the article is based stated that only 39% of teachers “felt well-prepared to use technology for teaching.” This, however, does not mean that most teachers are unfamiliar with computers. In fact, a June 1999 report from Market Data Retrieval shows that 46% of all public schools reported that the majority of teachers have reached the intermediate skill level of technology use (up from 43% in 1998) and an additional 8% indicated that the majority of their teachers were at the advanced skill level or were innovators.
Larry Cuban, in an August 4, 1999 commentary in Education Week, described what he calls “The Technology Puzzle” in education—70-80% of teachers occasionally or never use computers in the classroom while 70% of these same teachers regularly use computers at home or outside of the classroom.
What needs to be emphasized is that teachers, already burdened with greater responsibilities due to larger class sizes and increased pressures to meet state accountability standards, need more training on effectively integrating technology within their schools’ curricula, not training on how to use computers. There simply is not enough time in the school day for most teachers to experiment with using technology as a pedagogical tool under conditions where they often have little or no support. Most simply continue using computers (on their own time) as a tool for preparation, communication, and research. Far from being technophobes, teachers are pragmatists.
Milton Alan Turner