Lawmakers considering grants to schools for tablets, smartphones

2013-02-26T00:22:00Z 2013-07-18T15:08:32Z Lawmakers considering grants to schools for tablets, smartphonesBilly Hesterman - Daily Herald Daily Herald
February 26, 2013 12:22 am  • 

SALT LAKE CITY -- One Utah lawmaker is leading a push to put more technology in the state's classrooms.

Sen. Aaron Osmond, R-South Jordan, presented legislation to the Senate's education committee Monday morning that would create a $3 million grant program for schools to put more computers, tablets and smartphones in the classrooms.

"The purpose of the bill is to extend the hardware needs and infrastructure required to provide a personal learning device for every student possible under this funding," Osmond said.

Under Osmond's proposal the state Office of Education would create a program that school districts could petition for their schools to receive a grant to purchase any type of personal electronic device that will help students in learning or testing. Districts would need to match any funds they receive from the state to qualify for the program.

State Superintendent Martell Menlove spoke in favor of the legislation as he said the state Office of Education recognizes that there is a need for more technology in the classroom. Menlove explained to the committee that devices provided to students could be programmed in such a way that a child would not be able to access inappropriate content on the Internet.

While the program sounds great on the surface there are still some cracks in providing additional technology to the classroom. Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, praised the legislation but wanted to require schools to outline how they will use the technology to enhance a student's ability to learn. He worried the schools will obtain the technology and then teach classes about how to use the new device instead of using the devices to enhance core classes like math, science and English.

Stephenson talked about a school in Draper that received new laptops for their students but saw a decrease in test scores because they focused more on teaching students how to use the computers instead of using the computers to further the education of students.

Stephenson's concern was enough to convince the committee to hold Osmond's bill to give him time to add language requiring schools to make a plan on how they will utilize the technology. Osmond said he agreed with Stephenson's concern to make sure students are learning from the devices and not about the new technology.

billy-hesterman
-- Billy Hesterman covers the Utah State Legislature and local politics for the Daily Herald. You can follow him on Twitter at: @billyhesterman
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