Two-thirds of Idaho’s 12,000 public school teachers lack basic skills to integrate computers into classroom learning, although a proposal headed to the state Board of Education could turn that around.
Meanwhile, hundreds of educators are being brought up to speed this summer through Boise State University.
Yet as computers move ever more quickly into classrooms, philosophies about competency standards for teachers are divided.
The split reaches all the way to the state board, which will consider adopting standards in September. The main point of disagreement is how to enforce those guidelines. Some want teachers held accountable.
“I want the teachers to be able to certify in some way they have computer competency,” said board member Jerry Hess of Nampa.
Others favor spreading the responsibility over a broader group. The plan headed to the board makes school districts responsible for educating teachers and threatens the schools’ accreditation if they fail.
“A student from an Idaho high school that is fully accredited has a lot better advantage,” said Dan Petersen, a state vocational educator who helped craft the proposal.
Linda Wiedenfeld, a sixth-grade teacher at Ross Elementary School in Kuna, is working on computer assignments from Boise State. She intends to use the Internet to help students collect data.
“Science is a big area,” she said. “We could have collaborative projects with other schools and collect and share data.”
That is just the kind of work Carolyn Thorsen, Boise State’s Education Technology coordinator, said reflects the standards she is pushing.
Boise State teaches about 1,000 educators a year in computer technology.
“It takes three years to get good-enough computer skills,” Thorsen said. And without standards, there is little incentive.