From: Wendy Hart
To: Dean Sanpei,
Subject: Please Vote No on HB 131
Date: Wed Feb 26 15:25:15 MST 2014
Body:
Dear Rep. Sanpei,

I am writing today as the owner/president of a small data conversion and computer programming business/math major, a local school board member, but mostly, as a mother.

I want to thank you for looking at all the ways that we can improve public education, and as the holder of the purse strings, I am appreciative of your efforts to advocate and to improve our education system in this state.

I have a few concerns that I would like to share with you on the concept of technology updates and one-to-one devices in the classrooms.

First, as a mother.  I have two teenagers.  Technology is everywhere and everything.  I have heard that we need to include technology in the classroom to engage our students.  However, as a parent, I would like to have the option of limiting their access to technology during the day.  It is already so pervasive.  Doing homework online takes so much longer because it creates an environment that is very distracting.  Additionally, there is no real data on technology improving education.  (Some Silicon Valley employees and CEOs send their kids to schools that don't have technology until the higher grades: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/23/technology/at-waldorf-school-in-silicon-valley-technology-can-wait.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0) In the end, I think it comes down to individual students and parental choice.  As a parent, I would like to have the option for my children to receive an education without the requirement to have technology as an imperative in every class.  The human interaction with the teacher is much more important, and is starting to disappear as everyone is interacting with their technology.  If anything, we need to ground children in the idea that technology is a tool, that can come after you have mastered the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic...and human interaction. 

Second, as a local board member, I would like to suggest that when the legislature hands down funding with compliance aspects, what it really does is change the priorities of the local school boards, and hence, overrules the desires of the local parents.  In this instance, our board is actively pursuing increasing technology in our schools and our classrooms (despite my personal preferences to the contrary).  Our parents are interested in having technology, but the desire to have one-to-one devices and to significantly increase the use of technology in the classroom doesn't rise to the same level as reduced class sizes and good teachers.  In working with our technology department, they have indicated it would take us, at current staffing levels and equipment, 3 years to deploy the 73,000 devices that would be required for a one-to-one system in our district (Alpine).  Even with the devices, we have so much infrastructure that needs to be upgraded to accommodate the increased bandwidth demand.  As such, with HB131, we would need to reallocate more resources (even with the additional funds from the state) from teachers, buildings, and buses, to IT staff and technology upgrades.  In short, our public would probably prefer the teachers and buildings to the technology upgrades.  It's not that we aren't going in that direction, but it is a slow, steady process.  One that I think is being handled fairly well, with an emphasis on how and in what situations is the technology most effective.  I am appreciative of the desire to invest more in education.  I would just ask that it be provided to each school district and charter school to invest as they see fit.  Not every school will have the same needs.  And not every parent wants the emphasis on technology.

Finally, as a business owner and someone who has been employed in the tech sector in Utah County for the past thirty years, technology is a great tool.  I couldn't be doing what I'm doing without it, and for that, I'm grateful.  However, the best people to work with are those who have the capabilities technologically but also, those who can communicate and interact with people.  It is this last skill that we need to be emphasizing with our kids. 

In the end, I would like my kids to have a love of books, of learning, and of human interactions.  That needs to be our priority.

Sincerely,

Wendy Hart
Mother, Highland, UT
Board Member, Alpine School District
President, Phoenix10 Technologies, Inc.