Lawmakers Debate Grants for Tablets and Smartphones in Schools

(KCPW News) Legislation that would increase the number of tablets, smartphones and computers in Utah classrooms was held in the Senate Education Committee Monday morning after concerns about the effectiveness of similar past measures. Republican Senator Aaron Osmond, of South Jordan, says the bill he’s sponsoring is meant to help bridge a technology gap in Utah schools.

“The purpose of the bill is to extend the hardware needs and infrastructure required to provide a personal learning device for every student where possible under this funding, to not only enable in-class testing but also the learning capability that can be facilitated through [having] these devices in our classes,” Osmond said.

But Republican Senator Howard Stephenson, of Draper, expressed concerns that similar efforts aimed at boosting the amount of technology in Utah classrooms have not met their stated goals. He cited specific examples where digital devices had actually detracted from teaching efforts, because they redirected attention to devices and away from fundamentals.

“They see the devices as a new component of the curriculum which they call ‘technology,’” Stephenson said. “So they’re teaching students about technology as opposed to using devices to deliver the core [curriculum] more effectively.”

These concerns were enough to persuade the committee to hold the legislation until Senator Osmond adds language that spells out specifically how the devices would be used in classrooms.