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Classroom Overhaul Envisions More Technology

Aleks Dorohovich

House Speaker Becky Lockhart only needed to look at her own children to see kids and electronic devices go together naturally. The insight has inspired her new initiative to transform Utah’s public schools.

Lockhart says parents and teachers need to catch up to children when it comes to technology. That’s what prompted her Public Education Modernization Act. It would put electronic devices into the hands of all 620,000 students in Utah’s schools. Lockhart’s asking for up to $300 million to make her vision a reality.

“Our children are already using technology to a great degree,” she says, “and what we need to do as the adults, if you will, is to provide them with the opportunities that they have to have in order to be competitive in the world that we live in today.”

The classroom overhaul will include training for teachers and Internet upgrades for the schools. Lockhart says school districts will be able to choose the specific technologies and programs that work best for their students. The Orem Republican has been working with senators and the State Board of Education. She has also met with the Utah Education Association, the largest teachers union in the state.

“The portion of this that’s one size fits all, if you will, is the vision, the direction,” Lockhart says. “This is where we’re headed. The rest of it is about innovation and new ways of doing things and opportunity – opportunity for our teachers to be better than they are already, opportunity for our children to use technology that they already know about in order to get better educational outcomes, in order to be more competitive in the world.”

The Legislature’s budget-makers put Lockhart’s program on its priority list for $100 million of funding. But supporters say they’d like more money, sooner. The overhaul is expected to take several years.

Judy Fahys has reported in Utah for two decades, covering politics, government and business before taking on environmental issues. She loves covering Utah, where petroleum-pipeline spills, the nation’s radioactive legacy and other types of pollution provide endless fodder for stories. Previously, she worked for the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah, and reported on the nation’s capital for States News Service and the Scripps League newspaper chain. She is a longtime member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. She also spent an academic year as a research fellow in the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In her spare time, she enjoys being out in the environment, especially hiking, gardening and watercolor painting.
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