Idaho High School Teachers Still Fighting Online Classes

According to the New York Times, the fight is not over for former military Marine, Ann Rosenbaum, who served in Iraq and survived an incident with a car bomb. Now a high school teacher at Post Falls High School in Idaho, Rosenbaum is facing a new fight. A statewide plan that may put teachers on the sidelines and turn high school classrooms into distance learning facilities has created an uproar with teachers like Rosenbaum and many parents, too. While many teachers prefer the ability to incorporate technology into their teaching, some think that moving toward a drastic change is not necessary.

New Legislation

Last year, Idaho’s state legislature approved a law that could be quite costly. The law requires that every high school student take online classes in order to graduate. Additionally, high schools are obliged to provide laptops or tablets to students and teachers to fulfill the requirement. To fund this costly endeavor, tens of millions of dollars may need to be re-allocated from teacher and administrative salaries to the technology that is necessary for online classes.

Policy makers are being challenged by teachers, who oppose this drastic shift in the high school teaching environment, because the benefits of online classes in the high school arena are not yet proven. “This technology is being thrown on us. It’s being thrown on parents and thrown on kids,” said Rosenbaum. “I fought for my country. Now I’m fighting for my kids.”

Teacher Responses

Idaho teachers marched in protest last spring, when the new law was being considered. Parents and teachers also collected 75,000 verified signatures, which exceeded the amount necessary to add a referendum that could overturn the new law next November.

“The role of the teacher definitely does change in the 21st century. There’s no doubt,” Mr. Luna, the Superintendent, said. “The teacher does become the guide and the coach and the educator in the room helping students to move at their own pace.” He also stated that students would have the ability to study subjects that were not offered at their high school and introducing online classes in high school would prepare them with the skills needed for studying online, which would be helpful when they progressed to college.

Changing the Foundation of the Classroom

Rosenbaum’s main concern is how this new way of learning in the classroom is going to impede in her chosen style of teaching. She prefers to interact with and engage her students, in a Socratic way, rather than leaning on technology. She employs the use of whiteboards and encourages her students to use spiral notebooks for their journal entries.

“I’m teaching them to think deeply, to think. A computer can’t do that.”

Doug StanWiens, an advanced history and economics teacher at Boise High School stated, “I firmly believe that technology is a tool for teachers to use,” he said. “It’s time for teachers to get moving on it.” However, he was one of the teachers protesting the new bill. He predicted that half of the teachers would not use the new technology and that this step toward technology-teaching methods would eventually lead to the elimination of in-person teaching and would turn the traditional high school education into a distance learning education.

“We can just get rid of sports and band and just give everyone a laptop and call it good,” StanWiens said.

Students at Post Falls High School are opposed to the bill, also. Last year, 600 students, which is almost half of the school’s population, protested the new law during a lunchtime walk-out, some bearing signs that called out: “We need teachers, not computers.”

Sam Hunts, one of Rosenbaum’s English students, stated that the idea of a laptop in the classroom was not his “favorite idea”. He followed that up by saying, “I’d rather learn from a teacher.”