JTE v26n2 - Book Review - An apple for the teacher: Computers and work in elementary schools

Volume 26, Number 2
Spring 2015


Book Review

Evans-Andris, M. (1996). An apple for the teacher: Computers and work in
elementary schools. Corwin Press.
ISBN: 978-0-803-96348-1
$10.00 (paperback) 208 pages

If you have teaching experience or have been part of technology implementation in education in recent years, An Apple for the Teacher is still relevant to today’s schools and remains a must read. The book was the product of a longitudinal study using ethnographic methods where the author was immersed in elementary schools with new computers. Thick descriptions of the teachers, teachers’ attitudes, computer-use time and activities, and how computers had an effect on the culture of teaching and the school are provided throughout. Evans-Andris captured the essence of how teachers dealt with the new and unfamiliar world of computers in schools. Readers can expect to learn how teachers incorporated computers into their work patterns, how computers disrupted the traditional skills of teachers, and the consequences of technological change for the occupational culture of teachers. An Apple for the Teacher identifies real issues occurring ‘in the trenches’ of our schools.

Although computer technology is the centerpiece of Evans-Andris’ study, readers will discover the importance of a strategic plan of implementation, the need for administrative support of technology use, and a need for appropriate professional development for teachers once technology is in place. This book acted as a guide through many of the obstacles standing in the way of effective implementation of computers and shared personal insights from teachers finding their place in a changing environment. The organization of the book created an easy to follow flow of major topics of importance. Evans-Andris wrote about the introduction of computers, motivating teachers for change, the effects of technology on education, the role of the computer coordinator, and occupational rewards for teachers. Each chapter included a literature review specific for each main topic, interpretations of the data, and highlighted what readers should take away.

The completion of this research led to a number of important findings related to structural and occupational dimensions of technical change in elementary schools, and the implications for education at the elementary level. Evans-Andris identified the various computing styles among teachers, ideas toward a theory of technical change and teaching, the value of an integrative computing style in schools, and the development of an effective computer implementation program as important points of discussion.

The three styles of computing that emerged from this study were avoidance (the most common form), integration, and technical specialization. Evans-Andris defined each style and identified how each could impact teachers and their students. The acceptance or avoidance of technology in schools can have large impacts on student learning and teachers may experience an occupational shift, as computers are not going anywhere, anytime soon. Evans-Andris’ research proposed the need for goals, clear expectations of computer use, professional development opportunities, and teachers to be open to altering their ‘traditional’ lesson plans. As schools work to integrate computers, administration must determine what will benefit students most, and then follow up by establishing guidelines for teachers. The policies put in place should not focus on the short-term and how we use technology to teach our students, but rather be long-term, and think about preparation for a future beyond education. Finally, Evans-Andris used the data to recommend a set of guidelines for schools wanting to bring technology into their schools. A few of these guidelines included: administration must lead the charge and be involved, there are equipment needs and demands that cannot be overlooked, and teachers must be trained appropriately to assist them in integration within their classrooms.

Upon final analysis of the data, Evans-Andris reported two outcomes: (a) the development of a comprehensive theoretical explanation of technological innovation and teaching that considers both organizational and occupational factors in the process of change, and (b) a practical guide for schools to use if they want to implement new computer technology. Although this book was written in 1996, more recent research by Professor Larry Cuban, in Oversold & Underused: Computers in the Classroom , supported similar findings at the lower elementary level and within high school and university settings (2001). In addition, a systematic investigation of technology integration within an urban high school in a large Midwestern city (2013) identified comparable results as Evans-Andris and Cuban. An Apple for the Teacher remains a useful resource because we continue to face related issues today, as we did when computers were first arriving in schools.

William Thornburgh ( william.thornburgh@louisville.edu ) is a PhD student in the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Louisville.