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Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Basic Math: Students + State Money + iPads = Bad Idea

The New York Times today ran an article about how Roslyn High School in Long Island is handling out "free" iPads to some students as part of a trial. Ultimately, the school wants to outfit all 1,100 students with their own devices.

From the NT Times article: "Roslyn administrators also said their adoption of the iPad, for which the district paid $56,250 for the initial 75 (32-gigabyte, with case and stylus), is advancing its effort to go paperless and cut spending. Some of the tablets are being used for special education students."

That's $750 per iPad. You can buy knock-off Android tablets for under $200. Oh. My. God. I'm glad the New York schools are so wealthy that they have $500+ to burn per device. Could they maybe share some of that with bankrupt California, or even my own deficit-choked Hillsboro, OR? How in the world does this "cut spending?"

"But school leaders say the iPad is not just a cool new toy but rather a powerful and versatile tool with a multitude of applications, including thousands with educational uses."

Yes, and all of them could be done for a lot less money. For that matter, students could use Google's design tools to create Android apps.

"Educators also laud the iPad’s physical attributes, including its large touch screen (about 9.7 inches) and flat design, which allows students to maintain eye contact with their teachers."

What?! How exactly does one admire that flat design and big screen WHILE maintaining eye contact with teachers?

"Scott Wolfe, the principal, said he hoped to secure 20 more iPads next school year to run apps that, for instance, simulate a piano keyboard on a screen or display constellations based on a viewer’s location."

Seriously? I can do that today on a freaking cell phone! Come to think of it, half of the student body probably already have phones able to do this.

I'm all for tablets and notebooks being issued to students, and I wouldn't mind at all if those were Apple products at a reasonable price. But dropping $750 per tablet is INSANE. There is no redeeming factor in Apple's technology that makes it necessary.This is an egregious misuse of sadly sparse educational funds, and I sure hope my own local districts wise up before the iFad hits here.


  1. IT Tech Admin - I agree 100%. iFAD, waste of money.

    They want to do it here in Illinois, I oppose. I can’t fight the Curriculum agenda.
    We don’t need more tech in the classroom, we need better spelling, higher math scores, better handwriting and so on. Tech will not solve any of this. My wife is a teacher and also agrees.

    Works great in a fantasy world, but imagine 25 kids on a tablet. My battery is dead, I need to reboot, I lost my WIFI, out of memory space, etc. That’s reality.

    Its Just a big distraction in disguise.

  2. I agree half-way. I believe that tablets or some similar personal computing device will become standard issue for students. It's the next paper and pencil, which itself replaced the previous wax slate, etc. Just as kids today screw off and digress with paper, they'll do more of the same with computing tablets. However, used properly, these tablets can be a tremendous aid to learning. They can help kids learn more efficiently and perhaps effectively than conventional methods.

    The challenges are to create the content suited for learning in this new medium and to have devices suited to the application. Both challenges are still works in progress. While I acknowledge that there's a chicken-and-egg factor at work here -- "If we don't start buying tablets now, the content and better designs won't come" -- I sure don't want my district taking the bullet on its next budget.