The Cost of Skipping iPad Initiatives

I’ve been reading a number of articles that speak against iPad initiatives, all from the iPad vs. textbook perspective.  Here’s an example of one of those articles, which also includes an infographic from Online Teaching Degree.  I was even involved in a professional development day last week, where a fellow teacher spoke out against iPads for this very reason.

Let me ask 20 questions meant to argue against this train of thought:

  1. How old are the textbooks used in your school?
  2. What is the curriculum cycle in your school or how often are textbooks replaced?
  3. Is there any subject where the textbooks actually contain erroneous information or data because the textbooks are that old?
  4. How much does your school spend on software each year, particularly if they are using non-pirated software?
  5. How many computers does your school have for students to use?   What is the computer to student ratio?
  6. How often do your students get to use computers in their classes?
  7. What is the cost of putting a notebook computer in the hands of every student (Remember, your district WILL NOT buy the $398 computer from BestBuy)?
  8. What is the drop/accidental damage cost of a warranty for a notebook?
  9. What is the functional life of a laptop battery and how much will it cost to replace them?
  10. What is the functional life of a student-use notebook?
  11. Will those notebooks be able to run Windows 8?
  12. If you buy a notebook computer, can it be used daily in every class (don’t forget about music, physical education, and art)?
  13. Are textbooks available on notebook computers?
  14. Are those textbooks interactive, or are they PDFs of existing textbooks?
  15. Do interactive textbooks actually bring something to the educational process, or are they just eye candy?
  16. Is there any value to a textbook system that isn’t tied to a review cycle if books must be purchased each year?
  17. How often do schools update their computers?
  18. What feedback do students and teachers have that influence existing software?
  19. What is the process if a teacher wishes to make their own textbook in a non 1-to-1 technology situation?
  20. Is $14.99 going to be the price of all textbooks on the iBookstore?
In other words:
  • Schools use textbooks past their “intended” life, particularly in the maths and sciences.
  • I think there is value in interactive textbooks.
  • Students can use iPads in every subject, every day.
  • Right now, the ratio is 1 computer for every 4 students.
  • Our school, like many others, shuts down all computer lab access during testing periods, nearly 6 weeks of the year.  That is six weeks of the year that basically no child accesses a computer at school.
  • If you are a believer in the idea that “education can be done the way it has always been done,” you are not paying attention to the world that students are entering after high school.
  • Schools don’t replace computers very often.  In the professional world, notebooks are replaced at least every three years.  Try ten years (or longer) in a school.  No, I’m not kidding.  Go visit a school and find out.
  • Yes, the price of a current iBook interactive textbook is $14.99.  Teachers will be writing their own textbooks (some at a higher quality level or more appropriate for students) and selling them at a lower cost.
  • Don’t you think that most districts will want to pay less for books and hire their own teachers to write textbooks, perhaps even selling those textbooks on the iBookstore and making further income for the teacher or the district (or both)?
  • Districts can also hire teachers to write their own textbooks and distribute them through iBooks for free, at a significant cost savings.  Anoka-Hennepin recently did this.
  • Notebook computers cannot be used in every educational setting.  I can’t use a notebook computer in a choir, band, or orchestra class on a daily basis.
  • By the way, more than 50% of our art classes are digital photography classes.  We still offer drawing, painting, and ceramics–but students want these digital skills, and the photo apps available on the iPad make it a perfect tool for those classes (and the 5MP camera of the new iPad might make it a viable camera as well).
  • iPads are useable by all students, including Special Education students to the highest Honor Students.
  • What does a school do when the notebook batteries die at the same time?  Usually nothing, and you end up with computers that must be plugged in.  This destroys the “mobile” aspect of the computers.
  • Is a notebook computer truly “mobile” in the same sense as an iPad?
  • The extended Apple Care + warranty is $99 (plus $49 for each of two occurrences of damage) for an iPad.
  • The interactive nature of an iPad (touch-based) is hard to beat, in apps and the new interactive textbooks.
  • Please show me a notebook with a battery that lasts all day (the next MacBook Air MIGHT do this).

Yes, there are some desktop applications that don’t run on an iPad (at least, not yet).  But schools can maintain a small lab of computers (or a COW [computers on wheels]) that could be utilized for those classes.  The iPad isn’t perfect, but it is foolish to say/think that what we currently have (or had in the past) was perfect. One good thing about spending educational dollars on a technology initiative is that you know students will use the device and that those funds are not being used for other purposes.

When I see people comparing the price of iPads plus the cost of iBooks to textbooks alone, it isn’t a fair comparison.  You also need to factor in the age of the textbooks, the relevance of the textbooks, the cost (educationally) of a curriculum cycle, whether there will be self-published options that will be less expensive than “publishers” books, the number of computers in your school, the age of those computers in your school, the cost of the software used in your school, and the ability for technology to be used in all subjects.  Purely comparing the price of the device plus the cost of an iBook to a textbook isn’t a complete comparison.


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