USA Today recently reported that the Zeeland Public School District in Michigan has given an iPad to every one of its 1,800 high school students as part of a new iPad Program that the District plans on implementing for the 2011-12 school year.
The Zeeland Public School District, with portions of a voter-approved bond sale, purchased $1.3 million worth of iPads, enough to supply every student between third and twelfth grade. So far, results have been positive.
Students and teachers have been able to better interact with the curriculum. Teachers will record their lessons and make them available for viewing by students who may have missed classes. Homework is being submitted paperlessly. Students are using educational apps to help study for tests.
Implementing iPads into the public school system is a controversial topic. Tax payers complain about paying for iPads. Parents have concerns about their child’s reliance on technology. Skeptical adults worry about the destruction that a 12-year-old can do to such a fragile piece of technology. But, do the benefits outweigh the disadvantages?
For years, news reports have surfaced about the weight of textbooks and the harm they cause growing bodies. The iPad combats the physical burden that students suffer from having to lug around 25 pounds of textbooks on their backs. The iPad might also help reduce costs in the long run, since physical books would not have to be purchased by the school each year.
Do you hate the idea of your tax dollars paying for your child’s iPad? While a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis has yet to be made, it stands to reason that an iPad would be a cheaper alternative in the long run. Of course, this is just one person’s speculation. If schools no longer need to purchase thousands of textbooks every year, a one-time iPad purchase would pay off over the educational life of the student. You child could be issued an iPad in third grade and use that same piece of technology for the next ten years. Over time, the graduating classes would hand off their iPad to new students and the cycle could begin again. Obviously, this argument does not take into account the cost of downloading a textbook or how long the iPad technology would last, IE, how soon your third grader’s iPad would become obsolete. But, if enough innovation were to be brought to the educational table the possibilities and cost benefits could prove to be tremendous.
Some parents may worry that their children are becoming too reliant on technology. Will they be able to perform simple math equations? Will they learn cursive? Will they know how to use the Dewey Decimal System? I argue, yes. There may come a time when new generations have never touched a printed book, but that won’t keep them from learning how to read. Math equations, cursive handwriting and knowledge of library cataloging can all be found in educational apps. Teachers are still in charge of what their students learn. The iPad won’t turn your child into a mindless zombie. Television will do that.
Speaking of dumbing down our children, my fear in issuing iPads to every student concerns extra-curricular usage of the tablet. Students of all ages are already being distracted by gadgets in the classroom. From hand-held gaming devices to phones, kids are having trouble paying attention to the task at hand. Teachers and parents can police student activity, but there is no way that every student will be watched at every moment of a class lecture. Even with Internet controls being implemented, students will find a way to slack off.
Will the future hold an iPad for every student? Or will technophobes stop progress? How will this expensive new technology become more cost efficient? Will Apple ever offer a bulk discount to school districts? Only time will tell, and the Zeeland Public School District is our Guinea Pig.