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Why buying Apple iPads for students at this time is a bad idea

By Mia Munn
Posted Saturday, June 12, 2010

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Pittsboro, NC - I do not think it is a good idea to move on providing iPads to all middle school or elementary school students at this time, for the following reasons.

1. We do not have a secure (or even potential) revenue stream to pay for $1.9 million in technology hardware every year starting 2011-12 (and increasing a couple years after that to cover replacing the additional 800 laptops at Jordan-Mathews). It is irresponsible to commit that much in future funding without knowing where the funds will come from.

It is irresponsible to commit almost $2 million in future funding without knowing where the funds will come from.

2. Unless you are a high tech company, you never want to be on the cutting edge. Your hardware costs are higher because hardware is less expensive in future years. Your support costs are higher because there may be bugs and because you don't have opportunity to learn from others' experience with the technology. There is less content (software, etextbooks, coherent curriculum) available for early adopters of hardware.

3. There is no staff development funding available for next school year, and a decreased number of in-house personnel available to provide training. School starts in 11 weeks - that's not much time to get the iPads, train teachers, and have teachers develop lessons that use the iPads.

4. The district has no idea what etextbooks cost. If we get iPads for the 2010-11 school year, there is no textbook funding at all, so we will have the hardware without the software to make them usable to the classes. There is free content available, but 11 weeks is not enough time for teachers to find the content that matches the NC tandard
course of study and figure out how to use the content with the hardware so that the students actually learn.

5. There was no discussion at all about the other costs. If we get about 2200 more computers (my estimate), we will need 4.5 additional Technology technicians. The 13 current technology technicians are paid an average of $45,259 per year, plus benefits. (That would be over $200,000 plus benefits for new technicians.)

6. There was no discussion about other costs - expanded bandwidth, needed wiring/routers/hubs, etc.

7. I'm not even going to go in to the issues of giving primary students iPads - not only a high risk of breakage/loss, but also a lot of down time if there are technical glitches and one more layer of complexity for students while they are trying to learn to read and write.

So, the proposal would commit $1.9 million a year in capital funds (increasing by ~$300,000 a year when the J-M laptops are replaced), plus well over $200,000 in personnel costs a year, plus an unknown amount for other hardware, and unknown amount for software/etextbooks, with no funding stream identified. We would get iPads to middle school students next school year, with little time for the teachers to be trained on no funding to pay for training, no time for teachers to find and develop curriculum using the technology, and no money to buy etextbooks. Mr. Logan said we would have more technology than any other district in the state, which means we would have no one to turn to for advice or help in solving problems.

Call the county commissioners. Write them. Email them. Right now, before June 21 when they vote on the county budget.

Tell them this is moving too fast. Tell them you want the school district to take a year to find the answers to the unanswered cost questions, and to develop the technology-based curriculum, before we lease the iPads. Tell them you don't want them to commit millions in dollars of funding each year, when we don't have those funds available. Tell them you don't want us to be the pioneers in technology because it will cost much more money and our children's education will suffer during the period of confusion.

Deb McManus (school board chair)

Kathy Russell (vice chair)

David Hamm

Flint O'Brien

Gary Leonard

Sally Kost (county commissioners chair)
Phone: (919) 367-0727 (home), (919) 696-7840 (cell)

George Lucier (vice chair)
Phone: 919-542-4629

Mike Cross
Phone: (919) 774-3309

Carl Thompson
Phone: (919) 837-2407

Tom Vanderveck
Phone: 919-545-2160

Mia Munn is a former educator who ran for the Chatham County school board in 2008.

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Why buying Apple iPads for students at this time is a bad idea
Apple sales reps are pushing Chatham County to spend $2 million on their proprietary iPad technology.