NEWS BLOG (WSAU) Some students in the Wausau School District are getting new I-Pads this year. This is good, but with some reservations.
First, the process stinks.
Students are getting these I-Pads because it didn’t snow a lot last year. The school district had a surplus in its snow removal account, and decided to use the money to start a pilot I-Pad program for some 8th grade and 3rd grade students. That’s wrong. Unspent money that comes from the public purse belongs to the taxpayers. Money that was going to be used for snowplows and de-icer suddenly gets used for a new technology program? No. Instead have a full debate over how and what to spend the money on. If technology wins out, great. But a good proposal stands on its own; it doesn’t take its funding from something else.
Many parents cringed at the school district’s I-pad policy. Break it, you’ve bought it. And the price is around $500. Let’s face it, even adults drop their electronics. Now parents will be on the hook if their kids get the dropsies. Or if a backpack gets stolen. Or if a locker gets broken into. Or if something gets left behind on a school bus. The Wausau Daily Herald reported that a charter school in Marathon had a breakage rate of one-out-of-five. The Wausau School District told parents that their homeowner’s policy might cover a lost or stolen computer, never mind if you have a $500 deductible attached to your policy. Parents who object can have a sign-in sign-out computer for their kids that’s for in-school use only.
Now, for the good part. This is the kind of technology that makes sense. I can think of three reasons: First, school districts can save huge amounts of money by switching to electronic textbooks instead of the printed page. Second, teachers and students really can get a better education with a ‘tech help’ like this. (Imagine a teacher being able to monitor a student’s progress on a complicated project in real time, or be able to track instantaneously if an entire class didn’t understand something that was just taught.) And lastly, it’s invaluable that students get the message that personal technology isn’t just a high-tech plaything – the I-pad that you text and play Angry Birds on can be a walking library or a virtual physics lab.
I would support additional school funding for this type of technology. The time is coming that kids will be expected to have personal computers in school (and maybe provide them for themselves), just like we expect kids to show up with notebooks and calculators.
Just don’t drop your I-pad. They’re expensive.