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Stories of schools adopting tablets or iPads still make headlines, even though such implementations are becoming more and more commonplace. But I'm intrigued by news from Georgia that state legislators are considering ditching printed textbooks and moving to iPads.

Perhaps it's just a matter of phrasing (and honestly, I do think that's the case), but the initial reports from Georgia use a subject-verb combination that make it sound as though Apple is behind the proposal. Although, yes, Apple has long wooed the educational market, I just don't see the company chasing districts quite so overtly. I don't think it needs to. But I could be wrong. This is the year of the educational tablet after all, right?

According to the news reports, Georgia Senate President pro tem Tommie Williams says that legislators have met with Apple and for $500 per child per year, they will furnish every child with an iPad, wi-fi the system, provide all the books on the system, all the upgrades, all the teacher training - and the results they're getting from these kids is phenomenal.

Williams touts the cost-savings to the state: "We're currently spending about $40 million a year on books. And they last about seven years. We have books that don't even have 9/11. This is the way kids are learning, and we need to be willing to move in that direction.

 

I'm more than a little skeptical that swapping textbooks for iPads will really save the state money. Despite Apple's proposal (whatever that constitutes), these iPads will still need to be filled with textbook content (and contrary to the marketing slogan, I don't believe that when it comes to K-12 education there's an app for that). There's the issue of wireless connectivity. There's the question of maintenance and security. These all cost money, and unless Apple really is planning on launching some massive program that's the tablet-oriented equivalent to Google's Apps for Education (that is, an effort to support schools with collaboration and communication tools while wooing future consumers) as well as sponsoring a Georgia-wide broadband plan, color me dubious.

I'm not skeptical about tablets in the classroom -- not at all. I see it as an inevitability -- we are moving towards a 1:1 mobile computing future. We're just not there yet. Not even close. But as we head that direction, Socratech's Howard Chan has a great list of considerations for schools that are thinking about adopting iPads. I hope someone in the Georgia legislature has a peek at it.

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Audrey Watters


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