iPads for Georgia Middle Schoolers

The new buzz is a possible deal between legislators and Apple where Georgia middle school students may get iPads instead of textbooks. It is an interesting move. This sounded like it was about state money.  So I was curious about the math.

  • Assuming the $40 million a year for text books applies for all 1.3 million Georgia public school students, that works out to $31 a student per year.
  • Assuming the $40 million a year for text books applies to just the 311 thousand 6th-8th grade students (1.346 million / 13 * 3), that works out to $129 a student per year.
  • This plan would spend $500 per student per year for a total of $75.3 million a year + whatever the cost of textbooks for other grades.

Obviously this is not about saving the state money. So hopefully it is about improving education. Of course, Apple’s salespeople saying students improve learning is like trusting a tobacco company to say cigarettes improve one’s health. The Use of iPad as a Learning Tool: Final Report by Anders Evenstuen, Jon Torstein Dalen and Øyvind Hoff Midtbø seemed like a decent study though it involved university students not middle school students. They found students experienced difficulty using it to take notes though marking up a text worked better. Not having wireless access at home (like many Georgia students) destroyed the workflow. The time it took to change pages was distracting to them.

I’m curious what studies Apple has done to claim school provided iPads would improve education. This smells like the initiatives to give students laptops to improve education. Those went nowhere because technology for technology’s sake does not improve education. Teacher’s adopting the tools which fit well with what ought to be taught improve education.

Before one can get to improving education, one ought to consider the requirements needed to achieve it. Naturally people who have been through this with iPads in education have composed a list. Some interesting items include whether the school’s network and uplink are capable of handling the students use.