Sunday, April 14, 2013

Budget Proposal to Purchase 623 iPads: Just Push Pause

Steven Tyler would have us just push "Play"...and Dr. Culver would probably be right there with him.  Hmmm...can you imagine a Dr. Culver - Steven Tyler lunch date?  What WOULD they talk about?  Would Steven be wearing his famous PJs?

Ok...seriously, now.
We think technology is great.  A necessary component of classroom learning.  BUT.....and it's a large one....sometimes this district just plunges in instead of dipping a toe in the water first.

Classic example: administration rolled out its proposal to purchase 623 iPads at a total cost of $360,000 and now we're hearing (Performance & Operations Committee 4-15-13)  that in addition to these iPads, we'll be spending $333,000 on computer replacement for 2013-14 and then a tad over $900,000 for computer replacement over the following two years.

How many iPads will we be buying next year?
Oh...wait...the iPad 2 will be discontinued next year.  So what WILL we buy?
Will whatever we buy next year mesh with the iPads we buy this year?

And this proposal only puts 5 iPads in each elementary school classroom.
You have to know that the ultimate goal is 1 iPad for each of the 3,000 plus elementary school kids.
In the does this work?

Really, we just have very many questions.  
Perhaps the district has considered the following questions and has good answers.  But we didn't see such in the proposal.

Are we buying 623?  Or 673?
Because we were informed that the budget for Apps was $25/iPad at a total cost of $16,825.  But $16,825/25 = 673.   That's apps for 50 more iPads?  More magical math from the district?

What about insurance for these?  Will they be covered under the district umbrella purchase?  Or do we need to purchase insurance for each.  The warranty for an iPad covers simple "it won't work".  What if they're dropped?  Insurance can cost anywhere from $39 to $99 per device for a year....some 2 years.

Will there be sharing battles?  [Miss ____, Johnny won't let me use the iPad]
How will a classroom work when 5 out of the 18-25 kids have an iPad and the others do not?
Will we have to pay for a sub to teach the rest of the class while the "five" get to go iPadding?

How much WILL we spend on Apps?
How will App purchases be approved?  Or can teachers just buy what they like.
Will there be district-wide apps...or will different schools buy different ones?

Who will be monitoring the use of iPad cameras?  We can imagine some crazy $#!@ goin' down with cameras and video.
Is there a need for them?  Maybe disable them?

What exactly does a 5 year old do with an iPad?
Have we considered the need to disinfect these before/after use?

Has any consideration been given to buying 175 instead of 623?  That would provide 25 per elementary school, which would allow an entire to class to use the devices simultaneously.

Do we have 623 outlets available?  Or will we need to buy a charging station/cart?

Will we know all the add-on costs BEFORE we purchase the tablets?  Or will it be a case of "Well, now we have them and we really need ______"?

Are we certain that having all these iPads won't adversely affect the district broadband or Wi-Fi?  We've seen first hand novices stumbling and opening multiple browser windows and seen Wi-Fi signal go south quickly.

The question was asked when this proposal was brought forward several weeks back:  why iPads.  The district response didn't discuss alternatives.  It seemed that the accelerator was stuck on iPad.  NOW, however, when we asked the question informally, we learn that,
The iPad 2 will probably be discontinued before next year, so the proposal will be updated with the technology that is available at the time. For example, since this proposal was written, there have been new tablet devices released for schools.  The Learnpad is appealing for schools since it allows for more management than the iPad does.  ...we will look at all options before placing an order, especially since it is unknown what will be available for purchase next year.

Whoa...wait....huh?  The "Learnpad"?  Why didn't we even hear about that at the Committee level?
Is it just us...or does it seem like the collective has changed its mind already without even notifying the committee or the public?  If that doesn't reek of the need to push "PAUSE" we don't know hat does!

We also need to call a little bullspit here.  The LearnPad has been available--and used in schools-- for over a year.  So maybe the district just found out about it...which would suggest that the research done on this proposal is inadequate. We do agree, however, that new devices are constantly being made available.  Maybe we should pause and decide on a plan of what we want to do with this technology FIRST and then decide what to purchase?  We know a guy that offers something called "Choosing By Advantage"....maybe there's a need for that.

Technology is a great thing, and we DO want our school district to incorporate technology into the curriculum.  Our concern however is that we sometimes approach this with a perceived "Technology for Technology's Sake" attitude.  We need a well defined plan of implementation which also considers that technology quickly becomes obsolete.  We just haven't seen such a philosophy (if it's there...please let it out!), and, until we do there are better uses of $360K.  Hell...we want to be sure that there in't one damn hole in any damn roof...right, Caren?

Some resources that should be checked out