Sunday, July 28, 2013

The price of progress

Schools in Britain are adopting the iPad and other similar tablets as a means to make learning more interesting. Many schools though cannot afford to supply the devices from their own budgets and so are asking parents to stump up the cost either outright or in instalments. The fear is that this will create a digital divide between those that can afford and those that cannot.

One of the reasons that schools are looking to tablet computers is supposedly to save on text books which are both expensive and are often out of date by the time they are published. However, they may find the tablets turn out to be a lot more expensive than old fashioned books. 

Better off schools, like academies, can afford to buy the tablets themselves. For example, Honywood community science school in Essex gave all its 1,200 pupils a tablet computer for free, although it did ask for a £50 contribution towards insurance. The cost was estimated at around £500,000.

What they found was that 489 of the tablets had to be replaced after a year and four out of 10 needed to be sent for repairs. I imagine that teaching a class where four out of ten of the pupils didn’t have a working tablet must have been extremely difficult.

Actually, what surprises me about this story is that an insurance company was willing to cover the tablets for just £50 especially if that included accidental damage.

I remember that we supplied our sixth form pupils at Anfield (age 17 to 19) with laptops at Anfield. By the end of the year, some had gone missing i.e. had been sold off to pawn shops, many had keys missing and all had to be reformatted to remove the virus ridden games and  even porn that had been downloaded to them. Supplying tablets to the whole school would have been a nightmare for the IT technicians – even servicing the teachers laptops gave them bad dreams.

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