Georgia's plan to save schools: An iPad for every student?

A Georgia state senator proposes using federal money to buy Apple iPads for students as a replacement for textbooks. Are gadgets really the answer?

A Georgia State senator says iPads in the classroom would help ensure that students have updated study materials, unlike traditional text books.
(Image credit: Corbis)

A Republican Senate leader in Georgia has proposed spending federal dollars to buy iPads for students at underperforming schools. State Senate President Pro Tempore Tommie Williams wants to spend the state's Race to the Top funds on technology that could boost learning — and suggests Apple's tablet computer could be the ideal tool. Williams met with Apple, and representatives of the tech giant told him that "for $500 per child per year, they will furnish every child with an iPad... provide all the books on the system, all the upgrades, all the teacher training." The school system currently spends $40 million a year on books, he added, and many aren't up to date. Is it time for states to shell out for Apple products in the classroom? (See how a similar program helped a Singapore school)

No. This project is unaffordable: Just do the math, says Maureen Downey in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. If you spend $500 on each of Georgia's 377,478 middle schoolers, you'd end up with a bill for $188 million. That makes our $40 million annual spend on textbooks look tiny. "Are the academic outcomes so much better with iPads to justify the additional cost?"

"An Apple for the teacher and for every student?"

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This plan creates more problems than solutions: The costs are one thing, says Kit Eaton at Fast Company. But "iPad theft, losses, and damage are much more expensive to deal with," as are the high insurance bills the school will have to pay. Even taking the costs into consideration, won't kids simply log on to Facebook instead of studying?

"The iPad goes back to school"

Replace dead trees, but leave Apple out of it: The Apple iPad is a "great and simple product," says Nathan at Peach Pundit, but it's far from the cheapest option out there. Georgia ought to look at "alternatives to Apple's product." The Amazon Kindle, for example, only costs $139 and could also keep texts up to date. No doubt Apple will claim its technology is the best, but "our state senators shouldn't take the word of the Disciples of Steve as gospel."

"Thinking about getting your middle school kid an iPad? Let the state handle that"

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