George Lucas, of Star Wars fame, has an editorial in yesterday’s Huffington Post which I thought was interesting.
Unfortunately, much of our system of education is locked in a time capsule that dates back to the Industrial Revolution, when learning became an exercise in pumping as much information into kids as possible. At the end of this education assembly line comes a diploma — if the student can spit back the facts correctly. But in an era where technology can deliver most of the world’s information on demand and knowledge is changing so rapidly, the model doesn’t work. Why spend $150 on textbooks that students use for only 15 weeks with information that soon becomes obsolete?
It’s a good question. I think what it would cost for my school to go to a 1:1 iPad solution — maybe the best choice or maybe not the best, but moderately affordable for my school’s families and staff at around $600 (for software and books and device, I’m guessing)? Call it $23,000 for staff to get hooked up, and $50,000 for middle school students (5th-8th grades). For laptops — which for Apple gear start at around $1000? — we’re talking about $120,000.
(No, the numbers don’t make sense, Stephen. I try to be a little coy about my school and its demographics, so I’ve introduced some fudge factors here, partly to hide the school’s demography data, and partly to include the cost of some of the new WiFi stuff we might have to install).
It’s expensive, no two ways about it. Bringing a few small-to-midsize middle schools online is a million dollars. We want kids to learn their machine and be successful with it — and we don’t want to burden the schools themselves with outdated inventory, either — so the schools have to get the tech or arrange for the students to buy it in a discounted or subsidized way, and then give it to the kids.
So each school is going to get a few hundred thousand dollars of equipment, and then immediately get rid of it. And give up their right to control what’s on it. And let students and teachers experiment with what tools and technologies work for them on their devices.
I just don’t see it happening in a lot of places. There are schools out there that freak out about handing out textbooks to students, or novels, because it’s a waste of taxpayer money. And I can see the field day to be had by Glenn Beck and the like if a school district handed out hundreds of thousands of dollars of free laptops paid for with “gov’mint money”. And giving a laptop to a teacher?
I’m going to be a guest teacher at a school in a couple of weeks where they’re so poor, the school doesn’t even buy art supplies. Allegedly the teachers have to provide their own supply needs like staples and paper clips. I don’t see this school or many others, committing to a year-after-year program of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars for equipment that’s going to flee the building faster than Elvis.
Am I wrong?