The devices offer an interesting array of potential uses, and with the rise of e-publishing, there is a very real possibility of having interactive textbooks on the tablets. There is a presumption that e-textbooks would cost less than paper textbooks.
There is an exciting appeal to getting and using the latest gadgets, and that could translate to increased motivation for the students and teachers who would be pioneering the use of the new tools in education.
McClendon said, “If our students are going to compete in a 21st century job market, they need 21st century tools.”
That really is something to think about.
But there is something about the plan that strikes us as a high-stakes gamble. There really doesn’t seem to be a plan in place for how they would be used, what type of training will be given for students and teachers who would be using them, what funds will be available for maintaining and replacing the tablets or for the software and e-books that would be required to make them useful, or what happens at the end of the lifespan of the $100 million worth of tablets. Will another loan be taken for the next generation of gee-whiz?
There is also a certain irony in a state with a struggling paper industry when lawmakers push a plan to purchase Asian-made computer products instead of books.
In the big scheme of things, $100 million isn’t a huge amount of money for a state our size. That’s not even $25 per resident. But once the jump is made statewide, it will make a big change in the way high school classes are taught; there is a potential for problems as well as for progress, and we've heard nothing about how students or teachers with physical or visual impairments would be expected to work with the devices. The legislators have a plan for buying them, but the plan for using them seems to need some work.
We’re not against technology, but before we jump on a bandwagon, we like to know where it’s going.