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Is this a good idea to improve education? - January 28th 2010, 12:00 AM

My Algebra teacher and I came up with the idea of using a tablet computer in schools. The general concept is that all students are given a tablet computer preloaded for their specific classes.

For each class, you would have a specific set of applications. For instance, in 8th Grade Algebra, we would have a notebook, graph paper, an Algebra textbook, a calculator, and a way to email our teacher.

I realize that Apple today released a new touchscreen tablet. This doesn't really go with what I am trying to do. For one, it doesn't allow for multitasking and doesn't have the specialized software needed. I'm looking more toward a model of using Open-Source apps to create applications that could run on this tablet and using the Unix/Linux kernel to create an OS.

Of course, I can't do this myself, I'm just looking for comments on the idea.


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Re: Is this a good idea to improve education? - January 28th 2010, 12:09 AM

It would be really costly and would either raise the price of school for people or put a bigger burden on taxes. Either way people won't go for it, also there's the issue of a 12 year old kid ruining, breaking, losing, or otherwise destroying their tablet.

I'm not sure where you live, but here if schools had that kind of money they'd be putting it towards new books and renovations. In theory it seems like a good idea, but I can't really see it working in reality.
Maybe in the future? Maybe all our kids will be following along in classes with a tablet enabled desk connected via a network to all the classrooms and an online server lol.


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Re: Is this a good idea to improve education? - January 28th 2010, 12:12 AM

Costly? Yes, that's true. Here's the thing though: the technology is slowly but surely getting more common and becoming advanced. As this happens, cost will go down. If you buy tablets in mass, they will go down in cost. If, for instance, you buy 5,000 tablets, the company making them is not going to charge you $2,000 a piece. They'll probably knock that down to $950 or something.


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Re: Is this a good idea to improve education? - January 28th 2010, 12:26 AM

Even then, are you expecting each family to pay an extra $950 per child, and then another $950 to replace each broken tablet?
If you don't expect the families to pay then we'd be putting the burden on the school.
My high school had about 3,200 students when I graduated. That's a bit over $3,000,000 for student tablets, in addition to extras. Then there's fees for running the network, maintenance, troubleshooting, the extra energy costs of having the students recharge them at school, etc..
All in all it wouldn't be cheap.

If we're putting the burden on the school board, according to wikipedia my old school board has 44,000 students.
That's just below $42,000,000
The school board's budget is about $400million
That amounts to about 10% of the schools budget, without the extra costs.

I do like your idea, and I think it could improve education, but it's not really financially possible in the near future.


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Re: Is this a good idea to improve education? - January 28th 2010, 12:31 AM

But there's something you're overlooking: a tablet can probably last about 5 years if it is properly taken care of. That means that one student can use the tablet for 5 years or any number of other students can use it for any number of years. So, really you're looking at a budget of $950/student, every 5 years. Granted, some may have to be replaced, but you should be able to make one of these things last a while. Another factor: the biggest cost in textbooks is the printing, I believe. So, if you have these things in Digital form, it costs less. Therefore, a $80 textbook might be worth $20 in digital form. Because of this, the school is saving money there too.


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Last edited by Loving Linux Penguin; January 28th 2010 at 12:32 AM. Reason: removing redundancy
   
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Re: Is this a good idea to improve education? - January 28th 2010, 12:42 AM

Ah but when you get new textbooks how look do they stay looking new? Let's face it, people don't take good care of things that don't belong to them, it's a fact. How many of your textbooks don't have writing in them, ripped pages, and (God forbid) snot marks all over them. These people can barely take care of a hardcover book for 2 years and you're expecting them to make a fragile piece of technology last 5
At least, that's how it is here.

Also when you're saying you'll save money on textbooks because of printing costs, it is true that most of the costs for books are from printing. But do you think the companies that supply the books are going to take a huge drastic drop in sales just because school's a switching to digital? They'll cost close to, if not the same amount as a printed book to prevent loss of profits. Then, the schools will also have to pay for a way for each tablet to be loaded with the appropriate textbooks.

Also, the problem of hacking will arise, and people using the tablets to communicate with each other in class, which is why laptops aren't allowed in high schools (here at least).

Oh and I'm giving the tablets a 2 year lifespan because people will steal them, they're worth money. If people will go through the trouble of breaking locks or mugging for just an iPod when they first came out, imagine what'll happen when tablets are set lose in high school.


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Re: Is this a good idea to improve education? - January 28th 2010, 12:50 AM

I don't know about the rest of the U.S. (or canada), but from experience most of my textbooks are mildly-moderately damaged, but they usually still last several years. There is no national policy on high school laptops (in fact mine used to issue them to all students) but some students do bring them and they are allowed @ my school. Since the cost of producing a book in digital form is much less than printing it, don't you think companies can charge less and still make a profit?


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Re: Is this a good idea to improve education? - January 28th 2010, 12:53 AM

Yes but don't you think the companies will want to charge as much as possible and make as big a profit as possible?
Laptops were allowed at my school, it's just that anybody stupid enough to bring one got it stolen from them. So they decided to just make it against the rules.


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Re: Is this a good idea to improve education? - January 28th 2010, 03:59 AM

It may be a nice idea but I think it's going to be a hassle. I'm ignoring the issue of the cost involved for buying them. The issue I'm referring to is the maintenance of them. If students are given them, if something needs repairing, the student is pretty much screwed because all their work is on there in addition to the electronic books you mentioned.

Also, when one is writing a test, quiz or exam, are they going to write it using the tablet PC? If so, there is a very high risk of cheating. There are numerous computer programs one can download and use, so it wouldn't be surprising if students who are more computer-savvy manage to write certain programs to help them and cheat with others. The teacher would be unable to spot it unless somehow all their screens were being monitored.
   
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Re: Is this a good idea to improve education? - January 28th 2010, 04:07 AM

There are ways to lock learning tools when you go to take a test. it would take somebody pretty good to counteract that, and the kids at my school whine and whine when they even have to check their email.


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