North Fond du Lac School District Buys iPads
Posted by Ben Erlichman on June 2, 2011
I heard a news report yesterday about the North Fond du Lac School District (NFDL) buying $63,000-worth of iPads for their district. If you’re not from Wisconsin, you may not know about our recent budget issues (i.e. huge deficits, etc. that led to incredible new legislation that limits collective bargaining rights for public employee union members, etc. Look it up online if you don’t know. www.620wtmj.com is a good site). Needless to say, a Wisconsin school district spending $63,000 of new iPads sounds ludicrous to most of us, including me.
But then I thought about it a bit more, and I listened to some commentary about it on the radio station. I think that this is actually a really, really good idea.
Why? Well, consider that Amazon.com, as of last month (May 2011), sold more ebooks than it did hard copies at a rate of 105 ebooks to 100 printed books, and they did it after only 4 years of selling ebooks.
NFDL is taking steps to prepare for the future, one without as much paper. Now, I’m not what you would consider an environmentalist, nor could you call me “green.” I’d be better classified as a convenientalist, which is not even a real word. Basically, it’s a fancy way of saying that I’m lazy. That translates to this scenario because I’d rather carry around an iPad with the capacity for thousands of books in my backpack rather than lugging my bulky science, math, social studies, English, and other textbooks around in my backpack.
Keep in mind that ebooks are generally cheaper than hard copies as well. That is, of course, assuming you’re comparing ebooks to NEW printed copies; everyone knows that buying used copies is often far cheaper than buying new ebooks. “New ebooks?” Well, there’s no such thing as a “used” ebook. They’re always new and never used; they don’t wear out or lose pages with time. The only way you could lose an ebook would be to lose the password to your account on Amazon.com (or wherever you buy your ebooks). Even then, Customer Support would probably help get you setup again.
All in all, the only way ebooks could expire (aside from being programmed to do so) would be if the internet went down, or if our modern interconnected technology all got destroyed somehow, or if the opposite happens and the technology becomes so advanced that it rises up and destroys us (robot apocalypse, anyone?). So in other words, probably not likely.
Publishers are recognizing that printed books are slowly fading away. So is Barnes and Noble. So is Amazon. So is Borders … just a little too late, that’s all. Randy Ingermanson, whose e-zine I receive every month, once suggested that though ebooks are rising in prominence printed books will likely never totally go away. If I remember correctly, he thinks that only best-sellers will make it to print while midlist and new authors will end up as ebooks only.
All this to say that I think NFDL is making a good decision with this recent purchase. Electronic books aside, iPads have tremendous potential for music education, video education, art education, graphic design education, tech education and more. Keep in mind that at this time, NFDL is getting these iPads for teachers, staff, and school board officials only, but that article says they want to have every student in 5 year-old kindergarten thru high school to have access to an iPod, iPad, or laptop by 2012. If they can make that happen without the students losing/destroying the technology, NFDL will be arguably the most technologically savvy school district in Wisconsin.
I have only one issue with this decision: they’re buying iPads for the school board members to use. Why?
I know that they’ll totally use them for school district-related work, but my guess is that they probably won’t do nearly as much district work on them as they will playing Angry Birds or some other game. Yes, I know they technically belong to the district, but when the school board basically controls the district, I can’t imagine there will be much accountability there, which means it’s left up to the voters who won’t have access to most of these board members on a regular basis.
Well, I’ve had my rant. What do you all think about this? I’m very curious to see the range of thoughts on this issue.
Be sure to tune in next week for a review of Brandilyn Collins’s new book, Over the Edge.
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