There was a vast mount of hype around Apple last week as they announced their slick new digital textbook initiative. iBooks Author was going to let everyone make slick new digital textbooks which would propel eduction into the 21st century and beyond.
I didn’t complain much at the time but I was a little disappointed. All this shiny tech was tied to Apple’s rather expensive niche of the gadget. The hardware required to use iBooks Author is rather pricy, and so is the hardware needed to run iBooks. (While I do own an iPad, I bought it on clearance.)
But then Google started trumpeting Chromebooks in the classroom today. 27 thousand students in 3 school districts re about to get Chromebooks in 1:1 programs. They’re joining the “hundreds of schools in 41 states” that have invested in the dream that Google is selling.
While that’s great for the well to do, I worry about the students who are left behind.
Think about the thumb drives I gave away last week, for example. They went to a high school teacher who teaches IT. She needed them because not all the students could afford to buy them.
Or you might go read a post that. She looked at the hidden cost of freely available educational material and how not all could afford to access it. That’s even worse, actually; it means even the rich school districts will have poor students who will be left behind.
Or you can take me, for example. I went to primary school in Lawrence, Kansas in the mid-1980s. It was not a poor school district, by any means. Lawrence had any number of well established businesses as well as the University of Kansas. We had well stocked libraries, art and music programs, and more. But like most school districts they were perennially short of funds.
Do you want to know how short? My elementary school, which had been built in 1931, didn’t have air conditioning when I was there. It wasn’t installed until 1996. Seriously. Of course, this is Kansas so heat in the winter was the real issue, not air conditioning. But still.
So when I hear tech companies talk about how their expensive gadgets will help in the classroom, I think of Pinckney. All this talk of how gadgets are the panacea of education is meaningless given that some school districts can barely afford to install air conditioning. And even when the school has the funds, all too often the students do not.