The state of Maine is running what could be the largest the largest educational technology initiative in the US, but today I found one that is nearly as impressive.
The San Diego Unified School District has just announced plans to buy 27 thousand iPads for students to use this fall. The iPads will be assigned to 5th and 7th grade classrooms for students to use while in school. This is a cart based plan, with 34 iPads per cart.
The school district went with the iPad 2 8GB, which saves them a around $100 in exchange for a drop in performance. That was a fairly good idea, so long as they plan to use the iPads as classroom tools instead of digital textbook platforms. One thing that some might have overlooked is that the new iBooks digital textbooks are rather sizable files; it's not uncommon for them to hit 1GB. Since the new iPad 2 only has 6GB of storage it's going to run out of space fairly quickly.
The district is spending $370 per iPad - slightly less than the netbook which it is replacing ($389). That price includes includes a three-year warranty and other extras.
The project is part of the school district's i21 initiative, and it's funded by a bond measure which voters had approved in 2008. San Diego is in year 3 of a 5 year plan to update and equip all 7 thousand classrooms with new technology tools with the goal of enhancing the learning experience of all students.
In the first 2 years of the plan, the school district distributed 75 thousand netbooks to classrooms in the third through fifth grades as well as issuing them to some students in grades 6 and up. The netbooks have been set aside in favor of iPads, though it's not clear whether the iPads will be issued to students like the netbooks were supposed to be.
The school district boasts around 120,000 students, which suggests that all of the classrooms and students which were intended to be covered by i21 will soon have either an iPad or currently have a netbook. On a side note, the i21 initiative includes more than just issuing netbooks and iPads to students. There's also funding to equip teachers with new tablet PCs and provide laser printers, interactive whiteboards, and other useful technology in each classroom.
It also includes training for the teachers, who will undergo a 1 day session on how to use and manage the new iPads. They will also be given information and tips about how to select educational apps.
P.S. You might be interested to know that there are other smaller iPad programs in the San Diego area. For example, a private school by the name of Cathedral Catholic High School is going to issue iPads to 1,700 students and then bill the parents. A school district outside of San Diego, Clearwater, is about to issue iPads to 7th graders.
While Apple might have talked about how iBooks Author will revolutionize education, I think the program above was what they really wanted. They'll likely sell a number of digital textbooks to this school district but that will be chump change when compared to the 10 million plus dollars the San Diego school district has already spent on hardware.
Apple has never been all that serious about selling content, and this goes back to the launch of iTunes. No, the content has always been a tool to drive hardware sales. That's why, in Q1 2012, Apple sold over $10 billion in iPads and iPods and yet only 1.7 billion in content via iTunes.
I wonder how long it's going to take all the publishers who backed iBooks Author at the launch event to realize they've been had? It seems to me that Apple's only revolutionary act here was to revolve more money into their coffers.
image by flickingerbrad