An Apple for the teacher and every student?

Should Georgia classrooms abandon textbooks for iPads?

Should Georgia classrooms abandon textbooks for iPads?

My colleague Jim Galloway reports that the Legislature is considering an offer from Apple Computers to introduce iPads into middle school classrooms in Georgia as a substitute for books in a measure designed to both cut costs and modernize Georgia classrooms.

Any takers?

Or does a classroom full of kids dependent on computers simply create more headaches — lost, stolen, broken, forgotten — than it solves?

A friend worked in a district that gave every student a laptop and said it was a disaster because of the aforementioned problems.

Galloway reports that Senate President pro tem Tommie Williams, R-Lyon said: Last week we met with Apple Computers, and they have a really promising program where they come in and their recommending to middle schools – for $500 per child per year, they will furnish every child with an iPad, wi-fi the system,  provide all the books on the system, all the upgrades, all the teacher training – and the results they’re getting from these kids is phenomenal.”

As Williams noted, the state is spending $40 million on textbooks. (And that is far from covering the full costs of the books, which are increasingly being picked up by local systems.)

In what can be dangerous, my AJC colleagues and I did some math. Figuring there are probably about half a million middle school students in Georgia, how are we saving any money spending $500 per student per year, which is what Williams said at the press conference today? (This morning, I received the actual numbers of middle schoolers:  377,478 middle schoolers reported enrolled this fall. At $500 apiece, that’s $188,739,000. Thanks, Quanalyst)

Are the academic outcomes so much better with iPads to justify the additional cost?

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

179 comments Add your comment


February 1st, 2011
2:37 pm

We don’t even have the money to buy reading textbooks for the series we adopted two years ago so I don’t know where they would get the funds for this. I have students who can’t even remember to come to school with pencil, much less take something like this back and forth!


February 1st, 2011
2:42 pm

Lost, stolen and broken will be the case. What happens at the end of the schoolyear when lil Johnny cant find his IPad. I dont have an Ipad, blackberry, notebook, laptop so why do these kids need one or all just to lose them.

Didnt we just a few years ago cough up millions for laptops for these little monsters…?

No way…carrying books around is also good exercise and could only help with the obseity problem.

Tonya C.

February 1st, 2011
2:43 pm

Dr NO:

I think you just about summed it up. I can just imagine my scatterbrained middle schooler with something like that…


February 1st, 2011
2:46 pm

Oh yes, I'm the great pretender......

February 1st, 2011
2:47 pm

Dr. NO, you might not always be politically correct (which is a good thing), but you’re always “right on” :) The truth hurts some, but who cares?


February 1st, 2011
2:49 pm

“and the results they’re getting from these kids is phenomenal.”

Oh, No doubt. And I bet the kickbacks are even more phenomenal!! Money well spent to help with Steve Jobs next Liver tran$plant.

Inman Park Boy

February 1st, 2011
2:54 pm

Many a public school classrooms are a disaster anyway. To coin a phrase, “show me the data!” (But, having said that, my daughter wouldl LOVE to have one, and she is a 7th grader.)

Teacher Reader

February 1st, 2011
2:55 pm

Another waste of tax payers money.

Why do we give our youngsters so many things, when they haven’t earned or know how to care for them? Only a few will come unscathed. What happens when they are dropped and the screen is damaged and the device unusable. Who will pay for the repair or the new device? Most parents won’t, as they will see these devices as a right to have without any responsibility.

The problem with our society is that we give people too much and they don’t have to do much to earn it. Then they expect more and more and more. I could afford to give my children such devices, but won’t. They will have to earn them themselves and take care of them. It’s not my responsibility as a parent or a tax payer to pay for such devices that are not needed.

Textbooks last a whole lot longer than the devices will. Shoot a child destroys a $75.00 text book now, and the parents don’t want to pay. There is no way that they will pay $500 to replace this device when it is broken or lost.

Teacher Reader

February 1st, 2011
3:00 pm

Data is not everything.

One must also look at who performed the data, with most materials the company creating the materials has paid for it in one way or another, so the outcomes better come out good. I have seen this with the ESIS data that showed it was such a great product, only to dig just a little deeper and see that the company making ESIS commissioned the data. I am sure that Apple paid for this study as well.

Hope the training they provide is better than the train the trainer who trains the trainer who trains a teacher in a school who then trains the teachers in the school method DeKalb uses.

Bruce Kendall

February 1st, 2011
3:05 pm

It would be cheaper to write our own text books, and put them online. This is a growing trend at the college and university level.

We have the expertise already employed in the state. Use Wiki as an example, but open sourced for those working in our schools.


February 1st, 2011
3:10 pm

Just Say NO.
Please and thanks.


February 1st, 2011
3:20 pm

I would buy this in a heart beat for my child – with the requirement that it be left at home. Give the teachers a classroom copy and the kids an electronic copy at home.

Do not get our teachers to write the text books. Did you learn nothing from the math curriculum!? We do not have the expertise to design curriculums, much less write text books.


February 1st, 2011
3:21 pm

I issue a Biology book that costs $78 to replace. I can also issue the book on a CD. Replacement cost for the CD is $98. Go figure……

I like the iPad idea. I just wonder if it would really be cheaper than textbooks.

AS Clay, Esq.

February 1st, 2011
3:23 pm

Considering that few if any school systems have adopted new textbooks in the past few years, it could very well be cheaper to go this route to obtain meaningful and relevant resources for our children. If implemented properly (emphasis on “properly”) this program would also help teachers meet the new NETS standards that are rolling out with the Common Core Standards. Take a look, people. There has been much more going on than meets the eye. Unless we start providing the resources needed, we guarantee continued abysmal results.

Teacher, Too

February 1st, 2011
3:23 pm

Please, NO! Will there be extra I-Pads when the student forgets it at home? What happens when the battery quits? How will 30+ I-Pads be plugged into a classroom when the batteries wear out? This is ridiculous. Not EVERYTHING has be to technology-based. There is nothing wrong with a book, and books don’t require batteries and cords. Plus, books can be more readily replaced because they are less expensive.

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Pauline, billyhayes and Greg Odell, Maureen Downey. Maureen Downey said: An Apple for the teacher and every student? [...]


February 1st, 2011
3:29 pm

I think anon has a point as to how this could possibly work. If they were provided to the schools for use at the school and then allowed them to be purchased for a nominal amount for home (Title 1 could pay for/subsidize those that qualify) so that everyone has ’skin in the game’, it could possibly work. Reduce the likelihood of them being damaged in transport and you could possibly extend the life of the machines.

When you consider the cost of textbooks and how quickly they can become outdated, this could be a cost effective way of providing content. The savings could be offset based on the replacement rate of the devices. It’s worth trialing this on a limited basis and evaluate to determine if it is worth expanding.


February 1st, 2011
3:31 pm

And with these fully wi-fi enabled iPads sitting in the classroom, we can be sure that the students won’t possibly spend any time connected to the Internet or Facebook or IM or any game websites, etc. We don’t have any problems with cell phones or other sorts of technology distracting the students from their work. (sarcasam)

Some universities have banned the use of laptops during lectures to keep the college students from being distracted.

I’d vote no.

Jackie T.

February 1st, 2011
3:48 pm

I think we are eventually going to have electronic textbooks (and other resources). I don’t think iPad is the right one – too expensive in part because it does so much more than what we really need in classrooms. On the other hand, if the devise has some features kids want/like, they are more likely to treat it more carefully. Maybe my teenagers are exceptions, but they don’t loose or damage their cell phones because they know that their parents aren’t likely to replace it – or at least replace it with as nice one as what they have now.

If Apple is willing to provide the necessary materials and equipment for replacing, etc., why not give it a try. Just make sure that the contract we sign will not come with any string or hidden const.

high school teacher

February 1st, 2011
3:52 pm

Wonder how many parents would sell the iPad and then claim that it was lost or stolen?

another comment

February 1st, 2011
3:54 pm

I would vote yes. The kids at all economic levels already know how to use all of the apps. It would bring the fun back into learning. It would also, level out the playing field. I also just bought a Cobb County Senior whose mom has been unemployed for months a computer for Christmas. It was a whole lot better than buying for the welfare thugs who submit their names over and over to every charity at Christmas. Those parents just request gift cards to Walmart and Target that they can spend on beer and cigarettes for themself.

Putting the books and everything on the I-Pads, makes so much sense. I was helping my daughter review AP World History and the Book is out of date, not just becaust AP is doing the AP History rewrite. But because this week alone we are seing major changes in Egypt. Last Semester my daughter had a Business Law teacher who did use his Smart Board and the AJC headlines to display to the class the lastest Court cases that were in the headlines. He was one of the few teachers in the school to have this type of technology, why? He is the head basketball coach at a 5A school. Not every teacher in the school has this technology, but she got lucky she got the coach. He used the technology the boosters bought for his classroom for his students.


February 1st, 2011
4:03 pm

Senator Williams is talking to the wrong people. Check this out and comment. I think it’s what we need.

The Truth

February 1st, 2011
4:12 pm

Great idea – but is Apple going to supply competent teachers and a discipline plan that doesn’t capitulate to the whiny parents of trouble-making kids? Look, if you soil your underpants and only change your suit, your outward appearance will be fantastic, but there’s an underlying problem that is sure to continue causing problems until it’s solved. Giving schools doesn’t solve the underlying problem.

The Truth

February 1st, 2011
4:17 pm

Waterman – You must work for the school board, because this is absolutely brilliant. Let’s tie the school system to an unproven company that lacks the resources to provide the end-to-end support that Apple is offering.

Jackie T.

February 1st, 2011
4:46 pm

I’m not sure if the company waterman suggested is the one, but it just shows that we are moving in that direction. I think making an arrangement with Apple at this point is a good option. Let them supply a MS, or even a district, with all necessary equipments and materials (and tech support, etc.) to test out how it will work. Eventually, there will be multiple companies making school-use tablets – and more cheaply, too. But, now is the time to figure out how this particular technolongy can be used effectively in schools.

If nothing else, replacing all of the books with a tablet will be easier on our children’s backs…


February 1st, 2011
4:58 pm

I think this is a great idea! I am a middle school science teacher, and I use technology in my classroom on a daily basis in some way. However, I wish I could put something in the hands of my students every day. Right now, my students have access to computers individually for class on about a weekly basis. What would be great about iPads is that they would be useful not only for textbooks. They would allow students to create media (especially if it is the new generation iPad with rumored cameras), collect data efficiently, and share with a global audience. Not to mention, with an iPad in the hands of each and every one of my students, I could be truly paperless. The paper, toner, and copy maintenance costs should also be considered. Plus, the information in textbooks change at a much faster rate than they can be published and updated. This is something that can be limited with electronic textbooks.If it is not an iPad, it will only be a matter of time before our students traditional textbooks are traded for some form of an electronic version.

My students currently each have their own online blog portfolio. The amount of reflection and interaction as a result of these blogs has been amazing. When we use laptops, students are resourceful if a computer needs charging. They are careful with the machines and treat them well. I have faith that students would be careful if entrusted with iPads. I can only imagine what my students could create and the global interactions we could have if we all had access to technology on a daily basis.

Our kids are amazing. They can do amazing things. Please believe in them. I do.


February 1st, 2011
5:11 pm

Parents will be responsible for the damage and loss of the equipment (iPad), just as they are now responsible for the return of books, or conversely payment for lost books.

The real question we need to ask: Are iPads are better teaching tools than what currently is being used in schools.

Mom of 3

February 1st, 2011
5:12 pm

Let me think about this one. Ahhhhhhhh………no.

Gibs Girl

February 1st, 2011
5:16 pm

It is a good idea, but like one poster said, what happens when they are broken, stolen, or need repair. Will there be money built in the budget for that? Our kids in Georgia continue to be so far behind in many areas and as far as some other countries are concerned, our children don’t measure up at any level. Especially in countries like Asia. What we need to concentrate on is how to get the kids up to standard!


February 1st, 2011
5:25 pm

Insanity dosen’t run in our legislature. It GALLOPS!!!

SpaceyG on Twitter

February 1st, 2011
5:27 pm

I think it’s a great idea, but there will be a huge learning curve regarding kids caring for the iPads and not losing them. Not that it’s not possible.

Burroughston Broch

February 1st, 2011
5:30 pm

Want to wager how many iPads will be broken, pawned or stolen in the first six months? My wager is on 50%.

Textbooks are a better deal, and also keep the politicians’ fingers out of the cookie jar.

Bishop Eddie Longs Red Panties

February 1st, 2011
5:34 pm

As the father of a 8th grader my sons back pack weighs close to 50lbs Text books are so outdated
I personally buy my son the I pad to replace tht dreaded backpack Look people this is not 1975 we need to change the way we think I would also foot the bill for the maintnance and upkeep


February 1st, 2011
5:35 pm

Just plain stupid. And to see a teacher posting how great an idea it is
just shows me another reason that our state is currently producing
uneducated nitwits with a high school diploma.

This is a costly idea that will only benefit Apple. Now I love my Apple laptop and
my Ipad but I don’t need to see our school systems buying, replacing and
updating these Ipads yearly.
And as to the shallow minded poster who said parents would be responsible for
replacing lost/damages ipads………..well you apparently don’t hear the parents whine
cry and moan on a daily basis about how they can’t afford things for little Billy and
Nikita’s school programs/classes. Throw in ten’s of thousands of parents who
are on government assistance and you have another mess. Use your brain sometime please.


February 1st, 2011
5:36 pm

As a school head who led the transition to laptop schools for middle and high school students twice, I can attest to the benefit it offers in terms of the excitement and motivation demonstrated by virtually every student. But regarding cost, our efforts to have all textbook and workbook materials included in the apps revealed no monetary savings. I mean do you really think textbook companies are going to allow their copyrighted materials uploaded for free? We found charges for software text uploading were the same and in some cases, more than regular textbooks. That was a few years ago, though. Maybe things have changed since ‘03.


February 1st, 2011
5:37 pm

I have an iPad. It’s immensely simpler to use than a conventional computer, even a laptop. It’s small and doesn’t have moving parts like a keyboard. It’s very good for reading. Therefore I think some of the objections (that this doesn’t work well with notebook type computers) may not be relevant, and this idea may have merit.

My child is a junior in high school and packs around a ridiculous number of ridiculously heavy textbooks. The textbooks are for AP classes, and the school (an East Cobb high school) seems to issue clean, often new, copies of up to date books. In an effort to reduce the weight of books carried about, I resorted last year to buying a home copy of the AP Bio textbook. The cheapest I could find online, used (and I’m an accomplished online shopper, use eBay, etc.) was well over $100. That was for one book used in one class.

If the DOE or board can get a decent rate on electronic versions of the textbooks, the iPad approach could be cost effective and would be much better for students than lugging about heavy books. Furthermore, the electronic editions could be kept up to date much more readily.

I’d want to see more details before endorsing this plan, but unlike most of the preceding comments, I don’t dismiss it out of hand.

If Only

February 1st, 2011
5:37 pm

This is a no-brainer. Unfortunately, it is also financially highly unlikely. This kind of technology isn’t just our future, it is our present. Many colleges already depend on mandatory use of collaborative and interactive technologies in class. I am using an iPad for reference materials, and it obliterates printed text. Private schools are already here and the benefits are real. Sadly, I do not see public schools ever utilizing laptops or tablets for all students, which means that publically educated students will be at serious disadvantage when (or if) they reach college.

Bishop Eddie Longs Red Panties

February 1st, 2011
5:40 pm


Ditto Good post

David Sims

February 1st, 2011
5:41 pm

Don’t iPads connect to the internet? What prevents Little Johnny from playing a MUD game during algebra class? Or tapping into a porno site to augment his biology lessons?


February 1st, 2011
5:42 pm

When the students loose the ipads most mom & dads will not pay to replace. The how will they keep up in class?
If this is truly a good idea – wait. The cost will be coming down.


February 1st, 2011
5:48 pm

Does anyone think that textbook companies will let school systems use their textbooks online for free? The textbook companies will charge a licensing fee that will probably be equivalent to the purchase of textbooks. Textbook companies ain’t stupid.


February 1st, 2011
5:50 pm

People get a grip. The Millions that are wasted each year on outdated text books is staggering. The publishers have been getting getting rich off of the inefficiencies of K12 schools for decades. Ask your local board how much they spend on text books and how they have a store room full of old books they try to sell. We need people with business minds running schools. Let educators teach and let business minds run the schools.

Top School

February 1st, 2011
5:50 pm

Look closely behind the Chamber of Commerce…and figure out which one is tied into the money…
same one that did E-rate…
The corruption starts on the NORTHSIDE…

If Only

February 1st, 2011
5:50 pm

Here’s another reality… The textbook industry is dominated by a few states that pretty much dictate the content of the books that all school systems have to buy. The reason is that it is expensive to publish individual books by state or school system. Do we really want California deciding what should be taught to the entire country? Probably not, but that is the situation today.

With electronic books, that is a non-issue. Our educators could work directly with scholars to custom-define the curriculum and content appropriate for our students. This gives the opportunity to eliminate politics and lobbyists from corrupting our education. This could only be a major step up from today’s garbage.

As long as we anchor ourselves to printed textbooks, we guarantee that we will stay in the past.


February 1st, 2011
5:52 pm

Well, let’s see . . . my grandson constantly lost his glasses but he was only 12 or 13. Two University of Georgia basketball players couldn’t remember to take their shoes with them on a road game last year … is the message getting through? It’s a great idea but they might as well just throw the computers off the truck. . . or make the parents pay for them. No one seems to appreciate free.


February 1st, 2011
5:58 pm

Here’s an idea: buy all the students of the APS an iPad for $500, turn around and sell them on ebay for $600 each and BUY A NEW SCHOOL BOARD!


February 1st, 2011
6:02 pm

I know some of the bloggers here and MOST of the time I don’t agree with NOTHING you say, but TODAYYYYYY!!!! I’m getting on your bandwagon! NOOOOOOOOO!!! Make them crumb snatchers carry the books!!!! Our teachers aren’t even getting paid enough for all the BS they have to put with from the administration down to the parents!!!! NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!! …. “Class, please open your books to page 54.”


February 1st, 2011
6:04 pm

@ RB do you need some help? You start selling on Ebay and I’ll start looking for new folk to BUY for the new School Board!!!! Sounds like a plan to me!!!!


February 1st, 2011
6:11 pm

Several years ago, students in an AP science class at a Dekalb County HS were given Blackberrys. The expense of the Blackberrys did not come out of their pocket so the device had no intrinsic value. Needless to say, the devices were destroyed within a year!


February 1st, 2011
6:18 pm

This would only work with proper training on how to use the iPads effectively. Unfortunately, schools rarely invest in staff development to the extent necessary. People want to “see” how their money is spent so we purchase tons of materials, new textbooks, and the latest technological equipment – and expect teachers to learn how to use it all on their own time. If we would spend even 10% of the taxpayer’s money that goes to education on quality staff development, I’ll be you would see significant improvements in our schools.