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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Schools should spend money on teachers, not iPads

    School districts across the nation are trying to incorporate computer tablets, like iPads, into classrooms. Giving students the power of the Internet at their fingertips and an ability to read course material without lugging heavy books around may sound practical, but the cons of having iPads in classrooms outweigh the pros for both students and teachers.

    The school districts that are experimenting with tablets believed the devices would help implement the new Common Core State Standards Initiative for math and reading, according to an NPR report. According to the Common Core, Arizona adopted these standards in 2010, and is currently one of 45 states experimenting with iPads.

    Most of the districts with iPads in classrooms approved a bond issue and then paid for most of the cost through property taxes. However, there are better ways for these school districts, especially in Arizona, to be spending their revenue from property taxes.

    The iPad 2 starts at $399 and goes up to $529. The iPad mini, without retina display, starts at $299 and goes up to $429 and the newest iPad Air starts at $499 and goes up to $929. Other tablets like Google’s Nexus 7 and Amazon’s Kindle Fire HDX are priced at $229, but even at lower prices, this would represent a significant investment on behalf of the school districts.

    According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average class size in Arizona ranges between 22 and 25 students, depending on the grade level. Multiply that by all the classes in each school and then by the number of schools in a district. Add in the price of Wi-Fi. The number is huge, so huge that its almost excessive. At that price, there are plenty of other improvements within schools that the money could be put toward.

    A 2013 report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities showed Arizona as having one of the nation’s deepest cuts in education funding. The state reduced its per student funding by about 17 percent.

    For the 2011-2012 school year, the National Education Association reported that the average teacher’s starting salary in Arizona is $31,689. Other states, like Wyoming, pay their new teachers $43,053. Educators are responsible for each individual’s success, and a higher priority should be placed on their salaries instead of tablets.

    The money school districts are trying to pull together to pay for these tablets and Internet expenses could go toward teacher salaries, building improvements, updated textbooks, updated computer labs, after-school study programs and more.

    All of these things could help improve students’ lives and their success in school, more than one iPad could.

    Even if the districts had the money to buy iPads and pay decent teacher salaries, there’s no guarantee the tablets would be put to good use and they could even hinder the learning process. At the UA, I’ve seen a student almost get kicked out of class for watching Netflix on his laptop and have witnessed other students checking Facebook on their iPads or cellphones. Not to say I haven’t used technology for that purpose, but these devices are definitely a temptation and a distraction during class.

    With iPads as this new learning tool, students in secondary education may depend on such devices by the time they enter college and be unable to take effective notes by hand or be able to recall information on tests, because they’re so used to looking it up online.

    “Teachers are no longer the possessors of knowledge,” said Matt Hamilton, an educational technology coordinator for the Coachella Valley Unified School District in California, in the NPR report. “They’re more of the facilitators of learning.”

    With such technology at our fingertips, there is a lack of connection between students and teachers. Teachers will start to stand by and navigate students through various tablet applications rather than spending time sharing knowledge and educating students.

    There is also the constant concern about security and children accessing harmful or inappropriate online content. While NPR reported that some districts are working with Apple to block such content, it’s still in progress.

    IPads and other tablets can be used as appropriate study aids from home. However, if students use a tablet more than their pencil in class, it could lead to more harm than good.

    Ashley T. Powell is a journalism senior. Follow her @ashleytaylar.

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