School officials in north Texas want to spend $1 million buying the six-month-old iPad from Apple for middle school students. But they don’t want to pay for it; they want state taxpayers to pick up the tab for what is undoubtedly a cool toy — but not an academic tool. This is a classic case of school i-waste.

CBS 11 (Dallas-Fort Worth) notified me of this grant application. The school district has applied for a $1 million state technology grant through the Texas Education Agency. Their rationale reads more like a vendor’s advertising program than an academic justification.

“With iPads students can explore, research, discover, develop, manage, edit, present or publish assignments,” ISD claims. Buying these “would give students the opportunity explore current curriculum in different ways.

Um, okay. But at nearly $700 a pop for the latest model, it’s a little pricey. Frankly, you can do this, and more, with a $250 netbook. I mean, why do we have school libraries and librarians anymore? Clearly they are redundant, right Mesquite? Is the Mesquite school district canning the libraries?

Set aside the trendy coolness of the iPad for a second. The iPad cannot multitask, doesn’t have pesky things like keyboards, and — like all of Apple’s “i”-line of products, under the benevolent dictatorial control of the Apple store.

The iPad is heavier than an e-reader (going to e-textbooks has a lot of merit, I have come to believe), but cannot work as effectively as even a simple (and much cheaper) laptop or netbook for data manipluation and content creation.

Consider this: the iPad has only been out six months. There is no data available about it is even suitable for the classroom or the rigorous treatment school property receives at the hands of students.

And there is no way one can reasonably claim, like Mesquite ISD does:

Instead of the classroom teacher providing a lesson and what the students need to know, a digital media tool like the iPad, would give students the opportunity explore current curriculum in different ways.

Really?! So apparently Mesquite is going to phase out not just librarians, but also teachers? I mean, why have teachers if, with the purchase of these magical devices, they would no longer be “providing a lesson and what the students need to know”? The classroom teacher would seem to be superfluous, right?

Mesquite ISD is facing a $1-million to $2-million budget shortfall, and the state has a projected $12 billion shortfall. Is this really how we need to be spending Texas’ tax dollars in the allegedly under-funded schools?

If Mesquite ISD cannot find the cash to do this all by themselves, there’s clearly no reason the people of Texas should. If the good folks at Apple want to use Mesquite kids as test-subjects for their device, the people of Texas shouldn’t pick up the tab.

The iPad’s technological descendents might someday be ready for the classroom. Right now, they belong in the digital playground. Hopefully TEA Commissioner Robert Scott and his staff will say no to this i-waste from Mesquite ISD.


Michael Quinn Sullivan

Michael Quinn Sullivan is the publisher of Texas Scorecard. He is a native Texan, a graduate of Texas A&M, and Eagle Scout. Previously, he has worked as a newspaper reporter, magazine contributor, Capitol Hill staffer, think tank vice president. Michael and his wife have three adult children, and a dog. Check out his podcast, Reflections on Life and Liberty.

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