I am writing this letter in response to the article titled “JSD: Technology must be used to grow student achievement”. While I agree with the headline itself, the ideas put forth by both Juneau School Board Member Mark Choate and Assistant Superintendent Laury Scandling are troubling to me.
I have to question the reasoning in trying to push for the purchase of iPads and iPod Touches during a time where the district is facing another year of budgeting cuts. Our city is already funding the district at the maximum allowed, and hasn’t made any increases, and the same is true on the state level.
We’re currently looking at losing over 60 paid staff positions when the budget is due in one week, including Scandling’s position. The entry model of the newest iPad starts at $499, and is stocked with a 1Ghz chip, 1Gb of RAM, 16Gb of storage and Wi-Fi only. For this price we could purchase two laptops with the same speed processor, twice the ram, and 20 times the storage. As someone who has done years of information technology work, I have to question whether we are pushing for these purchases for the right reasons. I’ll submit that the iPads are high on the “wow” factor, but they’re far from durable, and the technical specifications coupled with the digital rights management limitations of Apple do not make them a feasible purchase at this time. This speaks nothing of the question of who is to pay for these $499 machines when a student inevitably breaks one accidentally. We have students from a broad range of backgrounds, and $500 is a lot of money to a lot of parents in our own community.
I believe the right answer is to first replace the actual desktops in the classrooms and libraries of the district. We have far too many 10-year-old eMacs and Dell Optiplexes that cannot adequately be used. Afterwards, I would look into the purchasing of laptops for the district, which are cheaper, more versatile, less restrictive, and easier to type on than their touch tablet counterparts. Lastly, I would hope that someone who has a technological background would serve on the school board. I think it is a disservice to the community at large to be facing decisions such as this without a representative who can fully understand the ramifications and implications of these decisions.