Friday, February 04, 2011

I Haz Critikal Think

Related to the previous post I noted the quote by Maureen Downey were she questioned how investing $500 per student for an iPad would save any money.
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)

Since she's the eduction blogger for the Altlanta Journal Constitution and it really isn't hard to explain the cost/benefit analysis I checked her blog to see if that's really what she said in context. Alas, that is what she said.

If Ms. Downey read my blog I would proceed, in the most condescending way possible, ask her a series of questions designed to show that, while this may seem like a legitimate question to someone who isn't familiar with education issues and costs, it demonstrates a lack of subject matter expertise or willingness to apply that subject matter expertise to education is a way that actually informs readers. Again, she's a professional blogger for a real newspaper and is paid to do the analysis she didn't do here.

Since Ms. Downey can't be troubled to actually do her job I will break it down for you, my lucky reader.

How are we saving any money spending $500 per student per year? The answer is that the goal of introducing tablets is to eventually eliminate the need for pen/paper testing and printed copies of text books. This may not seem like a big deal, but both these areas are major spends for schools. For example, pen/paper tests may not seem like a big deal but they are expensive. They need to be printed and shipped, which isn't cheap. You need to have a proctor, you need someone to scan the tests into a reader if they are scored automatically but usually they are hand scored. And Highstakes testing are all or nothing propositions since they need to be take by all students at the same time. It's a pretty penny.

Now, Ms. Downey has brought up some good points, specifically durability. Apple products are delicate animals that must be coddled and loved. They are not designed for durability and that is a huge must-have in education. Kids break stuff. But, durability will come as manufacturers start honing in on this niche (which includes hospitals and airlines).

My point, though, is that if you want to claim authority about a subject then make sure you actually know what your talking about. Or else Prudog will call you out on a blog no one actually reads.


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