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Technology in Education – The Future, But Too Expensive?

The move towards a “digital classroom”
(Credit: edudemic.com)

Technology…it’s changed a lot over the years. From the evolution of using computers in school, and now the move towards a “digital classroom,” there’s a lot to consider how technology will be implemented education. Each year, we see the evolution of new technological advances for education, from online tutorial websites, to digital textbooks. All of these advancements may change education in the near future. It is clear because of all these advancements that we need to advance our education system. Some feel our system is “too outdated,” and I fully agree with this. John Dewsy once said that, “If we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow?”

I remember back in Kindergarten when we were using the old iMac G3s as the primary computers. At that time, I thought the iMac G3 computers were amazing, but then again, it was an upgrade from Windows 98 I had at home. Fast-forward to using Windows XP and Windows 7 in high school, we can see that technology has changed in education. But we’re facing even more technology advancements, and companies are always trying to make their products useful for education.

I was lucky enough in Grade 7 to be part of a district laptop testing program called the One to One Wireless Program. During that year, everybody in my class received laptops, with chargers and laptop backpacks for the year. As well, we were supplied with WiFi in the classroom, and I believe we were the only middle school with WiFi at the time. The purpose of this program was to see how technology would affect teaching. My overall perception of the program was that it was very interesting. Using a laptop in the classroom setting was different, and we used online website services to help further our learning. My teacher explained, It was a really great experience for me that got progressively more frustrating as the computers broke down with age.”  However, due to budget costs, the program was cancelled.

Apple is a great example of implementing their products in education. Most recently with the iPad technology, they have introduced Digital Textbooks. This is an advancement, but it will be a long time before we see iPads and iPad related devices in use as textbooks, not at least until the price of this technology comes down to an affordable price to schools. If computers are a struggle for money right now, then iPads and tablets are certainly out of the question. And when Apple released its plans to bring their iPad technology to schools with the textbook in a digital form, people were excited.

“With these interactive textbooks, we’re going to watch huge leaps in what’s possible with the students. They’re phenomenally going to change the landscape of education. I think it will reignite the whole passion of about why we came into teaching to being with,”
-John Deasy, the Superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District.

However, these digital textbooks will not be cheap. Even though the textbook will only cost $14.99, that’s for only one copy. Vinnet Madan, the head of McGraw-Hill Higher Education eLabs, told Mashable that iBook digital textbooks will be sold not to the student, but directly to the school. The school will then provide a code for the student’s personal Apple ID. The drawback to these textbooks is that the school will have to renew the textbooks every year, as the textbook is only tied to one iTunes account, and not the iPad. This means that iPad textbooks are not reusable, which is a huge drawback. For now, companies such as McGraw-Hill and Pearson Education have created digital textbooks for the iPad for use in the American education system.

According to an image from “Mashable” and “Online Teaching Degree,” a school of 2000 students with textbooks will have to pay this specified amount over 5 years. If a student uses 6 textbooks per year at $75 per textbook, it will cost $450 per student. Since the school has 2000 students, it will cost $900 000 initially. If those textbooks are reused over 5 years, it will cost a school $180 000 per year. If the school decides to use iPads, then it will cost the school this much. If we take a student doing 4 years of high school with 6 books per class, it will be 24 books. The iBook will cost $15, and with 24 classes will be $360 every 4 years. Since the school has 2000 students, it will cost $720 000. Plus, the cost of the iPad is $500, and for 2000 students will cost $1 720 000. If we take that number over 4 years, it will cost roughly $130 000 per year. This means that textbooks are actually 41% cheaper than iPad textbooks. However, if the student is required to buy an iPad (let’s put this into perspective), cost is a factor, as 31% of working families classified as low income. And let’s say the United States government would want to implement iPads in education, and give one to every student in America. The cost would be an astounding $27 billion, which is enough to pay for a yearly salary for about 675 000 teachers.

According to a phone call with an Apple Specialist, there is no information about the textbooks are coming to Apple. “We want to make sure it’s done properly,” according to my Apple representative. When I phoned the Apple Education branch, I was told that they also have no further information about digital textbooks in Canada, and is only being rolled out in the United States at the current time. However, Pearson Education does have something called a Pearson eText for iPad. Similar to the iPad Digital Textbooks, it’s an electronic copy of their own major textbook titles. But it doesn’t have the same capabilities of a digital textbook from Apple, and does not feature 3D molecular structures, animations, and other capabilities. It only seems like a PDF file within an app. But there could be some problems with digital textbooks.

There can be infinite uses of the computer and of new age technology, but if the teachers themselves are not able to bring it into the classroom and make it work, then it fails,”
-Nancy Kassebaum

However, some services online offer contributions to education technology. One of my favourites is the Khan Academy, and this is truly a remarkable service. This was created by Salman Khan, a graduate of MIT. From being a video website first being used to tutor his niece turned into a free, global, online classroom. Being a user myself, I do see the potential and usefulness of this website. It has helped me throughout my schooling so far, as these online lessons have helped me understand concepts more easily. Khan Academy is expanding, as the company is creating software that could be used in schools. The program is currently being piloted in some various schools in America, mostly around the California area. The ideology of the software is called “Flipping the Classroom,” which means less lecturing, more interaction. What you think of as homework, you do at school, and schoolwork, you do at home.

Overall, technology in education is the future, no doubt. However, I do see a few drawbacks. One is affordability. If schools are currently struggling to pay for computers, how are they going to be able to pay for iPads or other tablet related devices? As well, how can they be able to afford electronic textbooks for a school that could have well over 1000 kids? At $14.99 a textbook, a textbook for each person at the school was cost $14 990, and they have to buy new textbooks each year. Unless the price of tablet technology comes down, there is a very low chance of schools implementing tablet technology over the next few years. However, this is clearly the next step towards the future education. Over the next few years, it will be interesting to see how education advances.

“The technology itself is not transformative. It’s the school, the pedagogy, that is transformative.”
– Tanya Byron

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About Jordan Yep

Senior Editor and President of Jordan's Tech Stop. From a young age, he has always been fascinated by technology, and enjoys reporting and checking out the latest in the tech world. Jordan has an IT Essentials certification from Cisco, which he received in 2012. Email Jordan at: jyep@jordanstechstop.com

5 comments on “Technology in Education – The Future, But Too Expensive?

  1. As always it is the parents and teachers who must make education relevant to students. Technology should become an inclusive tool. Where alll can obtain access to hardware and applicationsif needed.Laptops, iPads, and laptop computers — paid for with the help of state dollars — are becoming an increasingly common sight in classrooms.

    • Very true. I do see this a becoming trend in the United States, and as well in Canada. Laptops are common, and hopefully we’ll see more iPads implemented in the future of education.

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