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School Swaps Math Textbooks For iPads 439

Posted by samzenpus
from the there-goes-the-tech-budget dept.
MexiCali59 writes "Four of California's largest school districts will be trying something new on eighth-grade algebra students this year: giving them iPads instead of textbooks. The devices come pre-loaded with a digital version of the text, allowing students to view teaching videos, receive homework assistance and input assignment all without picking up a pen or paper. If the students with iPads turn out to do improve at a faster pace than their peers as expected, the program could soon spread throughout the Golden State."
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School Swaps Math Textbooks For iPads

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  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @04:56PM (#33513452)
    Apple announces free iPad program for school administrators in California.
  • Expensive (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Niris (1443675) on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @04:56PM (#33513456)
    California is in the middle of a hiring freeze for the State, and a huge deficit. Where exactly are they getting the money for these iPad projects for these districts, let alone for the rest of the State if they decide to advance it?
    • Re:Expensive (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Darkness404 (1287218) on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @04:57PM (#33513462)
      Because California, like the rest of the USA is immune to the laws of economics!
      • Re:Expensive (Score:3, Interesting)

        by diskofish (1037768) on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @05:07PM (#33513612)
        Same as here in NY. School districts are bitching about the state withholding funds. In reality, they waste money on unnecessary crap like in TFA. To make the bitching even more egregious, most districts have plenty of money saved in "rainy day" type funds to cover budgets shortfalls.
        • by mark72005 (1233572) on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @05:11PM (#33513694)
          Well, dire financial straits should be allowed to affect taxpayers and other areas of state and local budgets, but damned if the big-spending boards should have to worry about getting paid.
        • Re:Expensive (Score:3, Informative)

          by Compholio (770966) on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @05:25PM (#33513902)

          Same as here in NY. School districts are bitching about the state withholding funds. In reality, they waste money on unnecessary crap like in TFA.

          For a lot of places the "tech" funds are independent of their general budget. As you are likely aware you generally do not replace computers every year; however, if on the years you don't replace equipment you don't spend your tech money then you lose it for when you do need to buy new equipment.

          To make the bitching even more egregious, most districts have plenty of money saved in "rainy day" type funds to cover budgets shortfalls.

          Those funds are reserved for temporary budget shortfalls (such as an unexpected drop in enrollment for a year), they cannot handle a sustained loss of funding. Also, many places will ratchet your funding to your worst year - so even if budgetary conditions improve for the next year you won't get your budget back.

          • Re:Expensive (Score:4, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @05:34PM (#33513994)

            The logic of the bureaucracy is simply lunacy.

            "Why are you blowing your full budget?"

            "I do not want to have my budget cut for next year."

            "But you didn't need it all this year."

            "Yeah, but I want more next year."

            That's what is happening in every government agency. If the idiots in charge were not all collectively doing this, then, for starters, there would be a rainy day fund when they really needed it. Agencies would actually be able to request bigger budgets when they really needed it, and, this is crazy, we'd actually have money to give them.

            It should be criminal to blow a budget simply to try and get the same amount or more for the next budget cycle.

            • Re:Expensive (Score:5, Insightful)

              by jargon82 (996613) on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @07:59PM (#33515374)
              It should be criminal to base next years funding on what was spent last year and little else. This needs to be fixed before any of these depts are going to address the other side of it (spending in order to have access in the future to similar funds). I've seen some downright insane wastes as a result of end of year surpluses.
        • by froggymana (1896008) on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @05:30PM (#33513950)
          Better teacher lounges are not a waste of money in the school's teacher's minds.
      • by copponex (13876) on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @05:08PM (#33513636) Homepage

        Because the USA, unlike the rest of the world, is immune to the idea that investing in education and infrastructure yields tangible benefits for society!

        • Re:Expensive (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Darkness404 (1287218) on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @05:14PM (#33513748)
          But it doesn't. You can't just throw money at a problem and find a solution, in fact the most worthwhile solutions are the ones that cost the least. The US government has no problems tossing money in education/infrastructure but its all worthless because they are simply redistributing wealth that is more efficiently done in the private sector. Consider a private school, barring some of the weird religious schools which specialize in fascism and indoctrination, private schools are in general better because they don't get the money thrown at them every which way. Yeah, private schools are expensive, but add in how many -millions- of dollars go to public schools that don't perform. Why is it that almost every single privately educated student is better educated than a public school educated student despite massive redistribution of wealth? With a private school, they have to make every dollar count. A private school can't just ask voters for an extra million, they can't take money from people who don't use the service like public schools can. Yet they have a higher quality.

          Governments breed waste, inefficiency and tyranny and can never lead to a net gain for society when compared to a private institution.
          • Re:Expensive (Score:2, Informative)

            by natespizer (1362373) on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @05:34PM (#33514008)
            One important fact is that if a parent is paying for the education there is a good chance they will be more invested in making sure their student does a good job rather than just blaming everything on the teacher or school. You will get much more parent participation in event and activities and in most cases it is mandatory.
          • Re:Expensive (Score:5, Insightful)

            by copponex (13876) on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @05:51PM (#33514218) Homepage

            Private schools perform better because of selection bias. Parents who care about their child's education will go the extra mile, including spending extra money that doesn't always yield results. Stable families and finances are the determining factor in academic success, not the source of the funding for the school.

            As someone who went to a private and a public high school, the only difference was that everyone at the private school never wanted for anything and most never had jobs other than school, while in public school a few miles away, they had night jobs just so they could make ends meet for their family. One major problem is that high schools in the US are treated like minimum security prisons for teenagers. Ending truancy laws once they turn 15 could solve the biggest problem of teachers being forced to control students who won't want to be there in the first place.

            But really, your entire argument rests on the belief that anyone born poor or with learning disabilities does not deserve an education. That's a pretty low moral standard to aim for, and one you are strangely proud of.

          • by spazdor (902907) on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @05:52PM (#33514258)

            Governments breed waste, inefficiency and tyranny and can never lead to a net gain for society when compared to a private institution.

            Private institutions breed greed, cartels and perverse incentives and can never lead to a decision-making process which would choose a net gain for society over a greater gain for itself.

            Yes, both of these sentences are moronic oversimplifications.

          • Re:Expensive (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Sponge Bath (413667) on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @05:55PM (#33514310)

            Governments breed waste, inefficiency and tyranny and can never lead to a net gain for society when compared to a private institution.

            Never? Taking that at face value you must advocate the elimination of laws, courts, police, and military (all government institutions) to be replaced with the might makes right anarchy of every man for himself (the ultimate private institution). To me that sounds like a net loss for society.

          • Re:Expensive (Score:3, Insightful)

            by suomynonAyletamitlU (1618513) on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @06:02PM (#33514366)

            No, you can't throw money at it, but at the same time, that's not necessarily what the GP is talking about.

            Invest is a transitive verb--it's usually used to refer to money, but you also invest time and effort. In particular, investing in education and infrastructure is as much about allowing or encouraging people to invest their efforts as it is about the money--when you are investing in a non-established company, you are giving them money yes, but you are giving them an opportunity to try new things that might not work, and refine their technique over a period of months or years until they find a solution.

            Investing in new technology in order to see if the students, or the teachers, can do more with them is investing money in their potential. It may be smart, or foolish, depending on what the students and teachers are like, but that's mostly to say "we haven't figured out how to do it yet."

            Governments breed waste, inefficiency and tyranny and can never lead to a net gain for society when compared to a private institution.

            Government, in my mind, has a singular purpose: to do with economies of scale what would be either impossible for a single entity (social security, medicare, disaster relief), or which it would be unreasonable to assume someone would do (charity, police/military, waste management).

            I'm not saying it isn't very often a bad thing, or that it doesn't open up lots of bad opportunities for people, but go find somewhere on this planet where trash, septics, fresh water, etc are not even touched by government of any level, then compare it to the first world, and tell me government has nothing to offer.

          • Re:Expensive (Score:3, Insightful)

            by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @06:07PM (#33514436) Homepage

            the idea that investing in education and infrastructure yields tangible benefits for society!

            But it doesn't. You can't just throw money at a problem and find a solution...

            I just want to point out that your response doesn't match what you're responding to. The idea was not "throwing money at the problem of education yields tangible benefits".

            Or do you think that money spent on education is a waste? A society should not bother educating their citizenry? Is it all that simple, that investments in education are all simply waste?

            Or would it be fair to say that education costs money, but an effective and efficient education system will ultimately be worth the resources directed toward its operation? Let's assume for the sake of argument that you're right, and that private schools are better. So let's say I spend $120,000 putting my child through private school. Is that $120k not well spent? Could you not conceive of the possibility that, over the course of my child's lifetime, society will gain more that $120k worth of added societal value and productivity from my child's education?

          • Re:Expensive (Score:5, Informative)

            by dcollins (135727) on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @07:00PM (#33515012) Homepage

            "Why is it that almost every single privately educated student is better educated than a public school educated student despite massive redistribution of wealth? With a private school, they have to make every dollar count."

            That's, like, one of the dumbest and most disingenuous arguments I've ever seen. The actual answer is simply: Because private schools are rich and spend about twice as much money on average.

            The secular private schools analyzed in the study spent $20,100 on each student in the 2007-08 school year vs. $10,100 in public schools. [Washington Post, "Per-Student Spending Gaps Wider Than Known", Aug-31, 2009]

            http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/08/30/AR2009083002335.html [washingtonpost.com]

          • Re:Expensive (Score:4, Insightful)

            by node 3 (115640) on Thursday September 09, 2010 @12:22AM (#33517060)

            Because the USA, unlike the rest of the world, is immune to the idea that investing in education and infrastructure yields tangible benefits for society!

            But it doesn't.

            Congratulations on just proving his point.

        • Re:Expensive (Score:3, Insightful)

          by MaWeiTao (908546) on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @06:52PM (#33514954)

          That's a ridiculous statement you make considering the US spends more per student, by far, than any other country on Earth. The small city where I live spends more than the next highest country which is in Northern Europe. And it's not a little more, it's thousands more they spend. The city has had budget problems for decades now. A significant portion of the population is low-income.

          The problem is that too many schools in the city are still crap. But the money ends up going to garbage. If it's not a gimmicky program then it's an overpaid administrator sucking up that money. These idiots hired some administrator from some big city. Her income is well over $250k a year and she's refused to forgo raises claiming she needs them for cost-of-living increases. And she's done next to nothing to improve the educational system in this city. Of course a huge part of the problem are irresponsible parents who don't discipline their kids and instill the value of education in them, so things are never so simple.

          The problem with Americans, particularly when it comes to social programs, is that they think simply throwing money at the problem will fix it. When people start talking about needing money for schools what they actually mean is that teachers want significant pay increases and cushy benefits. I'd love to have the job security and generous benefits some teacher friends of mine enjoy. The money never goes to directly improving education for students. When it does trickle its way down too often it ends up being something stupid like these iPads.

          How will these iPads improve education? They wont improve a thing. In fact, they're going to be a massive distraction. Kids already are easily distracted, they don't need yet another toy to make things worse. And given how careless they will be with these things schools are going to be replacing them every few months. Money flushed down the toilet.

    • Re:Expensive (Score:2, Insightful)

      by techwrench (586424) on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @05:00PM (#33513498)
      If you have lived there, you would know that trivial things like deficits are to looked down upon with disdain..... Think of the Children!!!!!
    • Re:Expensive (Score:5, Interesting)

      by kevinNCSU (1531307) on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @05:03PM (#33513568)
      Between the cost of a textbook and the rate at which they become 'obsolete' for the state testing I'd imagine with an educational discount from Apple (no need to make the state pay taxes to itself and can prolly write off some of it as a donation) they probably aren't whole lot more expensive than your regular schoolbook in the long run. Course I'd be interested in knowing what the policy is for broken iPads. Do the kid's parents have to shell out the money for a new iPad? you would for a replacement book.
      • Re:Expensive (Score:4, Insightful)

        by mark72005 (1233572) on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @05:14PM (#33513744)
        Collegiate textbooks cost around $100, and most high schools are re-using books for 4-5 years (or, these days, stretching them out even longer). I highly doubt this is a cost savings.

        (as if any new government program ever results in cost savings anyway)
        • by spazdor (902907) on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @05:27PM (#33513924)

          Collegiate textbooks cost around $100

          ...And you need a separate one for each class you're in.

          • by tophermeyer (1573841) on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @05:42PM (#33514094)

            And how much is the cost of that electronic textbook's license per student? Probably less than $100, but definitely not free. Plus that electronic license probably won't be recycled for 4-5 years like a paper book might be.

            I looked at the numbers a few weeks ago for some textbooks for Grad school. My numbers came close without even the cost of an iPad (in my case a Kindle). I can't imagine it would be economical for 8th graders, who will probably not be extremely careful with those iPads.

            • Re:Expensive (Score:4, Insightful)

              by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @05:52PM (#33514242)

              And how much is the cost of that electronic textbook's license per student? Probably less than $100, but definitely not free.

              Free.

              Schwarzenegger launched a program in 2009 to create digital textbooks in math and science owned by the state board of education. At the end of 2009 they had ten texts, including math through Calc 1 and 2.

      • Re:Expensive (Score:5, Informative)

        by BobMcD (601576) on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @05:15PM (#33513762)

        Between the cost of a textbook and the rate at which they become 'obsolete' for the state testing...

        Are you asserting that books last less than three years? Because I'm relatively certain that there will be nearly no usable iPads in that same amount of time. They're simply not designed to outlive their replacement models.

      • by mea37 (1201159) on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @05:29PM (#33513944)

        Well, someone still has to buy the textbook content (and other software) to put on the iPad. I'm not sure the expected lifespan for an iPad, but I'd argue that textbooks are more durable in the face of handling by a highschool (or younger) student who doesn't own it. Also consider that Apple designs its products to be used for a certain duration and then discarded (so you'll buy the new one).

        The concept may have merit if the software adds value above and beyond what you get from a textbook. I cannot see it being cheaper than textbooks unless/until it can replace multiple textbooks for a given grade.

    • by rsborg (111459) on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @05:04PM (#33513572) Homepage
      Maybe it has something to do with this [guardian.co.uk]?

      Personally, the idea of an impersonal video showing boring math material would be even worse than have an instructor do it, but perhaps this will allow the more "advanced" students to go at their own pace.

      I did attend an "open classroom" for several years and in one of those years, I was allowed to race ahead and finished the english and math curriculum several months ahead of schedule so I could spend more time on that wonderful TI-99 4A [wikipedia.org] hooked up to the beautiful color monitor.

      I don't think the iPad based curriculum will work for every child.

    • by PapayaSF (721268) on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @05:07PM (#33513618) Journal
      Done right, this could make economic sense. Textbook prices have been rising far faster than inflation [back2schoolmoms.com], nearly doubling in 20 years. Some math textbooks can cost over $100. Even assuming they cost only $50, an electronic device at a cost 10 textbooks, but which does much more and can be easily updated, could be a bargain. (In theory, that is. I'm assuming the school district plans well and the kids don't trash them.)
    • by perpenso (1613749) on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @05:07PM (#33513624)

      California is in the middle of a hiring freeze for the State, and a huge deficit. Where exactly are they getting the money for these iPad projects for these districts, let alone for the rest of the State if they decide to advance it?

      This is a pilot program, Houghton Mifflin and/or Apple are probably subsidizing it.

      A pilot program is designed to measure the effectiveness of the device and the costs. It is plausible that a reusable digital device loaded with numerous textbooks could be less expensive than the corresponding set of paper textbooks. Also keep in mind that today's $500 iPad will probably be around $250 in a couple of years. and those are retail prices not educational institution prices.

      • by gr8_phk (621180) on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @05:32PM (#33513970)
        Much as I dislike them, why not a Kindle loaded with text books. That would be much much less than iPads and less likely to be used for other purposes (like watching YouTube during class).
        • by perpenso (1613749) on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @05:40PM (#33514070)

          Much as I dislike them, why not a Kindle loaded with text books. That would be much much less than iPads and less likely to be used for other purposes (like watching YouTube during class).

          1. Color is extensively used in modern textbooks.
          2. Textbooks are incorporating more software and multimedia.

          I had the opportunity to work with a textbook publisher regarding the software bundled with a chemistry textbook. This software included chemical diagramming (2D - for reports and such) and 3D model building and visualization. We also had a few movies illustrating some basic principles. All of this could easily be done on an iPad and be bundled with the textbook. Not so for today's Kindle. I hope future Kindle's offer color and touch to make such things feasible.

        • by Jerf (17166) on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @05:41PM (#33514084) Journal

          You want them to be useful for the other tasks, though. The revolution in education will not come from simply digitizing the old ways of educating, it will come from using computers to do things you couldn't do without them. Kindles won't permit that.

          In fact, the studious inability for the education world to realize this and act on it is a significant part of the reason why they disgust me so.

      • by bcrowell (177657) on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @09:21PM (#33515938) Homepage

        This is a pilot program, Houghton Mifflin and/or Apple are probably subsidizing it.

        This may be partly a reaction to California's Free Digital Textbook Initiative [bbc.co.uk]. I went to a symposium about the FDTI last summer (more about that symposium here [theassayer.org]. The people interested enough to come were an odd-bedfellows mixture of free-information enthusiasts, commercial textbook companies, and computer hardware companies. The ones with a really, really strong pecuniary motive for participating are the hardware companies. This is a gigantic potential gold mine for them. From the point of view of the book publishers, it was clear that they were about as enthusiastic about it as they would be about a skunk at a bridal shower, and the only reason they were there was to gauge how horrible the threat was.

        This pilot program would then represent the perfect confluence of interests between the publishers and the hardware companies. Once you get rid of the pesky idea of having the textbooks become free, it becomes a wonderful potential gravy train for all of them.

        A pilot program is designed to measure the effectiveness of the device and the costs. It is plausible that a reusable digital device loaded with numerous textbooks could be less expensive than the corresponding set of paper textbooks. Also keep in mind that today's $500 iPad will probably be around $250 in a couple of years. and those are retail prices not educational institution prices.

        Not so sure about this. My kid just started high school, and she had IIRC 30 lb of books. Since she sometimes walks to and from school, we bought her her own copies of some of her books to keep at home. They were actually surprisingly inexpensive, especially compared to the exploitative cost of college-level textbooks.

        But computer companies have a long-established practice of being willing to lose money in order to get impressionable K-12 kids used to their hardware and software, on the theory that the kids will then be loyal customers after they grow up. Apple has done this using educational discounts on their hardware. MS did it in their early history by winking at piracy. Amazon has of course been losing money hand over fist on the Kindle in order to build market share.

    • by guruevi (827432) <evi@smokingcCOFFEEube.be minus caffeine> on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @05:07PM (#33513626) Homepage

      From the money they hope to save in providing books on the long term I guess. At $50-150 (or more once you get to college) per book these costs really add up. I believe the current average textbook expenses in the US is somewhere near $1000/student/year and you have to take into account that in that number, many rent or buy second hand books and many more simply can't afford the books (like in my city school district where nobody has textbooks). Add to that the gigantic logistics cost of tons (literally) of books that have to be printed, transported, distributed and at the end of the year picked up, transported and recycled (as they are usually useless the next year).

      Hopefully they haven't locked themselves in again with certain publishers so teachers can just go ahead and give them a link from Apple's or Amazon's e-book store ($5-15 for a decent math book).

      • by initdeep (1073290) on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @05:41PM (#33514088)

        there are very few high school text books which are useless the next year.

        in fact, per the local school district, they EXPECT to get at least 5 years per textbook of life span.

        some are even longer.

        and per the article, this is for a GRADE 8 CLASS. Meaning these aren't even high school students in most districts.

    • by VTI9600 (1143169) on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @05:07PM (#33513632)

      Isn't it obvious? The money will come from the parents who have so much spare cash to throw around. Supporting a family in this economy practically pays for itself, right?

    • Re:Expensive (Score:4, Interesting)

      by cgenman (325138) on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @05:12PM (#33513702) Homepage

      400 students for a pilot program? That doesn't sound like too much money to prove (or more likely squelch) the theory that more computers = smarter students.

      Also, I'd guess these are being provided either free or at-cost by Apple, with partner Hughton Mifflin bearing the brunt of other costs. By the wording of the article, they seem to be the ones having commissioned the study, not the other way around.

      As a side note, why is it always that "something is going bad here, so we shouldn't do anything about anything else until that is fixed." I've heard that people are starving, so why send people into space. We're at war with Russia, why do we need a civilian network. This isn't an A or B choice. When the state is broke, you have to find ways to make basic research continue to happen. Maybe the study will prove that, as I suspect, throwing money at technology is less effective than throwing money at smaller class sizes. Maybe it will show that the extra expense is worth it, especially as it can be amortized over several classes. Students cost thousands of dollars per year anyway. Or maybe there will be a little bump, and California will jump in with India's $100 tablet effort.

      Or maybe we need a giant K-12 edu-wiki, which can be drawn from by all teachers and students across the state, and across the country. Oh right, somebody stubbed a toe, so we should just go home until they feel better.

    • by mark72005 (1233572) on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @05:16PM (#33513774)
      http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100822/ap_on_re_us/us_taj_mahal_schools

      LA unveils $578M school, costliest in the nation

      LOS ANGELES &ndash; Next month's opening of the Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools will be auspicious for a reason other than its both storied and infamous history as the former Ambassador Hotel, where the Democratic presidential contender was assassinated in 1968.

      With an eye-popping price tag of $578 million, it will mark the inauguration of the nation's most expensive public school ever.

      The K-12 complex to house 4,200 students has raised eyebrows across the country as the creme de la creme of "Taj Mahal" schools, $100 million-plus campuses boasting both architectural panache and deluxe amenities.
    • by nosilA (8112) on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @05:23PM (#33513886)

      If it is, in fact, more effective at teaching students, it could potentially lead to larger class sizes, which could easily pay for the device. I am skeptical that it will be effective, but it could be - that's why they do pilot programs. I'm sure they will quickly begin to use it for other courses, too. I can see it being particularly useful for foreign languages (where being able to hear the text is important). I think the interactive textbook idea can also be really useful in science (especially at the early levels of biology, chemistry, and physics, where animations are so useful), geography (being able to pinch and zoom thousands of old maps, and being able to play games to reinforce learning), civics (being able to actually pull up the essential documents immediately). In fact, it's hard for me to think of a class that couldn't benefit from an iPad.

      I think this will really turn out to be best for the students who want to move faster than the class and/or learn the material more thoroughly than required. For those students, this could help counter-balance the modern trend to dumb down the curriculum to produce high standardized test scores, rather than deeply examining the subject and teaching students to appreciate learning and thought. For most students, though, I expect this to be an overpriced toy with little educational value.

  • by Dyinobal (1427207) on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @04:59PM (#33513484)
    I hope those Ipads were free from apple, because last I checked there was some sort of budget issue over in California.
  • by GodfatherofSoul (174979) on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @05:00PM (#33513508)

    I've seen Android devices for a fraction of the price. When you consider how much text books are going for nowadays, the thought that a student or school can rent textbook access could be a major game changer. I had semesters in college where textbooks alone were $300+ and that was 15 years ago.

  • Khan Academy. (Score:5, Informative)

    by 0100010001010011 (652467) on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @05:05PM (#33513594)

    http://www.khanacademy.org/ [khanacademy.org] really does kick ass. I'm using some of his 5-10 minute videos to supplement my graduate level Linear Algebra stuff. Most of it's straight to the point and if I need clarification on a subject I don't have to turn to the book.

    Now how this saves money. I won't know. Then again text books aren't cheap. What ever happened to the OpenSource textbook that I thought CA was assembling to be 'free'?

    • by 0100010001010011 (652467) on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @05:18PM (#33513804)

      It just occurred to me they're probably not going to just replace the text books. Probably looking at replacing the Math teachers too.

      Why pay someone with experience or an education when you can get a babysitter for minimum wage and force all the kids to watch Khan Academy on their iPads?

    • by VTI9600 (1143169) on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @05:39PM (#33514056)

      The key word here is "supplement". I can't count the number of times I've been frustrated by being made to watch a video after Googling around for a tutorial on something or a solution to some technical problem. Reading is simply faster and more efficient than watching videos (unless of course you're dyslexic), yet, "instant access to more than 400 videos" is the major selling point of this program.

      I could maybe see the value of providing iPads to kids with learning disabilities...that is, if such a program weren't so obviously prone to abuse (kids pretending to be disabled) and the whole "me too" mentality. Reading used to be fundamental...Why is this no longer the case?

  • by Sonny Yatsen (603655) * on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @05:08PM (#33513652) Journal

    Maybe I'm just a Luddite, but half the appeal of learning from a book (especially for a subject like math) was the ability to quickly flip between half a dozen pages to get to the right charts, reference sheets, and examples, and being able to scribble my illegible notes in the margins. I guess you could do it with an iPad with bookmarks and annotations, but I can't imagine it being anywhere near as natural or as easy as you can with a regular old textbook.

    • by AndrewNeo (979708) on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @05:22PM (#33513858) Homepage

      I don't know about in California, but when I was in 8th grade I would sure as hell have gotten in a lot of trouble for writing in my books.

    • by FunPika (1551249) on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @05:26PM (#33513918) Journal
      I agree with that...my teachers offer online versions of our textbooks as an alternative for doing homework for people who don't want to carry their books home...but I HATE using the online versions. It feels so much harder to get to the page I'm looking for (especially if it comes to an assignment where you will want to frequently swap between the actual section your studying and things like the glossary/index at the back of the book). Of course assuming the IPad books are stored on the IPad itself and not just being downloaded everytime it is used...it might not be as bad. Sometimes the online textbook sites were also being slow as heck to load pages for me.
    • by Zerth (26112) on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @05:28PM (#33513934)

      Maybe I'm just a Luddite, but half the appeal of learning from a book (especially for a subject like math) was the ability to quickly flip between half a dozen pages to get to the right charts, reference sheets, and examples, and being able to scribble my illegible notes in the margins. I guess you could do it with an iPad with bookmarks and annotations, but I can't imagine it being anywhere near as natural or as easy as you can with a regular old textbook.

      I'd rather have an electronic book with a notebook feature that lets you clip out sections and arrange them right next to each other so you don't have to flip at all. Plus a clickable index, "jump to page X", bookmarks, and searching.

      That'd beat the hell out of dog ears and page flipping.

    • by Hatta (162192) on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @05:50PM (#33514208) Journal

      quickly flip between half a dozen pages to get to the right charts, reference sheets, and examples

      eBooks are searchable.

      being able to scribble my illegible notes in the margins.

      Good god no! Writing in books is evil.

  • First Line (Score:4, Interesting)

    by VTI9600 (1143169) on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @05:12PM (#33513698)

    The first line FTFA was what got me:

    A pilot project in four California school districts will replace 400 students' eighth-grade algebra textbooks with Apple iPads in an attempt to prove the advantages of interactive digital technologies over traditional teaching methods.

    Didn't we prove that computers have educational value back in the 80's? Then, wasn't it proved a hundred more times throughout the 90's? I guess sometimes you can never have quite enough proof.

  • by geekoid (135745) <dadinportlandNO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @05:15PM (#33513758) Homepage Journal

    online. Anyone with any reasonable device should be able to access it.

    • by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @05:20PM (#33513836)
      +1 insightful

      Seriously, why limit the students to iPads? When did the school system suddenly become a venue for creating lock-in where it doesn't need to exist? And with all the DRM on iPads, I really do not want to see textbooks on that platform -- textbook publishers pull all sorts of evil tactics already, why give them even more options for trampling on students?
  • by fermion (181285) on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @05:20PM (#33513834) Homepage Journal
    Textbook expenses are obnoxious. Not only does one have the cost of the book, but one must pay for storage to hold the books. At the central facility one must pay for people to manage the books. Check in and check out of text books is generally a multiday process that take an administrator, so just in pay we are talking at a couple thousand dollars per year per school. Books get lost and there is really no way to get kids to pay for books anymore. It is voluntary. You see this in the school library. Many kids only check out one book a year, the book that their english teacher makes them check our at the beginning of the year, which they promptly lose.

    There are an increasing number of open source textbooks that are quite suitable for the classroom. Most of the classics taught in school can be downloaded for free or very cheap. Many libraries have electronic books, which reduces the loss at the library.

    Why an iPad instead of a Kindle? The iPad has tools the kids can use. For instance, some schools use individual white board for in class assessment. The iPad will do that. Some schools give out calculators, at the cost of thousands of dollars to replace damages and lost machines. The iPad will do this, only need calculators maybe for testing and practice for testing. I would love to see the 9th grade kids play Gravity HD, or use Osmosis for end of the year. There is even a circuit simulator that can be used in any number of classes.

    Of course the kids will lose them, break them, and sell them. But we have to not be so afraid of new things that we are held hostage by the old. Ideally, kids would be asked to buy the iPads through fund raising activities so they have some interest. Make them available to everyone, but not everyone has to have one. It is like other supplies. Lose it, then have to do things by hand.

  • by Coopjust (872796) on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @05:27PM (#33513926)
    I could buy an iPad with the money I have but I'll take a regular textbook any day, namely because they can't take the book away from you.

    Additionally, the hardware is more of a novelty than anything else at this point- too expensive, too fragile (especially for middle schoolers), too much of a target for theft, and not advanced enough.

    The textbook companies love this concept, since it kills secondhand ownership. You can sell licenses to eBooks just like software!

    Also, math input without a stylus or keyboard (and I doubt they're teaching LaTeX for any sort of efficient math input) can't be fun.
  • The Oops Factor (Score:4, Insightful)

    by b4upoo (166390) on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @05:29PM (#33513946)

    And who will pay for the lost, drowned or bashed Ipads? Eighth grade kids are rougher than boot camp at Paris Island!

    • by neurocutie (677249) on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @06:02PM (#33514376)

      you means "Oops, I lost it (i.e. I sold it for $400), please give me another..."

      in these discussions, people are assuming that the digital textbooks are FREE, kinda like assuming that digital music (e.g. MP3) is free and that all the costs are in the CD media (in the book format itself)... WRONG...

      all you're doing is trading $10 worth of a pretty rugged yet not very steal/lost-susceptible format with a 5+ year life (a book) for a $400, fragile, VERY steal/lost prone format (ipad) with an at-best 2 year life... the costs of the content is going to be similar.

  • by Ukab the Great (87152) on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @05:33PM (#33513980)

    For the ADD/ASD kids in class who

    could not write down notes fast enough because their fine motor coordination was shot to hell and the idiot teacher didn't understand that their 8 x 11 piece of paper wasn't as wide as a 16ft whiteboard

    couldn't follow said teacher half the time because the kids whispering behind them drowned out the teacher's loud voice

    who were denied the copious examples they needed to understand how stuff worked due to the easy-odd-problems-with-answers-hard-even-problems-no-answers BS that math textbook authors kept pulling

    who could have just understood matrix math if they could have seen an interactive demonstration where the matrixes rotated and the numbers one-by-one multiplied themselves by each other

    the digital replacement of math textbooks with interactive instruction that can be replayed over and over again in a quiet area and can on-the-fly create copious needed examples is long overdue.

If you had better tools, you could more effectively demonstrate your total incompetence.

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