Senate President pro tem of the Georgia State Senate Tommie Williams (R) told reporters this week that he and other state officials were considering a deal with Apple to swap textbook for iPads in George classrooms.
“Last week we met with Apple Computers, and they have a really promising program where they come in and their recommending to middle schools - for $500 per child per year, they will furnish every child with an iPad, wi-fi the system, provide all the books on the system, all the upgrades, all the teacher training - and the results they’re getting from these kids is phenomenal,” Williams said, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Williams suggested such a deal could be a money-saver, and would respond to students’ increased engagement with technology.
“We’re currently spending about $40 million a year on books. And they last about seven years,” he said. “We have books that don’t even have 9/11. This is the way kids are learning, and we need to be willing to move in that direction.”
According to Williams, lawmakers are looking for money in the state’s education budget to fund pilot programs.
It’s not clear how much traction Williams’ vision actually has. Matt Cardoza, Director of Communications for the Georgia Department of Education, told TPM that he had no details on any talks with Apple about iPads.
“We haven’t actually talked with [Williams],” Cardoza said.
Williams did not respond to TPM’s request for comment as of press time.
Maureen Downey, who blogs about education for the Journal-Constitution, expressed some doubts about the economics of the deal described by Williams:
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)
Earlier this month, The New York Times reported on the rising use of iPad in schools, and found that many districts are paying for the devices with federal and other grants, including money from the Race to the Top program.
“I think this could very well be the biggest thing to hit school technology since the overhead projector,” Scott Wolfe, the principal of South Mountain Elementary School in Millburn, N.J., told the Times.
Apple’s website includes a page touting the iPad’s educational uses, and states the device is “poised to change the learning landscape.”
Eric Lach is a reporter for TPM. From 2010 to 2011, he was a news writer in charge of the website’s front page. He has previously written for The Daily, NewYorker.com, GlobalPost and other publications. He can be reached at ericl(at)talkingpointsmemo.com