Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Leading From Behind

Student, to Technology Integration Specialist:  I need some help with this project my teacher assigned.
TIS:  What seems to be the problem?
Student:  I don't know how to do it, and neither does the teacher.
TIS:  Let me just make sure I understand you correctly, your teacher assigned you something they don't know how to do?
Student:  Yes.  It's due tomorrow, and I've got to get it figured out!

I wish this was a rare occurrence, but unfortunately, it isn't.  There are lots of teachers who, for various reasons, have yet to dip a toe into the Technology Integration pool.  Yet, they still assign students to do things with technology tools.

While I give kudos for the effort to integrate technology, I find this situation frustrating.  It is akin to a driver's education instructor who has never driven a car, a wood shop teacher who is afraid of the power tools, or a language arts teacher who still has not learned the difference between they're, their, and there.

You cannot lead where you have not been.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Rotten Apples: iPad Mini Announcement Fails Schools

As excited as everyone else seemed to be about Apple's recent announcement of the iPad Mini, I was bitterly disappointed.  I think Apple missed a real opportunity to make a difference in education while still making tons of money.  They seem to be focused solely on the money part.  

Education didn't come up in the presentation by mistake.  Apple has already made millions from schools from iPads, and they stand to make much, much more.  They have poised themselves to dominate the education market not only with the devices they are famous for, but the textbooks they are trying to revolutionize as well.  If things go according to plan, they will have the number one computers used in schools, the number one tablets used in schools, and the number one textbook market used for schools.  Can you imagine how much money they would make if they had come out with a $199 iPad mini?  Even at the lower price, they would sell so many more of them because schools would be hard pressed NOT to buy them.  

But Apple is no friend to education.  If they were, they would worry less about profit margin and more about availability of quality learning devices for every student in America, not just those who happen to live in areas that can afford them.  That's what the iPad mini was supposed to be.  Like the one laptop per child initiative, it was supposed to level the playing field by giving every student access to a quality learning tool.  Instead, it's just another overpriced tool that may do a lot, but is a much more difficult sell to school boards and parents in districts where money is tight.  Right now, money is tight in every district.  

No, Apple seemed more intent on taking some market away from tablet competitors.  Here again, I think Apple was dumb in their pricing with the iPad mini.  If they made the iPad mini available for under $200, who would buy any other tablet for the same price?  It seems the only competitors would be those who make e-readers that strictly work as readers with a possible web browser.  A @199 iPad mini would kill every other competitor by Christmas.  

If their goal was to help education, price was key.  If their goal was to eliminate other tablets, price was key.  They missed the mark on both counts.  Apple could have done a lot more to help schools with a lower cost iPad mini.  Instead, they stuck to trying to be the richest company in the world.  Too bad…schools need companies that will support their objectives, not pick their pockets.