Archive for August, 2013

How do we pick K-12 Coding & CS Resources: Role of Research

I recommend reading over the list linked below.  What’s fascinating to me is how the experts are making their arguments.

Consider this comment: “Probably the Berkeley class is getting most traction.”  That sounds like the recommendation is to try the Berkeley class because it’s polling well.  The words “evaluation” and “data” don’t appear anywhere in the recommendations.

The experts are probably giving the superintendent good advice, in that they are arguing in terms that the superintendent (and presumably, his stakeholders and constituents).  The issue about “getting traction” reminds me of the old saying, “Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM.”  Buying the popular and well-respected thing is a reasonable thing to do when you don’t understand all the issues.  These aren’t the arguments that education researcher would use in making the same recommendations, but that’s why you don’t have researchers running big city schools — what we do informs the decisions, but the actual decisions involve bigger and more complex decisions.

A big city superintendent called last week and asked for recommendations for K-12 resources for teaching coding and computer science so we reached out to some folks in the know. Here’s a summary of what we learned:

via Experts Weigh in on K-12 Coding & CS Resources – Vander Ark on Innovation – Education Week.

August 13, 2013 at 1:26 am 4 comments

NCAA now will count CS towards eligibility

The NCAA has now revised their eligibility criteria, in favor of computer science: http://fs.ncaa.org/Docs/eligibility_center/CoreCourseInfo/Common_Core_Course_Questions/engage.html.  The NCAA does an audit of an athlete’s high school classes, to decide if they really did complete a high school degree (e.g., rather than four years of gym all day every day).  Computer science did not used to count.  Under the new criteria, computer science can count if the state recognizes it as counting.  This is a win, and as I understand it, this is due to the efforts of Hadi Partovi and Code.org.

August 12, 2013 at 1:58 am 1 comment

Reforming higher education via improvements (choose one): in learning or in economics

I’m interested in the discussions about corporate involvement in higher education, but am still trying to understand all the issues (e.g., who has a bigger stake and greater responsibility for higher education, industry or government).  The point made below is one that I have definite opinions about.   If we’re trying to improve higher education, why not try to make it more effective rather than just lower cost?  I disagree with the below that we have to have 16:1 student:teacher ratios to have effective learning. We can increase those student numbers, with good pedagogy, to still get good learning — if we really do focus on good learning.  Why is all the focus on getting rid of the faculty?  Reducing the labor costs by simply removing the labor is unlikely to produce a good product.

There is a lot wrong in this apples to oranges com­par­i­son, but the point is obvious—cutting labor costs is the path to “edu­ca­tion reform,” not research and improved ped­a­gogy. This is “reform” we need to reject when applied to pub­lic edu­ca­tion. I say this with­out reser­va­tion: when it comes to edu­ca­tion, you pay for what is most effec­tive. Period. If small class sizes pro­duce bet­ter teach­ing and learn­ing, then that’s what you sup­port when appro­pri­ate. What­ever your approach, stop con­flat­ing eco­nomic restruc­tur­ing and edu­ca­tion reform; it’s dishonest.

via Citizen Gates | Sad Iron.

August 12, 2013 at 1:54 am Leave a comment

Google pilots CS Fellows program in Berkeley County, South Carolina

I got to meet Cameron Fadjo at the CSTA Conference in July.  He’s really excited about the project, with lots of energy.  Google says that, if successful, they plan to move it into other areas of the country later.

Six of the fellows are recent STEM graduates. Google is heavily involved with STEM and has a number of national initiatives, including programs in Berkeley County and the surrounding areas.

In addition there are two education researchers: Project Lead Cameron Fadjo and Project Manager Kate Berrio.

“We have fellows from all around the region,” Fadjo said. “The next couple of weeks is introducing them to new things, training them to teach computer science and computer science pedagogy.”

“We envision these folks will be the next leaders in this area,” Berrio said. “We’re adding a leadership element to it. We want to make sure they are well-rounded when they go out into the world.”

via Google pilots teaching program in Berkeley County | Berkeley Independent.

August 9, 2013 at 1:27 am 2 comments

A 10 year retrospective on research on Media Computation: ICER 2013 preview

I get to teach our Media Computation in Python course, on Georgia Tech’s campus, in Spring 2014.  I’ve had the opportunity to teach it on study abroad, and that was wonderful. I have not had the opportunity to teach it on-campus since 2007.  Being gone from a course for seven years, especially a big one with an army of undergraduate TA’s behind it, is a long time. The undergraduate TA’s create all the assignments and the exams, in all of the introductory courses in the College of Computing.  Bill Leahy, who is teaching it this summer semester, kindly invited me to meet with the TA’s in order to give me a sense for how the course works now.

It’s a very different course than the one that I used to teach.

  • I mentioned the collage assignment, which was one of the most successful assignments in MediaComp (and shows up even today in AP CS implementations and MATLAB implementations).  Not a single TA knew what I was talking about.
  • The TA’s complained to me about Piazza.  “Nobody posts” and “I always forget that it’s there” and “It seems to work in CS classes, but not for the  other majors.”  I told them about work that Jennifer Turns and I did in 1999 that showed why Piazza and newsgroups don’t work as well as integrated computer-supported collaborative learning, and how that work led to our development of Swikis.  Swikis were abandoned many years ago in MediaComp, even before the FERPA concerns.
  • Sound is mostly gone.  Students have to play a sound in one assignment based on turtle graphics.  Students never manipulate samples in a sound anymore.
  • I started to explain why we do what we do in MediaComp: Introducing iteration as set operations, favoring replicated code over abstraction in the first half of the semester, avoiding else.  They thought that those were interesting ideas to consider adding to the course.  I borrowed a copy of the textbook from one of them, and read them part of the preface about Ann Fleury’s work.  Lesson: Just because you put it in the book and provide the citation, doesn’t mean that anybody actually reads it, even the TA’s.

It’s a relevant story because I’m presenting a paper at ICER 2013 on Monday 12 August that is a 10 year retrospective on the research on Media Computation.  (I’m making a preview version of the paper available here, which I’ll take down when the ACM DL opens up the ICER 2013 papers.) It was 10 years ago that we posted our working document on creating MediaComp and our 2002 and 2003 published design papers, all of which are still available. We made explicit hypotheses about what we thought Media Computation would do.  The ICER 2013 paper is a progress report.  How’d we do?  What don’t we know?  In hindsight, some seem foolish.

  • The Plagiarism Hypothesis:  We thought that the creative focus of MediaComp would reduce plagiarism.  We haven’t done an explicit study, but if we found a difference with statistical significance, it would be meaningless.  Ten years later, still lots of academic misconduct.
  • The Retention Hypothesis: Perhaps our biggest win — students are retained better in MediaComp than traditional classes, across multiple institutions.  The big follow-up question: Why?  Exploring that question has involved the work of multiple PhD students over the last decade, helping us understand contextualized-computing education.
  • The Gender Hypothesis: We designed MediaComp based on recommendations from people like Jane Margolis and Joanne Cohoon on how to make an introductory CS course that would be successful with women.  Our evidence suggests that it worked, but we don’t actually know much about men in the class.
  • The Learning Hypothesis:  We hoped that students would learn as much in MediaComp as in our traditional CS1 class.  Answering that question led to Allison Elliott Tew’s excellent work on FCS1.  The bottom line, though, is that we still don’t know.
  • The More-Computing Hypothesis: We thought that non-CS majors taking MediaComp would become enlightened and take more CS classes.  No, that didn’t really happen, and Mike Hewner’s work helped us understand why not.

There are two meta-level points that I try to make in this paper.

  • The first is: Why did we think that curriculum could do all of this, anyway?  Curriculum can only have so much effect.  There are lots of other variables in student learning, and curriculum only touches some of those.
  • The second is: How did we move from Marco Polo to theory-building?  Most papers at SIGCSE have been classified as Marco Polo (“We went here, and we saw that.”)  MediaComp’s early papers were pretty much that — with the addition of explicit hypotheses about where we thought we’d go.  It’s been those explicit hypotheses that have driven much of the last 10 years of work.  Understanding those hypotheses, and the results that we found in pursuit of those hypotheses, have led us to develop theory and to support a broader understanding of how students learn computing.

Lots of things change over 10 years, and not always in positive directions. Good lessons and practices of the past get forgotten.  Sometimes change is good and comes from lessons learned that are well worth articulating and making explicit.  And sometimes, we got it plain wrong in the past — there are ideas that are worth discarding.  It’s worth reflecting back occasionally and figuring out how we got to where we are.

August 9, 2013 at 1:22 am 13 comments

The ACM ‘paywall,’ computing education research, and open access

I reference research papers regularly in this blog, often in the ACM Digital Library. I’ve been receiving more complaints lately when I reference papers “behind a paywall.” After I linked to the article that Leo Porter, Beth Simon, Charlie McDowell, and I wrote about successful practices in CS1, someone tweeted that we were “whores” by allowing our paper to be sold by ACM. As Greg Wilson said to me, the support for open access in our community is “vehement.” Now, there is a petition demanding that the ACM open up the Digital Library, free of charge.

I’m a computing education researcher in the ACM SIGCSE community. “Open access” is much more complicated in my community. The arguments for opening access are more subtle in under-funded and even non-funded education community.  The British Academy has just released a set of papers (July 2013) on the challenges of fitting social science and humanities research into open access models.  They argue that we need a ‘mixed economy’ because there are different expectations and funding models for research in different disciplines.  Open access is different for computing education research than other areas of computer science because it is a social science.

Why Education is more complicated for Open Access

The case for open access is made in the first sentence of the petition:

Computer science research is largely funded by the public, for the public good.

There are two cases to consider: the research that is funded by the public, and the research that is not. Let’s start with the research that is not funded publicly, because that’s a big part of what makes education unusual.

Many (maybe most) of the papers published at the SIGCSE Symposium and the ICER Conference are not supported by public funds. Go through the SIGCSE papers and note which reference public funding and which don’t — it’s a pretty high percentage that don’t. ICER was created explicitly because there were groups of faculty, without public funding, who were collaborating and doing experiments in their classes and then pooling the data. They needed someplace to publish. Those faculty were paid to teach, and they had heavy teaching loads. They did the research on their own time, because they valued doing it. I don’t see how the public can lay claim to their work.

Some of the work at SIGCSE is publicly funded, but maybe at lower levels compared to funding from Department of Defense, National Institutes of Health, or Department of Energy. My research is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). How much we are funded is limited by NSF rules and by institute rules. For example, graduate student research assistants can only be paid for up to 20 hours of work (and only 15 before passing qualifying examinations, in my school). Few PhD students complete his or her research work in only 20 hours a week. Let’s say it’s 60 hours per week. Are we really arguing that all of that student’s work is “funded by the public” when that is true for only 1/3 of the hours? Should the public be able to lay claim to all of the student’s work because of those 20 hours per week? If anyone does work outside of what they’re paid for, isn’t that their work?

The issues are actually much the same for faculty, though we get paid much better. Faculty at my school are funded for 9 months by the state of Georgia, and I do federal NSF-funded work for an additional two months per year.  For the last two years of “Georgia Computes!” I could only charge two weeks (specifically, 80 hours) of my time to that project per year. ECEP is a five year project on which I can only charge 160 hours per year. I spend 150 hours per year just on the management meetings for ECEP. I’ve already spent more than 40 hours on the road, doing the work of ECEP in Maryland, South Carolina, and at the CSTA Conference. All of that is before the work of evaluating data and writing papers. I am pretty sure that the state of Georgia does not see itself funding my work with these other states. Simply put: The federal government does not fund everything I do. If they don’t fund everything I do, I don’t believe that they can lay claim to it.

When I shared this story with my colleague, Beki Grinter, she pointed out that the case is similarly murky for corporate-funded work. Microsoft paid for the robotics CS1 work here at Georgia Tech and Bryn Mawr. Can the public lay claim to that work, too? That work is in the ACM Digital Library. By what right is that work made freely available?

All authors want their work to be distributed widely, to have impact. I usually provide copies of my papers when asked, and I use the ACM DL Authorizer service to provide free access to my papers. It’s up to other authors to decide if they are willing to do the same. Yes, opening up the DL would allow the papers to be distributed even more widely. But is that sustainable? What about the funds that are lost? I am willing to forego that breadth of access in favor of the good of closed access. That’s the deal that all the ACM authors made when they assign ACM copyright. The open access movement aims to change the agreement, after the fact.

Education research and the developed world

The petition I mentioned earlier focuses on the public funding for the public good. Another argument for open access that I’ve heard (and thanks to my college, Ellen Zegura, for helping me understand this) is to serve people the developing world — people who don’t have access to the resources of the developed world, and for whom ACM Digital Library access is prohibitively expensive.

Education research is different than most CS research because it’s a social science.  Are the papers published in the SIGCSE Symposium and the ICER conference directly useful to the developing world?

“Transferring education from the United States to Africa wouldn’t work,” argued Bakary Diallo, rector of African Virtual University. “Because we have our own realities,” he added, “our own context and culture.”

  • Writing humanities and social science research is a dialogue with an audience (as described in this piece in The Guardian).  It’s not merely a process of reporting findings.  If you are writing for a developed world audience, you are explicitly not speaking to a developing world audience.  If you want to write for a developing world audience, you should learn to write for that audience.

I have not worked in the developing world, so I can’t speak to the issues of bridging the gap between the developing and developed worlds.  But most education researchers have faced these issues of differing cultures and audiences.  I have talked about Media Computation in several countries.  When the places I visited were like my culture and audience, it worked pretty well — MediaComp is being adopted successfully in Australia, for example.  When the places I visited were not like my culture, I realized that I was solving completely the wrong problems for them and what I was saying was useless.  When I spoke to teachers in China and Mexico and Qatar, I realized that I needed to listen before I could say anything worthwhile to them.

The problem of transferring education research isn’t just a problem of the gap between the developed and developing world.  In ECEP, we are realizing that even curricula, outreach programs, and policy approaches don’t transfer between states — even neighboring states!  I work in Georgia, South Carolina, Massachusetts, and California now.  The values and concerns are very different even between Georgia and South Carolina, and we’re really struggling to figure out what our summer camp model means in Massachusetts and California.

There’s a perspective that says that this view is “patronizing,” and continuing an “us/them” perspective. I believe in tailoring for different audiences, but that doesn’t imply superiority of one audience over another audience.  The key idea in my work is that one size does not fit all for computing education. In our CS classes, we often make the mistake of assuming that what works for some percentage of our class is good enough for everyone, and if some don’t succeed with that approach, it’s their fault. There is evidence to believe that different students succeed best at different approaches, e.g., that there are aptitude-treatment interactions,. Cognitive science has told us for decades that students’ prior background influences how and what they learn. Our Media Computation approach improved the success rates of liberal arts students at Georgia Tech, from a less than 50% success rate to an 85% success rate.   I don’t believe that my liberal arts students are superior to my CS students, or vice-versa, but I do believe that each group has different goals and succeeds best with different approaches.  I’m concerned that pushing for open access is making the same mistake that we keep making in CS — if it works for us, it’s good enough for them, so just give it to them and let them figure it out.  (Kind of like MOOCs.)

Any responsibility that the developed world has to share research with the developing world is not met by simply sending them our papers.  If we want to share our research findings, we have to learn their educational problems and their educational goals and values.  We would have to learn to communicate about their issues.

Where does the money go

I have to admit a bias here: I consider myself part of the ACM community. I value being part of that community, being an editor and reviewer and author, and that funds from those efforts goes to sustain the community. Language matters — ‘paywall’ sounds permanent, as a “wall” is. It’s really more like a ‘tollgate,’ where the tolls support the community.

The ACM does good with the funding it receives, from my perspective in education. The funds generated by the DL go back to support the authors’ research communities

  • A portion of all fees generated from SIGCSE publications goes back to the SIGCSE Board. I have served on that Board for the last three years. The funds are used for travel grants to new faculty to get them to the SIGCSE Symposium, for special projects funding to produce new curricular materials for the community, and to provide for a rainy-day fund in case conferences don’t break-even. If the DL funding wasn’t there, the conferences would probably have to raise their rates, to reduce the risk of ending up with a deficit.
  • ACM itself funds efforts like the ACM Education Board and Education Council. These organizations fund the development of curriculum standards. By “fund,” I mean pay for travel, food, and lodging. The participants volunteer hundreds of hours of their own time for a really important purpose. These curricular standards are particularly important in the developing world, to serve as a guide for what a CS degree is supposed to be.

Of course, part of the fee goes to maintaining the DL, and that’s not insignificant. I hope the DL will continue. That costs money. A fee-based system is sustainable.

The ACM is not a nameless corporate entity. It’s a volunteer-driven, membership community. The DL is not a bank that is covetously hoarding intellectual wealth. It’s a source of knowledge for computing professionals, and a source of funding for the good work of ACM.  If we want to make our research findings useful elsewhere, we should actively do that by understanding those cultures and audiences. We cannot expect that creating open access will necessarily fix educational problems elsewhere, but demanding open access may cost our community a lot.

(Thanks to Ian Bogost, Briana Morrison, and Leo Porter for advice on an earlier draft of this post.)

August 8, 2013 at 1:59 am 22 comments

What’s it like to be an IT professional volunteering with TEALS

I wrote a blog post recently, where I suggested that we in computing need to be careful that TEALS doesn’t end up diminishing demand for high school CS teachers.  Kevin Wang, who runs TEALS, contacted me after that post and we had a useful phone conversation.

Kevin sees TEALS as primarily a professional development activity.  TEALS provides IT professionals to teach computer science courses and to be a teacher-asssistant in these courses. TEALS goes into a school only if the school signs a contract with TEALS that (a) there is a teacher assigned to teaching computer science in that school, who will undertake professional development during the time that the course is being taught and (b) that teacher will take over the course after the engagement with TEALS ends. The professional development is really just the student sitting in on the class with the students — no pedagogical development, no teaching methods, no community with other teachers.  For most schools, it’s a many-volunteer to one-school ratio —  a couple of teachers, and some teaching assistants. TEALS is now experimenting with volunteers who provide the teaching via video at distance.

They don’t have a lot of data yet. TEALS doesn’t know yet how well the teachers learn, sitting in on the class alongside the students. They don’t know how yet how well the teachers like doing professional development like this — I wonder if teachers find it demeaning to their professionalism, to sit taking the class alongside the students, rather than in groups of their peers. TEALS doesn’t know yet much about how well the schools succeed teaching computer science after the professionals leave. They don’t know if students are learning overall (they have great results in some classes), or about how the students are doing with IT professionals who have little preparation for teaching, or if the TEALS classes are better or worse than others at engaging women and under-represented minorities.

The quote below is from a blog post that I highly recommend reading. It’s by one of the TEALS volunteers and his experience in teaching AP CS.  The author, Dan Kasun, was a teaching assistant to an existing AP CS teacher.  I don’t know how common that model is.

TEALS sounds like it’s trying to make computer science succeed for the long haul.  Computing education reform can’t be about the students — or rather, it can’t be about the students here and now. It has to be about the long term. Yes, by providing a set of IT professionals to a school, one can help a class of 35 students to do remarkably well in AP CS. But if you develop a full-time CS teacher to be in multiple classes, and to improve over years, and to stay in that school for a decade or more (or even the five years that only half of STEM teachers last), you get to far more than 30 kids.

I want computer science to be in schools, long after TEALS runs out of volunteers.  I believe that Kevin Wang wants that, too.  I don’t know if TEALS is helping yet, but am interested to see what we learn from it.

I had the opportunity to support one of the local Loudoun County High Schools this year by volunteering to assist in AP Computer Science as part of the TEALS program (www.tealsk12.org).  TEALS provides volunteers who can teach an entire computer science class for schools that do not have access to trained educators, and also provides teacher assistants (TAs) for schools that already have teachers, but would like additional support in their programs.  Loudoun already had teachers, so I volunteered as a TA (which was fortunate, as my schedule wouldn’t have supported the responsibility of the full class).

via My time in the High School Computer Science – Dan Kasun – Techonomics and Government – Site Home – MSDN Blogs.

August 7, 2013 at 1:03 am 2 comments

More evidence for Aptitude-Treatment Interactions

The same kind of educational opportunity does not work for all students. In particular, constructionism may not provide enough structure for low achieving students. (See previous discussion about boredom vs. failure.)

Moreover, the researchers found different approaches effective for different types of students: “Usually people say, ‘Yes, autonomy is beneficial. We want to provide students with choices in school,’ This is the case for high achievers, but not low achievers,” Wang said. “Low achievers want more structure, more guidelines.”

via ‘Active’ Student Engagement Goes Beyond Class Behavior, Study Finds – Inside School Research – Education Week.

August 6, 2013 at 1:36 am 1 comment

Media Computation Collages in AP CS

Nice to see AP CS teachers picking up Media Computation, and hope to see more of that when Barbara’s Picture Lab starts rolling out.  Myra Deister also sent me links to her AP CS students’ use of MediaComp.

We worked through several activities, focusing on filters and transformations. The students enjoyed seeing that they could write programs that performed some of the same features as Photoshop. The unit concluded with a collage project in which students combined several of their filters and transformations into a final and unique image.

I was extremely pleased to see that one of the new AP Computer Science labs, Picture Lab, was developed by Barbara Ericson and is based on her book. I think this new lab will bring an authentic and engaging series of activities to a wider audience.

via Media Computation Collages | Pedagogue Padawan.

August 5, 2013 at 1:52 am Leave a comment

Success in Introductory Programming: What Works?

Leo Porter, Charlie McDowell, Beth Simon, and I collaborated on a paper on how to make introductory programming work, now available in CACM. It’s a shorter, more accessible version of Leo and Beth’s best-paper-award winning SIGCSE 2013 paper, with history and kibitzing from Charlie and me :

Many Communications readers have been in faculty meetings where we have reviewed and bemoaned statistics about how bad attrition is in our introductory programming courses for computer science majors (CS1). Failure rates of 30%–50% are not uncommon worldwide. There are usually as many suggestions for how to improve the course as there are faculty in the meeting. But do we know anything that really works?

We do, and we have research evidence to back it up. Pair programming, peer instruction, and media computation are three approaches to reforming CS1 that have shown positive, measurable impacts. Each of them is successful separately at improving retention or helping students learn, and combined, they have a dramatic effect.

via Success in Introductory Programming: What Works? | August 2013 | Communications of the ACM.

August 5, 2013 at 1:40 am 16 comments

Hadi Partovi teaches Ryan Secrest to code on the Today Show

This is pretty high visibility.  (Here’s the link if the embed below doesn’t work: http://www.today.com/id/26184891/vp/52630136#52630136.)

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

August 2, 2013 at 1:59 am Leave a comment

She++: The Documentary and The Audience

I was sent links to the She++ documentary by several people.  It’s a nicely done documentary on the issues of women in undergraduate computing at Stanford.

The Twitter account for She++ posted the video link with the comment, “Show this to your daughters!”  Others in social media are suggesting that this should be seen by all girls to encourage them in CS.  This is a great video for describing the students’ experience.  I’m not sure it works as a recruiting tool.

In some of our GaComputes work, we found that female workshop leaders were more likely to warn the girls in their computing workshops, “Now, I know that this is hard, but you’ll be able to do something cool here.”  The male leaders were more likely to just say, “This is so cool!”  The female leaders tended to get declines in interest in computing — girls left the workshop saying more often, “Computing is hard” and “Girls can’t do computing.”  The male leaders tended to get positive improvement in attitudes.  Notice that the male leaders didn’t say it was easy.  They didn’t lie.  They just emphasized the benefit.

This video feels honest and heartfelt.  The women interviewed say things like, “It was really difficult” and “I didn’t feel I fit in.”  And when they speak to the camera, they say, “Girls, it will be hard at first, but it will get better.”  I believe that the speakers are being honest, but I worry that those descriptions might trigger stereotype threat.  Does telling girls about imposter syndrome make it less likely?  Some pretty amazingly successful people suffer from imposter syndrome.

I recommend that the video be seen by all computer science teachers, especially teachers of undergraduates.  It’s important for teachers to know about the experience of women in their classrooms.  I don’t recommend it for girls that you hope to recruit into computing.

August 2, 2013 at 1:09 am 5 comments

LAUSD has a $543M shortfall, but is spending $500M on iPads?

I believe that technology can improve education, but I’m not sure that we know how to use it well.  I wouldn’t be comfortable making this kind of bet, that the $500M on iPads is a better investment than paying off the $534M shortfall — but I guess that’s why I’m not in charge of half billion dollar bets.  Why do people have such (unproven) faith in technology?  Is this the same as the arguments for the OLPC in the developing world?

Los Angeles, again, is a good example; the same school district that is going to spend a half-billion dollars on iPads has been laying off teachers. To justify those layoffs, the school districts have been citing a $543 million district budget shortfall, yet somehow, those same officials apparently don’t cite that same budget shortfall as a reason to avoid spending $500 million on iPads. Why? Because education technology triumphalists typically portray iPads as long-term cost cutters for school districts.

As the New York Times sums up that argument, these triumphalists believe iPads and attendant iBooks will “save money in the long run by reducing printing and textbook costs.” The enticing idea is that schools may have to invest huge money upfront, but they will supposedly see huge savings in out years.

The trouble is that there is little evidence to suggest that’s true, and plenty of evidence to suggest the opposite is the case.

As respected education consultant Lee Wilson notes in a report breaking down school expenses, “It will cost a school 552% more to implement iPad textbooks than it does to deploy books.” He notes that while “Apple’s messaging is the idea that at $14.99 an iText is significantly less expensive than a $60 textbook,” the fact remains that “when a school buys a $60 textbook today they use it for an average of 5-7 years (while) an Apple iText it costs them $14.99 per student – per year.” As Lee notes, that translates into iBooks that are 34 percent more expensive than their paper counterparts — and that’s on top of the higher-than-the-retail-store price school districts are paying for iPads.

via No, iPads do not make teachers obsolete! – Salon.com.

August 1, 2013 at 1:24 am 8 comments

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