COMMUNITY VOICES | What could be better than iPads for all St. Paul students?

An iPad for just about every student and every teacher? What could be better than that?

It seems the SPPS district leadership has bought into the above line of reasoning in a big way. If funding the devices isn't an issue, I'm all for putting more technology into the hands of students and educators. The main problem, as I see it, is what about all the other "stuff"? There are tens of thousands of actual computers in the district. Every student and teacher at SPPS uses a physical computer (students especially use multiple computers). Teachers are used to using their computers (mainly laptops but some have just a desktop or a desktop in addition to a laptop). SPPS has never actually implemented a lifecycle for their technology services (formerly known as information technology) devices (mainly desktops and laptops). The question is, does purchasing millions of dollars in iPads bring the district any closer to getting a lifecycle in place for IT assets after their useful life ends (which should be no more than five years)? This year I personally reinstalled the operating system on a Dell laptop that was purchased in 2005 and my guess is the teacher who uses that laptop will not be getting a new computer in the coming school year. At least the district will now buy the teacher an iPad (the teacher was using her personal iPad for taking attendance). In addition to computers, the district has hundreds of printers that are, literally, 15+ years old that should probably be replaced. It gets pretty expensive to have the printer repair company always come out to repair those printers to keep them running. I'm not quite sure how the district always finds the money to repair old printers but can never buy new printers? In addition to computers and printers most classroom teachers constantly have their computer screens showing through their LCD projectors, and many of those devices are well over five years old as well.

Getting an iPad to students and educators isn't necessarily a bad idea. I just hope the district can find a way to also update the other IT devices that students and teachers depend upon every minute of every school day. I hope the district can finally come up with a refresh plan that respects the idea of a lifecycle-that nothing-including computers-lasts forever. I don't think that teachers will be very happy when their computers die and the only replacement they get is a machine where it can easily take ten minutes to type a short email.

Jeffrey Couillard is an SPPS employee.

Related stories:

  • Update Fall 2014: The teacher I mentioned in the article who was using a nine year old Dell laptop should have received a new laptop. The district has, fortunately, also given MacBook Pro Retina laptops to teachers whose computers were four years old or older. The one big technical problem: the new Apple laptops are wireless only devices, unless you buy an expensive adapter from Apple. - by Jeff Couillard on Sat, 11/15/2014 - 10:34am

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Jeff Couillard's picture
Jeff Couillard