School District Will Lease 2,000 Apple Laptops
On a 5-3 vote, district will begin leasing Macbook laptops for 2012-13 school year
With a vote of 5 to 3 (one board member was not present), the Southern Lehigh School District passed a motion Tuesday to accept a lease that will increase the district's current fleet of Macs to 2,000 computers, as well as replace older existing Macs.
(See school board vote and quotes from last night's meeting here)
The decision was delayed from the March 12 meeting, where a presentation on leasing Apple products led board members to question whether the proprietary hardware and software was the most cost-effective option for the school. "For students, we are teaching computer skills that they are perfectly capable of learning on a PC," said board member John Quigley at the March meeting.
Several teachers spoke Tuesday on behalf of integrated technology. "All the access to technology has been integrated into our lesson plans effectively," said math teacher Ryan Haupt. "With the access to technology all the time, my 40- minute lesson can be accomplished. I can have videos ready for my students to review areas they may be struggling later if necessary."
Quigley pointed out that though the teachers spoke in favor of technology in the classroom, none made a case as to why the district needs to invest in Apple products.
"[The teachers] talked about using Excel. The presentation given [by technology coordinator Ken Jordan] was a PowerPoint presentation," said Quigley. "None of those programs are Mac specific."
Ultimately, the vote came town to cost. "Over the next five years, going to a 1:1 ratio with the Apple lease, we will save between $800,00 to $1 million," said business director Jeremy Melber.
Just because the school approved a 1:1 ratio for students doesn't mean that students should invest in laptop-friendly backpacks just yet.
"We are not proposing that students take laptops home," said board president Dr. Thomas McLoughlin.
Whether at home or in school, several audience members voiced their opposition to constant technology access. "Teachers are our best tools in the classrooms, not the computers," said Kathie Parsons, who wrote an open letter to the school board on the subject. Some board members agreed. "I don’t want to walk into a classroom five years from now and see a bunch of students staring dead into their computer while the teacher sits at the front," said board member Bill Lycett.
Superintendent Leah Christman pointed out that if the technology is integrated, a quiet classroom can be deceiving. "If you're teaching in a very traditional college teaching environment, and the students are on [laptops and other devices], there are studies that show the tech can be distracting. We have worked very hard to make sure that the technology is integrated into the learning environment."
And, Christman said, technology is an integral part of students' lives.
"These students are digital learners, they are not growing up in the world we grew up in."