Saturday, December 13, 2014

Joplin R-8 to spend $103,000 for keyboards for iPads

As an eighth grade writing teacher, I was concerned when I first heard that the Joplin R-8 School District was buying iPads for all eighth graders.

I knew how the C. J. Huff Administration worked and what I was hearing at East Middle School had me fearing the worst. Principal Bud Sexson was already talking about how the laptops we had in our mobile labs were going to be phased out when we received the iPads.

He also talked about how students would no longer need paper and pencil or pen. It was going to be a glorious transition to 21st Century learning.

As you might expect, I was skeptical, As someone who used the laptops on a frequent basis for writing and for research assignments, I liked the idea of students having access to the technology, but as a writing teacher, I had a big problem with the choice the district had made.

"They aren't going to be able to do writing assignments on the iPads," I said. "They don't have keyboards."

"Sure they can," Bud Sexson said and that was the end of the conversation. We were getting the iPads.

I never had the opportunity to use them in the classroom, but eighth grade teachers at East, North, and South, had to begin dealing with them in August 2013, at a cost to the district of approximately $300,000.

If R-8 officials had their way, it would not just be eighth graders who are using the iPads. In their 2012 Race to the Top application, they asked the federal government for $1 million to pay for iPads for sixth and seventh graders, as well.

Thankfully, the application was rejected.

If it had been approved, the Board of Education would be spending at least another $200,000 Tuesday night to cover the problems I growled and grumbled about during the 2012-2013 school year.

As part of the consent agenda, meaning it will not be discussed in open session, but simply approved without comment, the board is slated to okay spending $103,629.95 to buy keyboards for the eighth grade iPads.

When you add in the nearly $100,000 the board is scheduled to approve (also on the consent agenda, of course) to correct the seat colors in the Joplin High School gymnasium, you are talking about $200,000 of spending to correct mistakes made by the C. J. Huff Administration.

According to the documentation in the board meeting packet, "The purchase of iPad keyboards is necessary for students to be able to obtain more functionality out of the iPads and allow for a more diverse use of the device.

"The keyboards, with a built-in cradle, will allow the iPads to function almost like a laptop.

"This way, the iPad is held up and has a keyboard attached to allow for full use of the size of the screen during the device's use (i.e. assessment testing)."

The technology director's name is at the top of the list approving this, but this wasn't his idea you can bet.

The other names signing off on it are Superintendent C. J. Huff and Executive Director of Secondary Education Jason Cravens.

Interestingly enough, a similar situation occurred in the Los Angeles School District, which used construction bonds, of all things, to buy iPads for high school students, but quickly found out after spending $1 billion that keyboards were needed and that more money would have to be spent.

The purchase of the iPads in Los Angeles was done with just one bidder and has led to the resignation of the superintendent and a school board that is likely on its way out.

That is the way things are done in Los Angeles. In Joplin, no one ever owns up to a mistake, it is just corrected at a six-figure price and placed on the consent agenda.
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Anonymous said...

The iPads are such a huge distraction anyway. I spend more time managing behavior than actually teaching. If only there was some way we could give them resource material and it not have games attached to I don't know...a book?

Anonymous said...

Why are there so many of these 'I told you so' posts here?

Between Turner and some of these anonymous commenters, this seems to be almost a daily thing.

Randy said...

I can't speak for anyone else, but my thoughts on this particular issue were made clear in meetings while I was still at the school district and in my writing during that time and since. The district's 1 to 1 initiative was implemented far too quickly, with more thought as to being considered innovative than to how practical some of the decisions were.

Anonymous said...

I like how the criticism has shifted from "Turner is wrong" to "why does Turner have to point out that he is right?"