Friday, May 21, 2010

Klein ISD penny wise and pound foolish.

During Klein ISD's surrogate campaign to pass the bond election two years ago, one of the things that was promised was the replacement of physical textbooks with a laptop computer that would be issued to all high school (and eventually junior high) students district wide. It was to have been implemented on a school by school basis over a couple years. But like most political promises, this one too is impacting face first with fiscal reality. Each of these specially designed ruggedized laptops (which are heavy as hell due to the structural reinforcement) would have cost over $2000 each, and require a $200 yearly insurance premium from each parent. But just like the promise to completely bulldoze KHS and rebuild it from the ground up instead of either upgrading it or converting it to another purpose, this promise is being broken because the district simply does not have the tax revenue coming in to pay for it. Klein ISD has come up with an alternative plan that would supply every high school student with an iPad instead. But there are still several problems with that plan.
First off, it has a 10 inch touch screen and no physical keyboard, so you cannot touch type on it. Secondly, even the most powerful iPads only have 64gb of flash memory.
Third, the current iteration of the iPad OS does not allow multitasking for most applications.
Fourth it is an Apple product which means it costs an arm and a leg for the hardware which is incompatible with everything except Apple hardware and software.
Fifth, there are numerous reports that the WiFi versions have a hardware flaw in which the network adapter cannot reliably connect to WiFi networks due to antenna shielding issues in the case and there is no external antenna connection as a workaround. Apple is attempting to solve the issue with a software update. Presumably by increasing the radio output power and increasing the gain (and thereby lowering the S/N margin) on the receiver, but this is likely to be a lackluster fix at best, causing heating issues and causing the battery to die much quicker and network connectivity to suffer due to the lower S/N ratio of the receiver. This is frankly a crippling design flaw of Apple's vaunted design studio and really needs a hardware redesign to fix.

The most powerful WiFi-only 64 Gb iPad sells for $699, the least powerful 16Gb one sells for $499, with a midrange 32Gb one selling for $599.
Now I'm sure Apple is offering an educational discount but given the hardware costs alone, it can't be a whole lot.

While that is a far cry from the $2000 that they had planned to spend, it is still a buttload of money for what is essentially a crippled netbook. A cursory check of Fry's website under 10" screen size netbooks comes up with several that are under $300, have far more storage (most have 250Gb Hard drives and 1Gb of real memory that is expandable to 2Gb, which is not the case for iPads), will run most PC software as well which is FAR more available than iPad apps. And they all have real (if small) keyboards as well. Oh, and the iPad won't run any of the district's required software either....

So your average low end netbook has more than quadruple the storage of the highest end iPad, has a real keyboard, has expandable memory, and costs less than half what the iPad does.

So explain to me why they are even considering the Apple product again?

And of course there is still that little thing called privacy that they need to sort out....


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Looks like the lies are beginning to surface. One of the real reasons behind the failure of the laptop program is the $200 a year fees. This is not for maintenance but for the political backing of the bond issue, i.e. quid-pro-quo; but.....and a BIG BUT it has backfired. The financial advisors would never release the payback scenario of the bond issue. Had they done that the failure of continued growth would have killed it dead in it's tracks. As it stands we will need a tax rate increase and revenue increase that will place us well above the pre 2005 levels when the Robinhood plan took affect. The tax savings that took place in the 2006 Special Session will soon be wiped out and we are looking at a double increase just to keep the lights on. This administration is playing politics with education and needs to be replaced.......

May 21, 2010 12:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Where did you hear that they were thinking of going to iPads?

May 24, 2010 7:37 PM  
Blogger Rorschach said...

Anon, this was the rumor that was circulating about the Klein Collins Campus as told to me by my oldest daughter who attends there.

May 27, 2010 9:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

(2nd Anon commenter here)

Honestly, I can't see them moving to Apple products. If anything, they may be taking bids. I'm pretty sure that if they take a bid from one company than they are required to take bids from other companies - this is just me talking from textbook experience. We were told that if we even talked to one textbook company representative, then we were obligated to talk to *all* of them.

Apple is very aggressive with marketing their products for education - I was "wined and dined" a few years ago when I started podcasting in my classroom, and it was nothing but a giant sales pitch.

This isn't in defense of KISD technology - I just know how deep KISD is in with the PC (hardware and software) and I don't think they'd for one instant seriously consider Apple's proprietary software.

I know that there are some KISD teachers who use iPods in the classroom, and there might even be a grant writing project for iPads, but this doesn't mean the entire campus (or district) will be using them.

It's all about money, and switching to Apple (even for one school) would not be an effective use of time or money, and I do think that the district realizes it.

(Watch - as soon as I hit submit on this, there will be an e-mail in my mailbox regarding mandatory Apple training for next year. Hah.)

June 01, 2010 5:07 PM  
Blogger Rorschach said...

Anon II, I certainly hope you are correct, but doing the intelligent thing hasn't exactly been the Klein ISD board's modus operandi so far. But hope springs eternal, eh?

Not to bust your chops or anything, but you do realize that the "wining and dining" you mentioned could be considered an illegal inducement right?

June 01, 2010 6:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I used quotation marks not for emphasis, but for irony.

Apple provided a training session on blogging and podcasting, touted their wares, and provided a sandwich lunch with a soggy pickle - not the typical bribery people expect with the phrase.

I will admit that I did accept a Tootsie Pop from a textbook rep, but I don't think that could be considered illegal inducement, either.

June 06, 2010 9:56 PM  

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