The digital divide is a growing
issue and point of controversy in public education. Apple's iPad is an example
of that divide: a $600$800 piece of equipment that is not a computer, not a
phone, not a TV. Let's admit it, the iPad is a really cool, expensive, toy. There
are some incredible educational implications for the iPad but it remains a
supplemental tool.
The digital divide is all about
money and access. If the digital version of the textbook is not demonstrably
better than the print version, why spend the extra money? Let's do a quick math
problem with the Geometry and Biology textbooks iBooks and McGrawHill are
offering by following Texas' adoption schedule.
Texas adopted mathematics textbooks (grades 612) in 2006 and is
scheduled to adopt again in 2015. Science textbooks were adopted in 2011 and
are not scheduled to adopt again until 2020. That's a nine year cycle. We can
assume that the state gets books and other equipment at a discounted rate but I
do not have access to vendor lists so I am going to use MSRP for everything.
Here are the numbers for a 30 student class, assuming a 10% loss (a need to
replace hardware or books) each year for nine years.
Geometry
Student Edition 2012 CCSS


Digital (iPad) version

Print version


iPad (16GB, Wifi only)

$499.00

Student
textbook


Digital
textbook

$14.99


30
students, year 1

$15,419.70

30
students, year 1

$3992.40

30
students, years 29

$15,573.60

30
students, years 29

$3193.92

TOTAL:

$30,993.30

TOTAL:

$7186.32

Glencoe
Biology


Digital (iPad) version

Print version


iPad
(16GB, Wifi only)

$0.00
(already purchased)

Student
textbook


Digital
textbook

$14.99


30
students, year 1

$449.70

30
students, year 1

$3358.80

30
students, years 29

$3597.60

30
students, years 29

$2687.04

TOTAL:

$4047.30

TOTAL:

$6045.84

Total for both classes:

$35,040.60

Total for both classes:

$13,232.16

My point is simply this: Are the
etextbooks offered by Apple, McGrawHill, and now Pearson, two or three times better than the
same print textbooks? If they are not, will schools able to pay
for the novelty of the iPad do so? Schools not able to pay for the novelty will, effectively be blocking access to this new technology. The
digital divide widens and deepens, and the students left behind, in most cases,
don't even know what they're missing. School districts can do what they want, that is the beauty of local control but, I do not believe the etextbooks offered thus far for the iPad are worth the extra cost. A topic I will discuss in my next post.
Just for the sake of argument, what’s
the breakeven point? If it is reasonable, even schools that need to stretch may do so. While the price of print books is usually $100 or more, the price of the etextbooks will never exceed $15 per book.
By averaging the costs of the
textbooks, the breakeven point is 18 (my work is below). A school would have to purchase 18
textbooks from Apple for each student over the course of a nine year adoption
in order to equal the cost of print textbooks. A high school student will use
18 textbooks over the course of their high school career but is this a realistic expectation? I can't answer that. I will say, in the school I worked in, we had such a difficult time getting textbooks back at the end of the year that we stopped allowing them to be taken home. I believe I am being generous with a 10% loss rate for something as tantalizing as an iPad.
Does using supplemental technology
in the classroom (meaning not every student in the state or district will have
access to it) widen the digital divide?
Geometry Student Edition
2012 CCSS


Digital (iPad) version

Print version


iPad (16GB, Wifi only)

$499.00

Student
textbook


TOTAL (for 9 years):

$30,993.30*

TOTAL (for 9 years):

$7186.32

McGrawHill (Glencoe)
Biology


Digital (iPad) version

Print version


Digital
textbook

$14.99

Student
textbook


TOTAL:

$4047.30

TOTAL:

$6045.84

Pearson (Prentice Hall) Mathematics: ALGEBRA 1: 2011 Common Core 

Digital (iPad) version

Print version


Digital
textbook

$14.99

Student
textbook

$76.68
(amazon)

TOTAL:

$4047.30

TOTAL:

$4140.72

ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE 2011 (National Edition) 

Digital (iPad) version

Print version


Digital
textbook

$14.99

Student
textbook

$89.56
(amazon)

TOTAL:

$4047.30

TOTAL:

$4836.24

Glencoe, McGrawHill Algebra 1, Student Edition CCSS 

Digital (iPad) version

Print version


Digital
textbook

$14.99

Student
textbook

$89.94
(amazon)

TOTAL:

$4047.30

TOTAL:

$4856.76

Pearson Miller & Levine Biology (National Edition) 

Digital (iPad) version

Print version


Digital
textbook

$14.99

Student
textbook

$108.99
(amazon)

TOTAL:

$4047.30

TOTAL:

$5885.46

(McGrawHill) Glencoe Chemistry: Matter and Change 

Digital (iPad) version

Print version


Digital
textbook

$14.99

Student
textbook

$104.16
(amazon)

TOTAL:

$4047.30

TOTAL:

$5624.64

Glencoe (McGrawHill) Physics: Principles and Problems 

Digital (iPad) version

Print version


Digital
textbook

$14.99

Student
textbook

$107.00

TOTAL:

$4047.30

TOTAL:

$5778.00

GRAND TOTAL

$59,324.40

GRAND TOTAL

$44,353.98

*Price includes iPads
Apple Education Announcement Series:
 iBooks Author: A game changer?
 Etextbooks and the adoption cycle
 The digital divide: the true cost
 Technical shortcomings
Apple Education Announcement Series:
 iBooks Author: A game changer?
 Etextbooks and the adoption cycle
 The digital divide: the true cost
 Technical shortcomings
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