Ga. lawmakers look at student computers

ATLANTA -- Students in low-income, middle schools would be the first to test replacing their textbooks with portable computers under an idea outlined Monday by Senate leaders.

Two factors make the timing ripe for such a test, according to Senate President Pro Tempore Tommie Williams, R-Lyons. First, the state’s budget crunch cries out for ways to save money, and the $40 million spent yearly on textbooks could be a help. Second, the $400 million Georgia is getting from the federal Race to the Top education program could go to funding the pilot projects without tapping into the state’s education budget.

Assigning an Apple Ipad, for example would cost $500 per student, plus $30 in insurance that the family may want to buy. That would include the course materials and training for the teachers. Other companies such as Hewlett-Packard and Microsoft offer similar services, he said.

“We’re trying not to dictate the technology,” he said.

Vendors would be asked to submit proposals, and the tests would determine how well the electronic textbooks would work statewide, such as answering the questions about ease of use, technical glitches and whether the computers get broken or stolen.

Besides the textbook savings, the computers would have two other benefits, according to Senate Republican Leader Chip Rogers of Woodstock. The materials would be more up to date than printed books that only get replaced every seven years or so. And, kids naturally gravitate to computers.

He recounted how his own children are more eager to use his computers than they are to open a textbook.

“We know if you lead children in an area where they are interested, they will learn,” he said. “If you force them into an area where they’re uninterested they will struggle.”

Rogers and Williams said the Senate leadership will sponsor legislation this session to create a pilot program testing the computers in several districts across the state among the 26 participating in the Race to the Top school-improvement program.

 

 

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