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Columbus Area Schools Test Drive Expensive iPads

By   /   August 4, 2010  /   News  /   5 Comments

Columbus—The iPad is one of this year’s hottest electronic gadgets and the Grandview Heights School District in Columbus isn’t missing out.

Last month, the school district purchased ten base-model iPads (16 GB and wi-fi only) for the price of nine at $5,580 or $499 plus a $99 Apple Care package for each machine.

This new generation tablet computer utilizes powerful technology and can run thousands of innovative apps. However, the iPad also has limitations such as no multitasking capabilities, which makes it impossible to run more than one program—like an Internet browser and a word document—at the same time.

For now, Grandview Heights’ school administrators are trying out the new technology, but, as soon as classes begin, the iPads are supposed to be distributed across the district’s three schools for student and teacher use.

Superintendant Ed O’Reilly calls this an experiment to see if the iPad allows students to perform the general-purpose functions such as word processing or Internet research that a more expensive desktop computer has traditionally filled.

Whether it will or not, he says, “We don’t know.”

iPads do not have Microsoft Office capabilities, so it is necessary to purchase the equivalent Apple applications—Pages, Numbers and Keynote in place of Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint—for $9.99 each.

After a month with one of the iPads at his disposal, O’Reilly still favors his laptop because, he says, “I can pick it up and carry it home and it has all of my stuff on it already. The particular iPad I have right now isn’t loaded with all the documents I would typically pull from to get work done.”

When asked if the iPads would be considered a good investment from a taxpayer’s viewpoint, he pointed to the small number of machines the district has purchased so far and the ability to buy two iPads for the price of an $1100 desktop computer.

Desktop computer packages on Best Buy and Amazon’s web sites start around $399. On Dell’s web site, a desktop including tower, monitor and speakers starts at just $557.

For O’Reilly, the real test will be how students and teachers connect with the technology. He says, “We certainly don’t want to waste anybody’s money by purchasing the wrong type of technology.”

The Hilliard School District of Columbus has also purchased ten iPads, both wi-fi only and wi-fi+3g (which requires a monthly service charge), to test for administrative and educational purposes.

Director of Technology, Rich Boettner says administratively, the iPad could be a good option for a mobile person, but for those with the office space a desktop is a better choice, given the direct connection to the network and power source.

In the classroom, Boettner says he could see advantages using the iPad in any grade level, but the question remains of how it will compare with a laptop once the school year begins.


Laura formerly served as staff reporter for Watchdog.org.

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  • http://grandviewhts.org Warren Jordan

    I have witnessed the desktop pc that Mr. O’Reilly talks about. When I signed my son up for school at Grandview’s admin building all of the staff desks had brand new shiny i Mac’s sitting on them.

    It does not make sense that they purchase trendy photovideo editing pc’s for all staff members for primarily administrative chores.

    At the cost of 1 i Mac to 3 IBM clone pc’s – the upgrade does not seem justifiable!

  • tracy

    Grandview Heights residents pay very high taxes for the benefit of an outstanding school system – including access to the latest technology. They piloting a few to see if the ipad is helpful. Good for them! Someone has to lead the way (or be the guinea pig) and the school system can afford to do so!

  • Scyrus Dury

    @Tracy – I understand the point of getting the latest technology but iPad’s can’t print or multitask. How is that going to help teachers or students?

    They bought 10 all for a test drive? Why not 3? If I lived in Grandview Heights I would be pretty upset about the management of my money by the school districts just to get the latest gadget from Steve Jobs. This Mac trend has people suckered into an unnecessary money pit. Dell PC’s are priced considerably cheaper and can do A LOT more than the iPad. For around $325 someone can get a decent client that could at least print. I know it’s not as “trendy” but schools shouldn’t be “trendy”. They should teach a little frugality.

  • tracy

    @ Scyrus Dury – didn’t know they can’t print. That changes things! Don’t know why anyone would buy one then!