Published: Aug 31, 2008 09:09 AM
Modified: Aug 31, 2008 09:09 AM
Putting an iPod in every backpack
Pens and pencils, check. Binders, check. Notebook paper, check. IPod, ch -- IPod? Culbreth Middle School is seeking funding for a project that would put an iPod in the hands of every student and teacher for the duration of the school year (they would have to give them back at the end of the last semester).If it seems a little odd to give students a digital music player at school, keep in mind that the iPod you knew as a toddler has evolved. The iPod Touch that Culbreth is talking about doesn't just store tunes and photos. It's basically a palm-sized computer -- Internet access, e-mail, calculator, video player, positioning system, the works. Oh, great, some will say, just what students need -- more distractions, more ways to waste time, and expensive ones at that. After all, back when we were kids we didn't need a bunch of fancy gadgets -- we had to goof off the old-fashioned way, with spitballs and synchronized fits of fake coughing. We got our education with paper and pencil and protractor, and we turned out fine.There is something of a sense of extravagance about the iPod plan; while schools in poorer parts of the state struggle to stock basic supplies, Culbreth proposes to spend $230,000 to give iPods to everybody -- even though the administration hasn't decided exactly what to have the kids use them for.If the school was proposing to spend nearly a quarter of a million dollars in public money on a plan like this, we'd say hold on a nanosecond. There are quite likely more essential needs the schools could spend that kind of money on.But the proposed Culbreth program would be privately funded, and the funds the school and its partner in the project, N.C. Virtual Public School, are seeking are specifically targeted for the iPod project. Given that, if Culbreth and N.C. Virtual Public School, can win the funding, we say go for it.Bewildering as we geezers may find some of the stuff our kids navigate with nonchalant ease, it's their environment. To them it's not a brave new world -- it's just the regular one. It's integral to how they communicate, socialize, create, play -- and learn.Technology is, and always has been, about developing new tools. The iPod Touch is a powerful new tool. Like any tool, it can be abused. But it can also be put to all manner of educational uses. The global economy is powered on information technology. If we really want our children to be in a position to compete, we'd better help them become as skilled as possible at using the tools that drive the world. Innovation, creativity, preparing for the future, these are qualities we want to instill in our kids. Culbreth, with the iPod project, is teaching by example.
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