iPads are inevitable learning tools of the future

Oxford High School has taken a bold and wise step into the future with the announcement that it will be issuing iPads to all of its students.

It is clear that in the not-to-distant future paper books will yield their knowledge to electronic devices to such a great degree that students will have little need for textbooks.

According to this weeks Oxford story by Marcella Peyre-Ferry on page 1, the district has calculated that it will save substantially on textbook expenses when it replaces them with a single iPad for each student.

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More encouraging news was released by teacher Scott Wooddell on the school website as he described in an online interview the innovative teaching, study and interactive opportunities afforded by the devices.

Not only will students be able to read information as they would from books, but they will be able to do homework, create projects and receive help when they need it.

There was a meeting last Tuesday night to inform parents of the plan, and, according to our story, they responded positively to the plan.

There have been some critics, however, and they ask good questions about three aspects of the innovation.

The first is about the expenses for insurance. One way or another parents will have to insure the computers against damage to the tune of about $30. And if their kids mess it up more than three times, then the insurance wont cover it anymore.

It could be asked why parents are suddenly responsible for essential teaching materials. Should the the cost not be borne by the taxes that support the district?

The second is the care of the iPads. The contract presented online says that the students should have the iPads with them most of the time, but they should not be in the lockers or with food. They also cant be in a hot place like a car in warm weather, or a cold place like a car in the winter. The document does not say where the devices will be when the kids are eating lunch, taking gym, riding the bus or having an assembly.

We suggest that at some point that the iPads will be permitted in lockers, and, if they are not, many will end up there anyway.

The third concern is the usual messing up that can occur. Some will be broken. Some will be switched around with other students by accident of intentionally. Others will get viruses, lost or just break.

Is it fair to saddle parents with a bill for $500 for the carelessness of kids who will be carrying them around all the time?

These concerns are not a condemnation of the program, because the truth is that in a few short years the iPads and their offspring will be everywhere in the schools.

However, in the beginning years, there will be birth and growing pains.

There will also be the growing realizations that these electronic devices are not the be-all or the end-all of education. In fact, there will be students in Oxford and other places who learn from old books, from television, from their grandparents, from their football coaches, from science experiments and from just goofing off on a summer day.

We wish the district well and hope the period of adjustment goes without too much trouble.

And we also hope they have the humility to accept that bright and well-rounded kids need more than electronic devices to learn about life.