Tuesday, September 21, 2010

RISD Wish List for 2011 Bond Election

The Richardson ISD school board held their first study session reviewing possible items to be included in a bond package to be put before voters in 2011.

Some of the items should be no-brainers, for example, renovating decades-old schools and replacing aging air conditioning units in many more facilities. Other items might need a little more background information, for example, refurbishing high school athletic facilities and providing resources to turn the STEM Academy ("Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics") within Berkner High School into a "New Tech High School".

After the jump, the one item in the proposal that's going to be the toughest sell.

The item that's likely going to need the most selling is the possibility of asking for bond money to purchase about 16,000 laptop computers. For the paranoid, giving students laptops leads to an inevitable invasion of privacy, with unscrupulous school officials using technology to spy on students. For others, based on experience in the home, giving students laptop computers is just an accident waiting to happen -- dropped, lost or stolen computers will be a constant disruption and drain on the budget. Others wonder about the appropriateness of using long-term indebtedness to pay for relatively short-lived items like laptop computers. And for still others, there's skepticism about the effectiveness of computers on educational results.

Whew! That's a lot of objections to get over. For me, while I believe all these concerns have some foundation in fact, I also believe that steps can be taken to mitigate the risks. The potential value of computers and the Internet as educational resources is just too huge to ignore. No, what I'm interested in is not stopping the spread of computers in the educational experience, but in seeing how the RISD plans to exploit the new technology to save costs elsewhere -- specifically, in reduced expenses for textbooks, reference books, workbooks, atlases, classic literature, etc. Anyone with a computer and an Internet connection has access to a wealth of information, much of it free. The RISD ought to be able to leverage that to offset at least some of the cost of these new computers. That would be a win-win situation for both the education process and for the taxpayer.

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