Thursday, April 15, 2010

Is Senator Scott Brown Turning his Back on Tea Party Voters?

There was a tea party in Boston on Wednesday. Conspicuously absent was the freshman senator from Massachusetts. Is Scott Brown not wanting to 'dance with the one what brung him'? That's what some asked as the newly elected senator stayed in Washington, forgoing any tax day tea parties.

It can hardly be argued that it was energized tea party members who ushered Brown into the seat previously held by Ted Kennedy. Some have said he is distancing himself from controversy, although it could be argued that he didn't mind that controversy when gave him the edge. Others think he doesn't want to be associated with the likes of Sarah Palin, who had a rock star welcome in Boston at Wednesday's rally. The NYT must have had to break into the liquor cabinet to be able to write a about a poll that revealed most tea partiers are wealthier and more educated than the general public.

Any republican politician snubs the tea parties at his/her peril. And Brown will need their support in 2012 when he's up for re-election. Elephants, after all, are known for their long memories.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Minnesotan School Board 'iPads' the Tax Bill

Like a Southern Belle, the iPad 
is pretty, but doesn't do a lot
Most parents want their children's school to better prepare them for the technological world after graduation. But with much of the state still in double digit unemployment numbers, I imagine there are a lot of Minnesotans scratching their heads over this purchase.

The Gibbon-Fairfax-Winthrop School Board approved $265,000 to purchase iPads for the entire school (some 230 iPads). It's not mentioned if this price includes upgrading the school to wi-fi or the training planned. Plus, did the school board even try to get a discount--after all Apple is known for helping to supply schools with their computers. By the way, do they HAVE other Apple computers there? Because I'm pretty sure Windows is not going to be compatible with the iPad and visa versa.

Unfortunately, like with congress having to pass the health-care bill before reading it, it seems the school board wants to get the technology and then figure out how to use it! Educational apps are limited and, while the iPad can hold books, it's not been mentioned if the school's curriculum is going to be available or how much they'll save on the electronic version, if anything. Also not mentioned is if the students ultimately keep the iPad or have to turn it in. One can only wonder how many of these will have to be replaced due to loss, breakage, spilled beverages, theft, etc. Or what they'll do when Apple comes out with their next model. If the iPod is any example, every six months to a year, Apple has found it highly profitable to come out with a new, improved version--often to the consternation of it's users.

In case you don't know exactly what an iPad is or does, here's a quick rundown:
  • Although it costs about the same as a modern laptop (starting at $499), an iPad is NOT a laptop/desktop replacement. Think of it as an iPhone on steroids, except you can't make phone calls (or take photos). It has a touch screen which will look wonderful after sticky kid fingers have been all over it.
  • You can only run one app at a time, so a student would not be able to read a passage in a book and swap over to a word processor to write a paper without first closing the book. We used to call that type of technology "DOS." The iPad has an (up to) 64GB flash drive and a 1GB CPU so it's no workhorse. Apple is planning to add multitasking in a future version.
  • The iPad doesn't run Adobe Flash and seems to have no plans to do so. Adobe is planning to sue Apple over this, which is ridiculous. Apple certainly has the right to run or not run what it wants, but the user is going to find web surfing less than exciting. We use to call that technology "Internet 1996."
In short, it's a cute, geeky toy that doesn't do a whole lot. You can use it to surf the web or read a book (additional costs involved.) Or listen to music, which makes it a big iPod. If they just wanted to get electronic books, they could have bought Kindles, which are priced slightly less and already has a large number of available works. Even Apple fans are making fun of it.

It sounds like the main reason for the purchase was to allow students to avoid carrying backpacks full of books. If lugging several pounds of books to class is a problem, there's a thing called a "locker." I don't know what happened to lockers, but schools don't seem to want to use them any more. Personally, considering we're dealing with high percentages of overweight students, lugging a few pounds of books around is probably a good idea. But students will be able to update their Facebook page in class instead of studying.