Friday, July 24, 2009

We take a break from this program to show why many politicians haven't got a clue

"The Tragedy of the Commons" is an influential article written by Garrett Hardin and first published in the journal Science in 1968.  The article describes a dilemma in which multiple individuals acting independently in their own self-interest can ultimately destroy a shared limited resource even when it is clear that it is not in anyone's long term interest for this to happen.

I would like to thank Wikipedia for the simple definition of why giving high school students Kindle's is an incredibly stupid idea. 

I don't know about you, but I lose between 3-5 textbooks a year.  The textbooks are checked out to students in the class and then it is up to them to get them turned in by the end of the year or they will be fined, usually about $65 for a standard history textbook.  Student fines are usually ignored until the end of the year, wherein if a student fails to pay a fine, then can't pick up their yearbook.  If the student has outstanding fines at the end of their Senior year, no diploma until dues are taken care of.  That still doesn't take deal with students who drop out, move, transfer, or simply ignore the fines altogether and fight it. 

Recently, Governor Schwartzenegger told the Legislature that he would like to see a future where students dumped textbooks altogether and went completely digital.  The reasoning is that the move is cost saving and prepares students for the next generation of learning.  This was met by an interesting reaction of much of the educational community, kind of like petting the real naive idiot on the head and saying, "There, there, isn't that a nice idea".  The New Democratic Learning Council also put out a pretty little memo looking to put a "Kindle in Every Backpack", as if the way to increase success in schools was to give students a $300 toy to play wit, and lose on occasion. 

This is one of those things that you just can't comprehend because there are so many damn things wrong with it.  Kindles are expensive.  Downloading licenses are expensive.  If you ask college students, many will tell you that there is limited savings in downloading textbooks as opposed to buying them.  Technology comes with tech issues, which comes with generations of instructors that have no knowledge of e-mail, much less eReaders or Feeds.  This doesn't include the students that have no access to technology, or in some cases where I live, no access to power, or a home. 

And finally, students don't care about things that aren't theirs, like textbooks or Kindles.  They are a shared resource, therefore they mistreat it and burden of the cost is simply going right back to the taxpayer.  If the students want to buy it, fine.  They have ownership and will treat that thing like the $300 piece of technology that they just bought with their own money.  If you give a kid a Kindle for nothing, it will last a couple of years and then be replaced.  Nil Savings.

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