iBooks Highlight Need to Reform Education Funding

Government moves faster than a typesetter can arrange metal cast letters into pages, place them in a frame to make a forme, placed onto a bed, ink the letters, place a paper between the frisket and tympan, and roll the bed under the platen, with the windlass mechanism. (Wikipedia)

Well, not quite. A printing press is much faster.

Apple's iBook 2 announcement is very exciting - having current, dynamic, interactive resources at hand is a boon to teachers and learners alike. Add to that the integrated word processor, camera and video tools, wifi, cloud access, agenda book, and myriad affordable apps and you have what turns out, dollar for dollar, to be a much more valuable learning tool.

Cost is the obvious barrier, a barrier that could be lowered, if not eliminated, through reforms to education funding. Inflexible budget allocations for hard print resources need reconsideration; lines differentiating curricular support and technology must be blurred or erased. Take this example from the Manitoba Schools Finance Branch 2010-2011 Funding of Schools report:

4) Curricular Materials
$60 per eligible pupil at September 30, 2009, $30 of which must be expended through the Manitoba Text Book Bureau. Any unexpended balance of the $30 per pupil remains as a credit at the Bureau.

While a few computer programs are available through the MTBB, the primary resource is hard print texts and books. Tying curricular materials funding to a specific type of resource limits the range of resources available to schools. Inflexible, time sensitive funding like this can lead to frantic zeroing of budget lines at the end of the fiscal year: "If you don't use it, you lose it." Stacks of hard print texts languish on shelves, or a handful of pricier resources for which there is a waiting list to use are practically inaccessible.

As budgets evolve to reflect current realities in technology and learning resources, students and teachers will be able to engage with content in ways that reflect today's world. Let's support and encourage school boards and governments to create budgeting and funding frameworks that can accomplish these goals.

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