Students in Wausau, WI school district may have access to a large number of iPads in their classrooms, but what’s catching many people’s attention is not the learning benefit the devices bring to the classroom, but rather the cost of repairing them when they break. The Wisconsin schools recently started their new semesters, and if last year was any indication, the district can expect about 20 percent of its iPads to break by the end of the term.
One of the district’s principals Jeff Reiche said that some of his days are spent solely on iPad repairs. The district spent about $870,000 for the devices, and distributed about 1,000 of them to students.
At Reiche’s school, 135 iPads were handed out to students. Of those, 25 needed repairs. As many consumers know, Apple products are notoriously expensive to repair. And Apple itself doesn’t actually perform repairs, which leaves third-party businesses with plenty work to do. The school reported a typical screen replacement cost $275, and so they started requiring parents to pay into an insurance program. Parents pay $34 per school year at a special group rate. And since the iPads go home with each student lucky enough to receive one, some parents’ homeowners insurance comes into play.
While the repairs and the costs are occupying the administrators mind, most of them say that the bill is worth it.
“Without a doubt, students are more engaged,” Reiche said. The tablets tend to keep students interested in work, even at the end of the year when students are “checked out.”
“The iPad is a tool, not a teaching strategy,” said Tera Fieri, a Wausau science teacher. “The use of technology has to work as part of the teaching strategy.”
The district may also wish to add to Fieri’s words and inform students that the iPad is not a toy either. Kids will be kids, and things will be broken. But as iPads and other mobile devices begin to factor more into education, perhaps we’ll see students exercise more caution with their flashy learning devices.