Monday, April 16, 2007

Legislators Gone Wild Part 2 – iPod Madness!

Don’t get me wrong; I think the appropriate application of technology is not only inevitable, it should be a required component of all curriculum planning and long term educational strategies. I also applaud the initiatives of professionals exploring ways to make the delivery of education more engaging. However, with Michigan facing the reality of a legislature that postures in support of education while maneuvering to cut school budgets in the last month of the school year I’m perplexed by what played out this weekend regarding iPods. The technical web site ars technical sums it up best (although some of the commentary could have been cleaned up):

Michigan kids won't get iPods after all

By Justin Berka | Published: April 13, 2007 - 04:45PM CT

There are going to be a lot of sad children in Michigan today. In fact, the volume of tears may be so great as to make the lake rise. And they're all crying because the big mean lawmakers aren't going to give them iPods after all.

Seriously though, hot on the heels of yesterday's story about Apple influencing Michigan state representatives comes the news that the children of Michigan won't be getting iPods. According to this latest report from the Detroit Free Press, the lawmakers will be paying Apple $1,702 for their trips in order to "end this public perception that something is misguided." Also, Michigan representatives are now claiming that the $38 million that was added to the budget for iPods wasn't really for iPods at all.

Taking a leaf out of Kansas City's playbook, they're now claiming that the money would have been spent on "teacher development on ways to make technology as much of the classroom environment as a chalkboard." According to the representatives, there was never a plan to provide iPods at all, despite an iPod being involved prominently in the press conference. Instead of sacking up and taking responsibility, though, they're claiming that the press is at fault for picking up on the story and pointing out how bad of an idea it was. And now, the entire $38 million that would have gone to classroom technology may be in jeopardy, all because of those nasty reporters and their words.

For those of you who don't speak politician, here's what the above translates into: "Apparently our idea sucked, so we're going to pretend it was a mistake and blame the press. Also, the weather in California was really nice, but we're going to pay for our trip because we got busted and don't want to have to actually apologize."

Honestly, I'm not particularly convinced that iPods weren't part of the plan, or that they money would have gone to classroom technology. Even if the $38 million for technology is in jeopardy, there are probably better things to worry about, like a $600 million deficit. Let this be a lesson to other lawmakers out there: make sure you have the money to implement the plans that have been "suggested" to you. And pay for your own flights next time.

I have an idea – we should ask our legislators to find some money to pay our teachers – then let’s find a way to enhance their ability to employ new technology. I cannot believe that our legislators think we can just load a teacher’s lesson plan on an iPod and have that represent the answer to our funding crisis – can they?

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