Sunday, August 01, 2004

Tablet PCs in school 

The Singapore government has always placed great stress on both education and technology, so it's not surprising that it should be thinking up new ways to use technology in education.

The Sunday Times today reported that secondary one students at Crescent Girls’ School will be using tablet PCs in a pilot project initiated by the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) and Microsoft Singapore. The PCs come loaded with digital textbooks, multimedia learning tools and note-taking software.

The Sunday Times reported that the students interviewed seemed “thrilled with the idea of using PCs rather than books”.

I’m sure they are. Unfortunately, some of the parents are not too enamoured with the additional cost involved.

“This may well be a first-in-the-world project simply because nowhere else in the world have 13-year-olds been known to need such expensive devices,” a father of one of the girls was quoted as saying.

This particular girl got her tablet PC because her mother decided to pay for it. However, according to The Sunday Times, the parents of four other girls opted out “in principle” and another six said they would “wait and see”, deferring payment for the PCs for the first few months.

Another 10 said they could not afford the PCs and the children were provided the PCs and software free of charge.

The IDA should be commended for being pro-active in promoting the use of new technology in Singapore. However, new technology and new projects usually come with costs. The project managers should not blithely assume that others are willing to pay.

Unfortunately, that is something that bureaucrats — who are used to spending other people’s money — tend to forget.


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