#iPad Apps Survey - Digital Consumables? #edchat

Update 02/21/2012: After meditating on this, I finally decided to call TxDIR and ask for their opinion. Although I won't put anyone on the spot, it basically boils down to this: iPad Apps do appear to be a consumable so long as they don't exceed $10,000Your District Purchasing Department can weigh in on this. So, there, it's settled!

In my initial blog entry on this subject, I shared this question:
Do iPad apps count as consumable supplies (e.g. workbooks) just on the District's say-so?
A quick review of the definition:
consumable is, according to the 1913 edition of Webster's Dictionary, something that is capable of being consumed; that may be destroyed, dissipated, wasted, or spent. John Locke specifies these as "consumable commodities." Consumables are products that consumers buy recurrently, i.e., items which "get used up" or discarded.
What do you think? Are iPad apps considered "digital consumables" or does their very nature--that they are digital and can be re-used endlessly--mean they are NOT consumable in the "old" sense of the word?

Fill out the survey! Result appear below.

The reason this question is important that IF the answer is NO, then school districts are giving away software--iPad apps--to teachers/students. Some, like Gordon Dahlby, think that this is certainly not allowable:
Buying consumables for the classroom is not a transfer of ownership, even if the teacher is the one making the purchases via school credit or PO or even a "gift" from a PTA. One could not buy a laser toner cartridge for a home printer just for the convenience of printing class sets at home, nor take home reams of paper where they need to track "school use" and swap out paper for "personal use."
In a follow-up conversation with a school district that does give away iPad apps, treating them as consumable supplies, the following perspective was shared. Please note that I've anonymized the content to protect the school district and staff member.

One of the points worth responding to up front--that this is a baseless "rumor" is problematic. Since this is a new venture for many districts, it's less a rumor and more of a question of due diligence, exploring what is a working path or not. Trailblazing districts may be comfortable walking near the cliff's edge, but other districts will need to give this some thought!

Here's the response that was shared:
1- It's not illegal - Our Legal department has looked over it and while it seems terrible to be freely giving away educational resources to kids (gasp! they might use Keynote for something evil!), the IMA is there for instructional materials. This rumor has been making the rounds of late, interesting how it's picked up steam and who's spreading it. 
2 - It can be costly over time so you have to plan and budget accordingly if you take this approach.  However, one option that has come up recently is the idea of a Tech Usage Fee.  In this scenario the kid pays for their iPad insurance as well as an estimation of the apps they'll consume.  Keeps it sustainable, but that might not be doable for all districts based on economic breakdowns. The $50 per device allotment is what we've gone with after some preliminary research last Spring. That number can always be adjusted, but we haven't hit it yet.  Currently we've spent $36 per device, although only about half of the end users have claimed their codes so it's likely we'll have much more left over than we thought.  (probably because they already have the app, or they think we're going to take it back from them so they buy their own)
3 - Poor management to me would be wasting resources.  It would be a waste to hire someone, pay them a yearly salary just so they could control every district account on every iPad.  It would be a waste if the students walked away with nothing useful.  Is it not a waste when we use workbooks? Hand out pencils? Give someone a sheet of paper to learn with?  That said, I'm always looking for ways to make everything work better.  One option would be to pre-load the apps with a district account, then have the kids log in with their own account to download what they want.  The challenge again becomes management - you'd have to reclaim all the iPads to update the apps.  This might work in a small district, but once you hit a certain threshold (as we discovered with the iOS update) it turns into a management nightmare. 
The goal in all this is making learning as personal and flexible for the kids as possible.  I hope there will be a future solution where we can easily reclaim some apps, but in the interest of real-time learning and individualized learning, we're willing to sacrifice some of our budget that would have normally gone to textbooks, workbooks, and other consumables.  There is no one size fits all approach to any of this.  
While it may seem a simple question, I do believe it's an important one to lay to rest, either way. Where do you weigh in?

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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure


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