By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY-If Rep. Dr. Jim McClendon is successful the days of backpacks full of text books will soon come to an end.
Under the banner of “Alabama Ahead Act” McClendon passed out of committee a bill that will in a few year equip every high school student with a computer tablet.
“We live in a digital world not an analog one, said McClendon, “This bill will prepare our students for the way the world works once you graduate from of high school.”
The tablets also called tablet personal computers, in addition to having the potential to storing hundreds of books on each tablet, subject lessons will be done on the tablets, as well as homework and quizzes. Test results can be instantly reported back to the student to enhance teaching.
The tablets will first be distributed to ninth grade students and then eventually to all student in 9-12.
“Put a book in front of children in this age group and they just look at it, said McClendon, “put one of these in front of them and watch them go to work.”
Currently the state spends about $60 million a year in text books, with the tablets that cost will be reduced to “25 cents,” on the dollar according to McClendon.
The estimated saving to the state of around $20 million annually.
According to the bill oversight as well as implementation will be under the authority of the State Department of Education.
“The Department of Education will be responsible for deciding what hardware and software to use, and also to adopt the rule and implement the program,” said McClendon.
McClendon says that he believes the program will be put into effect in 2012 or no later than 2013.
“This allows Alabama to make sure our students are ready for the future, said McClendon.
A $100 million dollar bond issue is proposed to pay for the tablets, and the bond will be retired using dollars normally spent on text books. Thousands of classics are available for free, and updated editions of texts can be instantly delivered to the tablet. The contracted providers of the tablets will include insurance in their bid, and they will also be required to have a physical presence in Alabama, creating jobs. Technical assistance must be readily available to each school. Teacher training will come first before distribution to students. Initially 9th graders are supplied a tablet, and the next year the new 9th grade class receives tablets, and so on till all 9th through 12th graders have tablets.
“This technology is where education is headed,” said McClendon, “ If we pass this bill we will get there sooner than later.”
In the coming weeks the bill will be presented to the full House for approval.
Brandon Moseley contributed to this report.