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Alabama Senate Passes Alabama Ahead Act

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

On Thursday, the Alabama State Senate passed the Alabama Ahead Act, SB1, which was sponsored by State Senator Gerald Dial (R) from Lineville. SB 1 will allow implementation of a law the legislature originally passed in 2012. The legislation improves upon current law by allowing touch-based devices, removing the phase-in period, adding all grades, and authorizing a bond issue to pay for getting the tablets to the children.

According to Sen. Dial, SB1 will save the State up to $25 million per year, versus purchasing the old-fashioned textbooks most of us remember lugging around.

Sen. Dial said in a written statement,

“Our students live in a digital world, and today the Alabama Senate took one giant step forward toward creating a 21st century learning environment. Digital textbooks have been proven to reduce costs, increase student participation and reduce behavior problems.”

Rep. Jim McClendon (R) from Springville sponsored the tablet bill in the Alabama House for the past 3 years. McClendon worked closely with the Alabama Department of Education on crafting the bill. Rep. McClendon said that he and Sen. Dial fought to assure that disadvantaged students were included. If Alabama’s poorer systems were not included, then the present gap between the haves and have nots would continue to widen.

Alabama will be the first state to go to tablets Statewide.

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Funding from the bond issue can be used for infrastructure readiness, devices, digital content, management systems, debt service, and support as well as upgrades, expansions, and maintenance. Each participating system shall provide 25 percent matching funds from their local funding. The State Department of Education will have the option of either waiving or reducing the 25 percent requirement based on the financial condition of the local school system.

Sen. Dial said, “An investment in technology for our students is prudent and will yield untold results, which will translate to a better economy and more jobs.”

In January Apple announced that there are now nearly 25,000 educational titles that have been specially created for the iPad.

According to Apple, these titles have been created by independent publishers, teachers and leading education services companies, including new educational content from Cambridge University Press, Oxford University Press and Hodder Education. Apple says that iBooks Textbooks now cover 100 percent of US high school core curriculum and the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) core curriculum in the UK.

The Managing Director, ELT Division at Oxford University Press, Peter Marshall, said in an Apple press release: “Oxford University Press is using iBooks Author for Headway, Oxford’s all-time best-selling English language series, to create engaging iBooks Textbooks for iPad. In releasing 13 new iBooks Textbooks, including Headway Pre-Intermediate, the best-selling level in the series, we are enriching the language learning experience for students around the world.”

According to Apple, iBooks Textbooks are now available to teachers and students in 51 countries and 70 countries now have access to iTunes U.

Apple is just one of the technology companies that are seeking to develop this growing educational technology sector.

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Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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