Sat, Mar 11, 2017 - Page 3 News List

Taipei criticized as Apple tablets used in schools program

By Sean Lin  /  Staff reporter

About 95 percent of tablet computers the Taipei City Government provided for students as part of Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je’s (柯文哲) “e-learning” initiative were acquired from Apple Inc, Taipei Department of Education statistics showed, prompting criticism that locally made devices were not used.

The city bought 4,000 tablets for the initiative, which has been implemented on a trial basis at 19 elementary, junior-high and senior-high schools, city government statistics showed.

With the exception of Taipei Municipal Yongchun Senior High School, which uses Google devices, the tablets were all made by Apple, the department said.

The city government plans to spend NT$100 million (US$3.2 million) to purchase 7,500 more tablets for 50 schools for the autumn semester, which begins in September.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Taipei City Councilor Wang Wei-chung (王威中) yesterday asked why the city bought Apple tablets when devices manufactured by local technology firms are readily available at lower prices.

“If possible, [the city] should support local manufacturers,” Wang said.

Apple’s iOS would pose problems for students when they want to use learning apps not available on that platform, he said.

Despite the benefit of tablets reducing the weight of backpacks, not all subjects can be taught using tablets, Wang said.

Wang said he is “highly skeptical” about the results the program would produce and called on the department to coordinate teaching materials for e-learning before placing large orders for tablets.

DPP Taipei City Councilor Ho Chih-wei (何志偉) said the department should explain why it ruled out local firms for the procurements.

“As a city councilor, I would prefer that devices be purchased from local companies,” Ho said.

Ho said tablets might be counterproductive to learning in a scenario where a teacher places too much emphasis on exercises using the devices.

“The tablets should serve the curricula, not the other way around,” he said.

Division of Information Technology Education head Chen Su-hui (陳素慧) said the Apple tablets were procured based on one tender that allowed the city government to purchase them a cost of NT$7,500 per unit, even though each school was given the option to choose devices based on quality and course requirements.

The department does not encourage teachers to be overly reliant on tablets, Chen said. They should only be used when necessary — for example, when assessing how well students have learned after a chapter is concluded — rather than throughout class.

The efficacy of the initiative would be determined by a survey on parents’ satisfaction and teachers’ willingness to use tablets in class, she said, adding that the city would decide in two years whether to continue the trial.

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