Hey, School Systems . . .It’s 2015!

by Brian Zabroski

I recall my jobs in college. Bartender, receptionist, warehouse receiver, insurance agent intern, bookkeeper… Holy cow, I had a bunch of jobs throughout college. My best decision may have been to work at the campus bookstore. I was given a generous discount for books and merchandise. I was also able to pick the best used books before they went on sale. Geez, I hope whomever highlighted this book before me knew what they were doing! The used books and employee discount helped offset much of my expense, but the cost was still significant. This was almost 20 years ago!

Why am I sharing my college jobs and bookstore story with you? I nearly fell off my chair after hearing my nephew share the cost of his college textbooks. The cost? $800. Seriously? Isn’t a tablet less than $800? I asked how many of his classes offer the option of a digital textbook via tablet. A couple, but they charge the same price as the textbook!

A few minutes later while at the coffee shop, getting my hourly caffeine dose (thanks Baby App for waking us up at a random hour. You fell back to sleep, but I didn’t! I love you!), I see a few high school students carrying loaded backpacks. They look like Sherpas ready to tackle Everest, except they are tackling Math and Science with 25 pounds of textbooks. What did they have in their hands? Oh come on… guess… their mobile phones! Not their textbooks!

Here’s my issue, students as young as kindergarten are using mobile and PC technology for learning, yet our school system throws textbooks their way. Why are we continuing to embrace teaching methods that were in use when I was in grade school during the 1980s?

Now, I understand there are a few outliers. For those who are outliers, I salute you. I’m concerned that we are not properly arming our children to be ready for the workforce. Are you using a textbook to learn your job? Most likely not. Businesses are adopting online learning for employees. This change has to begin for our youngest population, and not just in “computer” class during school. Let’s begin by embracing technology in place of yesterday’s learning and teaching methods. Start with one or two classes using tablet learning in place of textbooks.

What’s in it for the school system? A financial gain. I learned that Mrs. App’s elementary school charges $75 for supplies for their students. Budgets are tight whether you’re a business or a school. A recent study examined the financial impact to a 500 student school of replacing textbooks with digital books. The study estimates that a business can save upwards of $250 per student per year. That’s $125,000 per year, or put it this way, two to three more teachers to reduce classroom size. Wouldn’t that help offset the added expense for supplies? For schools, such as universities, that require purchasing textbooks, this can be a profit center. Offer the use of textbooks as a recurring revenue model, with one exception; don’t charge the same high cost of a textbook.

It’s not only a financial advantage for the school system. The ability to always have the latest edition of a book will serve our students more efficiently. It reduces the cheating concerns. I’m not talking about those lovable New England Patriots, but rather the students that skate by because the text and curriculum hasn’t changed year over year. Yes, this means less highlighted books passed down.

It improves our students’ health. No longer will we notice our students walking around as Sherpas. Research shows nearly 14,000 students are treated for backpack-related injuries each year. Check out this link for backpack safety tips: http://goo.gl /6EaBPt.

I truly believe the biggest influence of this transition will be for our children. They use this very technology as the medium for communication and learning, except when they’re within the walls of their school. We need to embrace this change, from the school districts to the teachers. In fact, there need to be more progressive teachers to lead this change.

School districts need grant help to procure the equipment. Businesses need to be involved by sponsoring grants. These students will be in the workforce in the not too distant future. This is an amazing way to gain a larger footprint and build a bench for any business. Whether it is my nephew or your child, we should work together to reduce the cost of school. It’s my hope that this column sparks conversations during this “political season.” Make technology part of our education system. Our workforce and future truly depend on it.

There are a large number of apps available for students, teachers and parents. A couple that caught my eye were Nearpod and Remind. Nearpod allows teachers to share their presentation and content to students’ devices. The sharing is fun and engaging, but the biggest advantage is the interaction. Teachers can view, real-time, each students’ activity on the app. Here’s a way this app helps: A teacher shares a math lesson via the app. The students are tasked with completing the lesson within the app on their device. In real-time, the teacher can view the answers and work with each student, which allows the teacher to engage, assist and celebrate success immediately.

Remind allows teachers to text parents and students. Face it, texting is here to stay so let’s embrace a medium that students understand. The app hides the phone numbers for confidentiality. In addition, parents and students can engage in private conversations. Just two of the many ways we can begin to embrace technology in the classroom.

Remember, Apples still make teachers smile. Welcome Back!

Do you have a favorite educational app you’d like to share? Contact Brian at brian @brianzabroski.com, on Twitter @BrianZab or LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/bri anzab.

Brian, a Corporate Account Executive with NetSuite, has spent nearly 20 years in the telecommunications and software industry. Businesses use NetSuite software to run and manage all of their business applications. It’s web-based, so businesses can access their information from anywhere; It’s flexible, which allows the software to be customized for their business; and, it is built on a single platform, which businesses appreciate since they can often eliminate multiple software solutions. Trending companies, such as Box, GoPro, FitBit and Dropbox use NetSuite software to run their business. Reach out to Brian to learn how your business can benefit with NetSuite.

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