It’s worth noting that the idea itself is good and progressive, but certain issues need to be considered over the question of implementation.
First of all, the 8 million GEL price tag is much too high a number. At this cost, Georgia’s 40,000 first graders’ books should cost about 200 GEL each, which is five times higher than the actual price of approximately 40 GEL each.
Also, the president’s statement has caused a serious panic among teachers. Without special training, which is unlikely to happen anytime soon, non-tech savvy teachers may be compelled to require textbooks in their classes – forcing parents to buy what was free before.
The president’s statement also caused some disarray among textbook editors as well. With the first graders’ old textbooks likely heading to the trash heap via compulsory computerization, other grades’ textbooks will likely go up in price. And, of course, loading the laptops with the school texts will trigger issues of material acquisition as the textbook editors are sure to not give away their texts, even in electronic format, for free. Presumably, the school materials on the computer will be available in PDF format, but that seems to defeat the whole purpose of computer-based learning when interactive multimedia content isn’t being used.
Another issue is acquiring new content. Obviously, PDF texts alone won’t be adequate, which means new content should be created. But how will the state procure new content even if alternatives exist? Is there a plan?
And even if those alternatives are available, technical issues could still be a problem. For one, a student’s laptop should carry a Georgian-language keyboard. Unfortunately, keyboards with the Georgian alphabet do not exist in mass production, not to mention the unavailability of a single keyboard standard in the Georgian language.
Good intentions aside, the impulse for the state to suddenly introduce modern technologies is unlikely to bear fruit without accounting for such basic issues.
The idea of cutting expenses by purchasing laptops and equipping them with electronic texts does not appear to be a viable proposition. Instead, the instructional materials and the laptops should be regarded separately. Creating new instructional materials to suit the laptops could, by itself, end up being an additional major cost to the program when one includes the costs of regularly updating content.
The following issues need to be addressed for the implementation of the president’s idea:
1. Standardization of the Georgian keyboard and its introduction to other institutions before being brought into schools;
2. Many companies produce student laptops, so they should be procured through a tender announcement; moreover, the provider of instructional materials should be included in this process so that there is a seamless integration between the device and the curricular content; and
3. As creating the appropriate multimedia content and instructional materials requires far more effort than the purchase of laptops, a national training plan should be developed prior to a tender for content creation, accounting for the many alternatives that exist;
For sure, there is great promise in the use of technology in the classroom. But if we are to make laptops and relevant content a fixture in schools in the near future, a realistic and thorough means of implementation should be addressed immediately.