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Nowadays, with online resources, textbooks, and even virtual high schools, technology has been making a big impact in the education world. School computer labs have come a long way in recent years and some schools are even supplying tablets for their pupils to use in class! Oh, to be a student in the 21st century!

Unfortunately, many schools in Japan have yet to jump on the in-classroom technology bandwagon. Wanting to head-up a new trend, last year Saga Prefecture decided to do a trial run of personal computers for students, and so had all high school first years purchase tablets–only, the technology caused so many problems, the program has been sacked only a year in and now the board of education is in hot water.

▼ The tablet of choice: the ARROWS Tab Q584/H.

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Something strange went down in the Saga Prefectural Board of Education last year, and although we’re not sure whether it was deeper than simple irresponsibility, they are now paying the price.

As a test run, the prefecture decided that each of the nearly 6,600 students entering high school last April would be required to buy a school-designated tablet, the Fujitsu ARROWS Tab Q584/H (many times, trial runs are done on a smaller scale, but apparently Saga was thinking a little bigger). The computers were priced at 85,000 yen (US$710), although students were only required to pay 50,000 yen (US$415) of it, leaving the rest for the prefecture to pay. The prefecture also foot the bill for the new security network, which ended up costing thousands of dollars.

▼ In addition to all of the money they had to spend on uniforms, the students also had to buy tablets.

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As with many new large-scale projects, the first few weeks were riddled with problems. Some of the educational software wasn’t working, the teachers were not trained in teaching with technology and the operating system was not as user-friendly as it could be. Many teachers complained that when they used the tablets in class, due to technical issues, it could take up to 15 minutes to even start the lesson.

After a while things calmed down, that is, until after summer vacation. Suddenly in August, in addition to many of the problems faced at the beginning the year, the computers were breaking down left and right, causing delays in the IT department. On top of this, students were forgetting their tablets at home and teachers were finding that they were too cumbersome for the students to use easily. Some teachers began refusing to use the tablets in lessons, proclaiming that they caused more harm than good and took too much time away from learning.

▼ It’s back to the computer lab for most Saga high schoolers.

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With the overwhelming number of IT and general usage issues, the school board decided to call it quits with the tablets, postponing the project until they actually have things sorted and ready. It seems that they’ve realized that they were getting a little ahead of themselves.

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A representative from the school board spoke on the need to properly train teachers in using and teaching with technology, because a short overview lesson was clearly not enough. If they’ve been teaching with only a piece of chalk and a textbook for the past few decades, it’s very understandable that some teachers would be less than enthusiastic about the idea of using tablets. On the other hand, some teachers were able to utilize the computers to their potential, well, potential that was limited by the ARROWS’ numerous shortcomings.

Although postponed for now, maybe they will be prepared to restart the system in a year or two. They’ve clearly learned their lesson and next time will take into consideration the brand and model, the software, the sophistication of the network and, of course, whether or not they can trust high school kids to care for expensive technology. However, lesson learned or not, they still made parents pay for some bogus tablets and now are also in debt themselves, causing some unrest among the populace.

▼ On the other hand, similar programs in Thai elementary schools are going smoothly.

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Netizens have also been voicing some strong opinions about Saga’s trial run and they have made some valid points along the way:

“Did they really not foresee this happening? Idiots.”

“Couldn’t they just have made the kids set up their tablets during the break time?”

“Why didn’t they test this on a smaller scale first?” 

“They should have just bought iPads…”

“Of all the tablets they could have chosen, why the [beginner unfriendly] ARROWS?”

“The first mistake was making the students pay for the tablets themselves.”

Some people also saw the debacle as a bit fishy, asking, “I wonder who profited from this mess?” While we may never know if it’s true or not, there are those who believe that perhaps there was some bribery or clandestine deals going on between Fujitsu and someone in the board of education.

▼ Hopefully, this wasn’t all just a way for a couple of friends to make a few bucks.

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For the sake of students all over Japan, we hope that instead of being scared away from the idea of tablets in the classroom, other schools learn from Saga’s mistakes and properly prepare before setting such an involved project into motion.

Sources: Itai News, Hunter
Images: Itai NewsFujitsu, Rakuten Auction, Wikimedia Commons (Darklanlan), Bangkok Post (Chanat Katanyu), Pixabay (Kaz)