By now, we've all heard about schools spending a king's ransom on iPads. Well, maybe two or three kings and a few princesses, judging from those numbers. I don't get it, especially in light of huge budget problems.

My kids use them in school. So far they've taken some pictures and not much else. Okay, it's only been one week, but my 11-year-old used an iPad last year, too, and I don't remember hearing much of anything about what he was learning on his iPad compared to his old-fashioned books.

There's something to be said for exposing low-income kids to new technologies, but it seems to me that learning how to use important software packages like Office and the like should be a priority over an iPad. And what about offering classes on the basics of IT? That seems like a good idea.

As I think about edu-fads over the last 40 or 50 years, one side of me is thinking that people learned geometry without much in the way of flashy technology (unless you count a compass as flashy). The other side of me is thinking that schools were failing quite well without the iPads.

Please help me. Do iPads facilitate learning in a way that makes them worth their high sticker price? If so, how?