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Bloomberg Questions Trading Textbooks for Tablets in the Classroom

By Jill Colvin | March 1, 2013 3:07pm

NEW YORK CITY — Mayor Michael Bloomberg may be one of the city's biggest tech proponents. But he's a real stickler when it comes to tech toys in the classroom.

The entrepreneur who became a billionaire by bringing tech to trading raised concerns Friday about the idea of replacing pricey school textbooks with tablets — a proposal that was recently floated by City Council Speaker and expected mayoral candidate Christine Quinn.

“When you have computers there, then there’s the pornography and the social media and the distraction of games and that sort of thing,” Bloomberg said during his weekly radio show with WOR's John Gambling.

The question came the day after the city's Department of Education rolled out its new "common core" curriculum, which Gambling noted would require more than $55 million in new materials, including textbooks.

"Maybe I’m too old-fashioned," Bloomberg said. "The thing that worries me about tablets is we think if you give a kid a computer, you solve the problem."

But what's really important, Bloomberg said, is the quality of the teacher in front of a classroom. More important — he argued — than kids even having enough chairs.

"I get in trouble every time I say this, but I would do anything to have better quality teachers, even if it meant bigger class size, even if it meant them standing rather than sitting," he said.

"That’s in the end what really makes a difference. That human being who looks the student in the eye."

That same is true in the business world, he said, when asked about Yahoo's controversial decision this week to end its policy of allowing employees to work from home.

“I’ve always said telecommuting is one of the dumber ideas I’ve ever heard," he said, dismissing instant messaging as an ill replacement for water cooler chatter.