The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

December 19, 2013

iPads in the classroom: Not a bust, but not yet a boon

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The district recently halted its plan to hand out devices to seventh- and ninth-graders. “I think people and districts want to go from zero to 60 in five seconds.”

Technology advocates say the Los Angeles Unified school district failed to ask basic questions that must be addressed before schools introduce large-scale technology programs.

“I haven’t seen anything like this in the 10 years I’ve been doing this work,” said Leslie Wilson of the Michigan-based One-to-One Institute, a nonprofit that provides technology guidance to schools and districts nationwide. “Did they have a desired goal beyond the ever-present, ‘We want our kids to be 21st century learners?’ Why do we want every child to have an iPad? Because it will do what?”

Many school districts now want to get their rollouts right from the start and are calling to ask, “How do we prevent going down the same path as these major debacles out there?” Wilson said.

In Los Angeles, the district and school board disagreed over whether or not students had been allowed to take the devices home and who was responsible if they were lost or stolen. And some teachers still question the purpose of high-priced tablets.

Just 36 percent of 255 teachers polled strongly favored continuing the iPad initiative, and the majority said they did not have enough training, according to results of a recent anonymous survey by a Los Angeles board of education member and employee unions. Survey participants teach in the 47 schools that have received iPads so far.

Other school districts are also learning from bad experiences. The Fort Bend school district in Texas put the brakes on its $16 million iPad program in October after a review showed the program had “unrealistic goals” and did not meet state standards.

The Guilford County school district in North Carolina is halting a tablet program paid for with a $30 million Race to the Top grant from the U.S. Department of Education. They had to return some 15,000 Amplify tablets this fall after many of the screens broke, among other problems.

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