I would have loved a tablet when I was his age... (via LAUSD)
Earlier this month (October 2013), the Los Angeles Unified School District unveiled their ambitious proposal to introduce a series of tools designed to raise academic standards needed for students to succeed in college or the skills needed for a career. The $1 billion dollar project aims at giving every student (more than 600,000) in the district an iPad tablet in an effort to build 21st century skills revolving around technology to better prepare them for the future. While the initiative is designed to ‘level the playing field’ for both wealthy and underprivileged children (allowing them access to the same opportunities) the roll out of the Project has had a few shortcomings. First, the parents of those children wanted to know why the students were not being taught traditional vocational skills such as machine shop, while others queried about school board politics and priorities rather than anything about the technology or the Project itself.
The district’s Technology Project is in conjunction with the nation’s Common Core States Standards Initiative (for children in K through 12), which provides a set standard for mathematics and English language arts. The second issue stems from the tablets themselves (purchased at $678 each), as some schools are not equipped with the Wi-Fi needed to download the educational material in class. These schools will need to be upgraded so the children have access to the related content, which may or may not have been included in the billion-dollar budget. As the first batch of tablets were rolled out to roughly 47,000 students who were allowed to take them home, the district found that some of those students were technology savvy and quickly disabled the tablet’s firewall allowing them to surf the web freely and visit sites deemed inappropriate by school standards (suffice it to say, they weren’t learning math). This presented a liability to the district, as students could become the victims of sexual predators while using school property.
The schools quickly remedied that problem by restricting the tablets to in-school use only until it finds a solution around those hacking endeavors. Another issue underlying the iPads is how the district will repair or replace the tablets if they become damaged. Apple has stated that it will replace 5% of those that no longer function, leaving the schools to find their own solution for the other 95%. The problems don’t stop there as L.A. Unified forgot to factor in the necessary training that some teachers would need to use the iPads in their curriculum, as some have never used one or any other tablet for that matter. Other issues such as theft and the inclusion of keyboards for classwork have also become factors that need to be addressed. While the Unified District has slapped a Band-Aid on a few of those cracks, it will need to do a lot more, and soon, before the dam breaches and it takes more than $1-billion to fix those problems. Still, the thinking was in the right direction, as students will undoubtedly need to obtain technology related skills if they’re to succeed in the future.
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