As Los Angeles rolls out its iPad program, there’s been a litany of problems from the very outset. Here are what contractors have said about their concerns with the $1 billion project.
There’s a cautionary tale here that all of us in schools need to consider. Don’t get me wrong—I love the opportunities that mobile technology makes available to all learners; but administrators, faculty and staff need to clarify curriculum and program goals and only then choose and align the right technology. Staff at every level need to be thoroughly prepared, and students and families need to be on board. The LA story surfaces what goes wrong with any curriculum innovation where these steps are not thoughtfully planned and carefully executed. Add to that the fact that many of the students in LA had more specific competence on the devices than some of the teachers and it doesn’t take much imagination to determine what problems could surface. So when it comes to thinking about how to increase access to mobile technology, let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater!
I am not sure how much money of the $ 1 billion spent there went to training, but I would argue that at least 5-10 percent of the hardware costs in any technology innovation should have been earmarked for teacher training and ongoing support. I would love to hear from those who have implemented these programs successfully.--LouExcerpts:1. The Rush
Problem number one, from these contractors’ perspective, was the timeline. The iPad idea firstsurfaced in November as a proposal to spend $17 million in bond money coming to the district. There was a small pilot in the spring–not enough, says Contractor #1. “From an IT and security standpoint, it would be tough to pilot something in just a few months, let alone start phase I. I have a hard time believing that people in the district didn’t raise red flags to say, are you sure we’re doing this the best way possible?”2. Training and Professional Development
The second big issue was a lack of training, professional development, and overall, a failure to recognize the human resource needs created by a big device rollout like this one. “Teachers were not trained in the system to manage the devices. Nobody at the school was trained. A couple people from the district that came out to sort of help and they had somebody at the school who was the de facto tech person, teaching teachers how to use it after it had been deployed,” says Contractor #1. Contractor #2 added: “The ELA (English) teachers got a 40 minute training, because they were responsible for giving them out. I don’t think any of the other teachers were trained on the mobile device management system.” Part of the reason that students found it so easy to turn off the security controls to surf the Web and access sites like Facebook, YouTube and Pandora might be that many teachers were unfamiliar with how the controls worked.3. School to Home and Back
Taking school-issued devices home has pedagogical justifications, for homework, extra practice time, and making stronger connections between school and home. But there are some practical and theoretical objections to this idea.
During the pilot, Contractor #1 says, students weren’t allowed to take the iPads home. When they started going home, teachers quickly discovered that checking the devices out at the end of the day, and checking them back in in the morning, used up precious classroom time. Also, said contractor #2, “If kids didn’t want to do the work, they would come late purposely and not get an iPad. So in some classes, half the kids had them and half the kids didn’t, they were just sitting with their heads on the desk.” Parents, meanwhile, don’t want to be held liable for the loss, breakage or theft of the devices.