Last year the Los Angeles unified school district decided to give every high school student an iPad. The preliminary roll out among 47 schools was a mess. The curriculum was incomplete, the iPads were barely used to their potential and, of course, students had trouble typing and reading on the smaller screens.
[the] plan to give every child an iPad—at a cost of $1 billion to taxpayers—drew universal criticism after numerous problems arose. For one thing, when the devices were broken, lost, or stolen, it wasn’t clear whether parents, the schools, or the kids themselves were responsible. Tech-savvy students easily broke through the firewalls administrators had installed to keep them from using the devices to visit social media websites. This prompted some schools to prohibit the use of the iPads at home, when students are away from teacher supervision, even though one of the major intended functions of the iPad program was to give kids a homework aid.
The entire thing was an unmitigated disaster—a clear example of real life trumping the good intentions of bureaucrats
Now, the school district has decided instead to equip students with laptops, a plan that is still fraught with technical difficulty and the curriculum challenges of electronic learning. Plus, the overall cost of the program is expected to top $1 billion!
If I were an LA public school student, I would be pretty excited to get an iPad or a Chromebook or whatever. But if I were an LA voter, I would be skeptical that such things serve a worthwhile educational purpose and are a good use of my tax dollars.
As I’ve commented before, implementing electronic learning is not a slam-dunk. I love my iPad. It’s a great tool primarily for content consumption and it has a great interactive user interface, but it allows only relatively low resolution interactions using your finger or a stylus. Laptops with mice or trackpads are much better for real content creation, especially anything requiring fine motor skill typing, drawing, or — especially — working with spreadsheets. Plus they are real computers with real programming capabilities. However, whatever the device, little value will be realized if there isn’t actually a curriculum to make use of the technology. Bottom line, it’s too early and too expensive to mandate iPads or any kind of tablet for all high school students, let alone for 6th graders!
[cross-posted with ipadsfor6thgrade.wordpress.com]