Los Angeles is serious about education. The USA’s second-largest school system is backpedalling on its decision to pun an iPad in every student’s hand. Instead, it wants to test drive laptops now.
Apparently, iPads aren’t suitable for all students. Some, such as high school freshmen, need laptops to carry out their school tasks.
“The benefit of the new approach is clear,” said Los Angeles Unified school board member Monica Ratliff, according to the LA Times.
Ratliff, who led a panel that reviewed the technology effort, asked, “Why would we treat all our students — whether they are a first-grader or a high school freshman — as if they all had the same technology needs? They don't.... To have a one-device-fits-all approach does not make sense.”
However, going by the stories told by LA school district officials, the iPads themselves were not to blame.
Students reportedly deleted security filters to browse the web freely, the tablets were recalled at several schools “and some students never saw them again,” according to the report, and distribution of the devices fell behind schedule.
The report further notes that senior staff incorrectly characterized terms of the contract, as well as other issues, all non-related to the iPad technology at all.
“We had the right urgency, but urgency can be the enemy of necessary scrutiny,” said school board member Steve Zimmer. “Now our challenge is to maintain the urgency while getting the details right.”
Carolyn McKnight, the principal at East Los Angeles Performing Arts Magnet, is more taken with laptops than Apple’s iPad. She believes her students feel the same way.
“Students were more comfortable on the laptop because of the amount of writing and the size of the screen,” she said. “It was really hard to see the whole problem on the iPad.”
Committee member Barry Waite agreed, saying, “We are pleased that they are looking into options ... to do the best job and get the most for the money. It's never good to be stuck to one technology or device.”
While it’s certainly appropriate to give every student the right tools to work with to apply his or her talent, saying that the iPad is not suitable for class because district officials messed up is certainly not in the benefit of the student. Put iPads and laptops at their disposal in accordance with their needs, distribute the curriculum accordingly, have a sober IT guy develop solid security profiles, and be done with it.