Sunday, 5 January 2014

What went wrong with iPads in LA?

The most publicized mass application of ICT hardware and software in K-12 education was the decision of the Los Angeles Unified School District to provide iPads to all students.   After distributing some of the iPads, the problems started. 

The machines were supposed to be limited to specific educational sites, not access to the full internet.  Part of the nearly $700 plus cost of each machine went to the Pearson corporation that supplied educational software for the iPads.  Almost immediately, some students figured out how to disable the block to the internet.

The rationale for every student getting an iPad was to be able to take the new online standardized tests that go with the new Common Curriculum.  However, it was realized that students using the iPad would have a disadvantage compared to students using laptops or desktop machines.  Those students would be able to see a full screen of information, but those on the iPad would not.  The onscreen keyboard of the iPad would get in the way of a part of the screen and the school district had not included keyboards.

Here is some of Larry Cuban's report of the problems:

 The true cost of this experiment runs far higher than the projected $400 million to give iPads to 655,000 students. That is what Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) means. The cost for the iPad is given as $678 per unit (remember, there is no keyboard usually listed at $100 which will have to be bought eventually for secondary school students).Now, budget-watchers discovered that the devices will cost even more. An Oops! that surprised the Board of Education.

Funds to hire school technical assistants, providing the wireless infrastructure, loss of tablets, and repair of broken tablets, insurance, professional development for teachers, costs for replacement devices when three-year warranties expire—I could go on but these numbers double and triple the published hardware and software costs. Consider that the reports of the $30 million contract with Apple Inc. omitted that the Board of Education approved $50 million for this first phase to accommodate some of these other costs detailed above.

And just a few days ago, a major Oops! was announced when the Board of Education, in questioning a top administrator, discovered that the software license to use the math and English curriculum expires after three years—the clock began ticking last July when the Board approved the contract. Renewal of the license in just over two years will cost another $60 million. Add that to the TCO.

A Bloomburg media report called "iPad goes to school" quoted this LA student complaint:
Josh Hoover, a 16-year-old at Westchester High, misses his iPad and is still puzzled by the fuss. Standing outside the school in early October, he said he sympathizes with his industrious peers. "They should let us use Facebook," Hoover said. "There's nothing to do on it besides academics. They just want it to be a big old book.” 

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