L.A. Unified Supt Ramon C. Cortines said the district cannot afford to provide a computer to every student. (Los Angeles Times)
LAUSD teachers attend a training session to improve their skills at using technology at Los Angeles Elementary School. (Los Angeles Times)
L.A. Unified's iPad plan was doomed from the start
letters to the editor of the LA Times | http://lat.ms/1LC1TK7
LAUSD should try again on supplying computers
24 Feb 2015
To the editor: As a 10-year veteran of the Los Angeles Unified School District, I've seen corporate feeders convince district administrators of the need to spend taxpayer money on various overblown and ill-considered schemes. Profiteers benefit from the LAUSD's largesse while underserved students suffer. ("L.A. Unified says it can't afford 'computer for all' plan," Feb. 20)
The notion that it is the district's responsibility to provide one computer per student is preposterous, considering that one of teachers' greatest challenges is to wrest students' attention away from texting.
I applaud Supt. Ramon C. Cortines' decision to back away from the Apple iPad plan. He should now carefully examine the district's disastrous rollouts and play hardball with any company that wants the district's business. Vendors must guarantee that their products and services will work; if they don't, the district gets its money back.
Teachers, clerks, custodians, nurses, librarians, arts teachers, counselors, deans and security all need to be restored to sufficient levels so that ill-disciplined students are not allowed to interrupt instruction and students' academic and social needs can be met.
Diane Rabinowitz, Los Angeles
To the editor: This debacle is no surprise to those of us experienced in tech support. Despite the misleading hype and creepy cult following, Apple's products are grossly overpriced and offer far fewer options than competitors' devices.
But this company has bullied organizations into "Mac-only" edicts that blow budgets and reduce productivity. The apparent corruption in the LAUSD was a perfect home for this outfit to push its iPads at an inflated cost.
Administrators now realize what a colossal failure this was and decided to cut their losses, but without holding anyone accountable. Too bad taxpayers are left on the hook funding Apple's profiteering.
Pat Murphy, Pacific Palisades
To the editor: Here are some helpful hints on technology for the LAUSD.
Hint 1: Lease, do not buy, computers that will soon be obsolete.
Hint 2: Supply PC laptops, not Apple iPads, because there is far more educational software available.
Hint 3: Do not contract for software to be developed with my money.
Hint 4: Allow greater access to the Internet. There's a lot of information out there.
Hint 5: Ask the students (all grades) how a computer might help them learn things and how they would use it.
Hint 6: Plan.
Elizabeth Wright, Marina del Rey
24 Feb 2015 :: Education without access to technology is unthinkable today
The idea of equipping every Los Angeles Unified student and teacher with a computer suffered its final blow with the announcement last week that the school district simply couldn't afford to buy some 700,000 of them. If ever a proposal was half-baked, it was the iPad project, which was marked by a lamentable lack of planning, grave concerns over the enormous price tag, and an ongoing criminal grand jury investigation into possible ethics violations on the part of district officials.
If ever a proposal was half-baked, it was [LAUSD's] iPad project. -
But this shouldn't be the last word about the ill-conceived iPad proposal by former Supt. John Deasy. Though he mishandled the project on multiple fronts, he was right about this: Education without access to technology is unthinkable today. It's the modern-day equivalent of sticking kids in a one-room schoolhouse with a slate board and chalk.
L.A. Unified must buy more technology; its students would be left woefully behind the college-and-employment curve without it. The current lack of funding for a massive iPad purchase creates a much-needed time-out, though, so that L.A. Unified can do it right next time. Here are some things the district needs to do:
Identify an appropriate funding source. For the $1.3-billion program, the district justifiably turned to construction bonds to pay for $800 million in Internet infrastructure at schools. But the proposal to spend $500 million of the bond revenue on the iPads, which have a life span of a few years, was inappropriate because it sought to use long-term funds for short-term purposes.
L.A. Unified should set aside a yearly sum in its operating budget for purchasing technology as state funding improves, and should buy its devices over time. This would allow for better budget planning and make the process more affordable — and also would allow the district to bring in the most recent technology and try out new devices to find the best ones.
Curriculum before technology. A federal review of the now-defunct iPad project found that L.A. Unified was focused on buying technology with too little idea of how it would be used in classrooms. It bought a packaged curriculum that was widely criticized as poorly written. But there is lots of good educational software in existence — some of it free or relatively inexpensive. The district should first look for the best software and then pick the hardware that's most compatible with the curriculum for each grade.
Consult teachers. See above. Creative and tech-savvy teachers have been finding all kinds of helpful and free educational software on the Internet. District leaders should seek out and reward their ideas.
Don't worry too much about security filters. The early rollout of the iPad program was quickly embarrassed by students who maneuvered around security safeguards to access social media. This isn't the horror people made of it. Students will be using technology all their lives; better to teach them about responsible use than to try to control every move they make online.