Staff Writer Benjamin Herold conducted a telephone interview with Ms. Heppen.
HEPPEN: We interviewed principals and assistant principals. We did interviews or focus groups with teachers, instructional leaders, and tech coordinators—the people who were formally or informally tasked with supporting technology integration in their schools. Those are perspectives that are often hard to get in large districts. We went into 15 schools and did classroom observations. We also collected back-system usage statistics from the district.
What did you expect to find, based on existing research?
HEPPEN: There aren't that many studies. What's often reported is wide variation both in the extent of [technology] use and how it is being used. Clearly, access to technology has increased. But it seems the degree to which teachers integrate technology into their instruction varies according to factors that influence the success or failure of almost any other kind of school reform: leadership, teacher buy-in, professional development, supports for teachers to collaborate. The evidence says that [a technology-driven transformation to student-centered teaching] is rare, but that it can happen.
What did you actually see in classrooms?
What did you make of your finding that students in just 10 percent of classrooms you observed were using the new technology to create products and complete projects?
HEPPEN: Is 10 percent rare? I don't know. As researchers, it stood out to us as a feasible way that teachers and students could move toward integrating technology into their learning experiences. I think we saw it as promising.
Overall, did you think the technology was being used effectively?
HEPPEN: The level of use was perhaps higher than we expected, but the extent and types of uses were not yet close to fulfilling [the technology's] potential. That is really consistent with almost any study of any school reform in its early stages, and certainly with studies of technology implementation. And remember, this study was done at the end of the school year, during the first year implementing a technology initiative that had lots of challenges in terms of deployment.
HEPPEN: One significant barrier was the limited level of instructional support [educators] received at the school and classroom level. The staff that was tasked with providing support for technology integration spent a lot of time on deployment and providing technical support.
The [Pearson curriculum that came preloaded on the iPads, for which the LAUSD originally paid millions, but is now seeking a refund] wasn't functioning properly.
Schools were selected to meet goals related to access and equity. But the readiness [for new technology] sometimes wasn't there in terms of infrastructure.
What is the takeaway for other school districts?
HEPPEN: There needs to be a coherent vision for how technology should be used in the classroom, and that has to be articulated clearly and reinforced, with a chance for it to evolve with input from folks at the school level.
You need to coordinate with other initiatives. You need high-quality materials. There needs to be support for professional development and [teacher] collaboration.
You can't just drop the technology off at the door. If that's what happens, some educators will find promising ways to transform their practice, but it won't happen at scale.
●●smf's 2¢: 2 cents/2 things:
- The Ed Week piece is an interview published in June about a study published the previous September. There have been plenty of other more exhaustive, complete and critical studies of the iPad initiative since then. There has been plenty of water under the bridge between September and June - including (but not limited to) school year 2014-15.
- The AIR study, as critical as it was, was bought and paid for (with the kids' money) by the previous LAUSD regime - the ones currently being investigated by the FBI and SEC about the iPad deal.