by Tony Wan, EdSurge | http://bit.ly/1NdV3g1
Flickr user Ronnie Macdonald
Sep 7, 2015 :: A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step—and almost always involves a few major stumbles. In the past couple years, Los Angeles Unified School District’s missteps has offered plenty of cautionary tales about what can go wrong when it comes to education technology adoption.
Despite scrapping a $1.3 billion plan to provide every student with iPads, the second largest district in the US isn’t out of the spotlight yet. A new report on the district’s instructional technology initiative offers plenty more lessons on what not to do when rolling out technology and devices across a large school district. (Here’s the executive summary.)
The study, conducted by the American Institutes of Research, found the district made improvements in technology infrastructure such as increased bandwidth to support devices. But overall “the district has not yet arrived at a solution” when it comes to “deploying devices in a timely manner, communicating with schools, coordinating efforts with other instructional initiatives, and clarifying a vision for technology use in instruction.”
In 2014-15, LA Unified delivered 46,660 iPads to 66 schools across different phases. Device usage increased from the previous year, finds the report’s authors, but:
“What did not seem to change was the way in which teachers and students were using technology. In both years, teachers primarily used technology for whole-class instruction (e.g., projecting an assignment on a screen in front of class); this did not take advantage of the 1:1 device availability for students.”
In addition, use of the Pearson’s digital curriculum that was pre-bundled on the devices “was generally low.”
Coordination and communication were often lackluster, resulting in delayed deployments as IT staff struggled with issues like assigning Apple IDs to students. Professional development was provided in the form of five centralized workshops, but these were “not sufficient to prepare teachers to use technology for instruction.”
Still, the authors found “several pockets of promises.” In particular, the 28 “virtual learning complex facilitators” trained by the district to provide on-site technology integration support “became true partners to teachers and school leaders in some schools.” Many schools also offered digital citizenship lessons that addressed Internet safety and cyberbullying.
Curiously, some of the schools found to be furthest along in tech implementation and were those where device deployment was delayed.
Many of the report’s recommendations emphasized the need for vision and leadership, noting that “a lack of alignment with instructional initiatives, curricula, and other professional development in the district (particularly in the local districts) seemed to be a key barrier” to help educators maximize the use of technology. Creating plans for other platforms and devices should also be a priority, since most of the district’s technology plans and resources were designed with Apple products in mind.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the district paid AIR $340,000—or the equivalent of 850 iPad Airs—to conduct the evaluation. In a prepared response, (follows) LA Unified Superintendent Ramon C. Cortines says the report “points out areas of needed improvement that I have been aware of since my return to the District last October.” (John Deasy, his predecessor and architect of the iPad plan, resigned in October 2014.)
One of the new rules that the district has set in place requires every school to have “an approved strategic plan that details how the computers will be used as an instructional tool and how parents will be involved in the process.”
That might sound like a no-brainer. But as LA Unified has shown, common sense may not always be so common when it comes to adopting and implementing education technology. At the very least, the district now seems to be heeding a motto that Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia, often shares in public: “Plan before you purchase. Don’t purchase and plan.”
LAUSD Releases Follow-Up Report On Instructional Technology Initiative
LOS ANGELES (Sept. 2, 2015) – The Los Angeles Unified School District has made steady progress in implementing its technology program, but still faces significant challenges, according to a new report from an outside evaluator.
The analysis from the American Institutes for Research, made public on Wednesday, follows-up a report issued a year ago on the first phase of a program that has been rebranded as the Instructional Technology Initiative. A total of 101 schools participate in the program to provide a device – an iPad, Chromebook or laptop – to every student and teacher on campus.
The latest report covers the period from August 2014 through June 2015, corresponding with the second year of the District’s technology program. Challenges cited include the deployment of devices to students, communication with schools, integrating the technology initiative with the instructional program and a clear vision for technology use.
The District followed through on the research firm’s previous recommendations that called for beefing up its technical and instructional supports, resolve security issues and teach students how to be good “digital citizens” in a 21st century world, the report said. In addition, all schools in the one-to-one program now have Wi-Fi capability to support the network.
“Although the desire is for positive change to be immediate, the reality is that educational settings are complex and implementation processes take time,” according to the authors.
Over the last three months, the District has addressed some of the recommendations made in the 181-page report. Most of the 70,000 devices were delivered to the so-called “one-to-one” schools by the time school started mid-August, and the rest are expected to be distributed by mid-September. This compares with the months-long process of deploying about 47,000 devices during the 2014-15 school year.
The District has also tapped a staff member at each school to track the devices, which includes their repair and replacement. In addition, the District is expanding professional development opportunities so that teachers not only become adept but comfortable when using technology in the classroom.
“The AIR evaluation points out areas of needed improvement that I have been aware of since my return to the District last October,” said Superintendent Ramon C. Cortines.
“Many of the recommendations in the report have already been addressed or are being addressed. We have improved the deployment of devices at schools sites. We have made changes in the ITI team for better integration with the Division of Instruction. Our ITI Task Force is developing a plan and vision for moving forward.
“It is unfortunate that Dr. Judy Burton has been unable to continue in her leadership role on the Task Force,” Mr. Cortines said. “I have appointed Dr. Frances Gipson, who is the superintendent of Local District East, to fill her seat, and am confident that the good work will continue.”
Before devices can be distributed to students, a school must have an approved strategic plan that details how the computers will be used as an instructional tool and how parents will be involved in the process. Plans for two schools have been approved, and more are expected to be OK’d in the coming weeks.
Each school in the technology program has a staff member to track the devices and oversee training, as well as access to new support teams that provide technical and instructional supports. A new math curriculum was purchased this year for all grades, which includes access to a digital version of the textbooks, besides supplemental material. The District is also working to expand professional development options for local school faculty.
In addition, the District is working to support schools not in the technology program, where an estimated 160,000 devices are in use.
“When we see teachers clamoring for technology in the classroom, and volunteering for training, we realize just how important this is,” said Bill Wherritt, a Facilities Division executive who has been tapped by Cortines to oversee device deployment to schools. “Our goal now is to build on our investment and do the best we can for our students.”
The District should continue to use computers as an instructional tool, according to the study.
“We have made mid-course corrections and we are not giving up on the idea of providing all of our students with access to technology,” Mr. Cortines said. “As I have stated before, we remain committed to the use of classroom technology by our teachers and students.”
Contact the Office of Communications for a copy of the report and executive summary.
Contact: Shannon Haber (213) 241-6766
smf: So the District paid $340.000 to confirm what the superintendent has known since October and which has been reported by numerous other studies, reports+investigations, internal+external – from the Board of Ed’s Technology Committee to the U.S. Department of Education?