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Thompson: LA's Rushed Rollout of iPads Is Business as Usual

IpadsIn the long run, we should never bet against technology.  In the short run, it is equally safe to wager that the hurried introduction of digital tools by school systems will continue to undermine their effectiveness.

Anya Kamenetz's The Inside Story on LA Schools iPad Rollout: "a colossal disaster" provides the first draft of the latest chapter of the history of educational technology repeating itself. She reports that LA only tried a small pilot project last spring before rushing ahead with a billion dollar investment in iPads.  Even that brief experiment resulted in the loss of 71 tablets.  Only the teachers who passed out the iPads got training.  They got 40 minutes of instruction on managing the devices.

A logistical problem was discovered when students checked the devices out at the end of the day so they could use them at home. The process of rechecking them in each morning was too time-consuming.  Also, checking iPads out at the beginning of class created a problem, “If kids didn’t want to do the work, they would come late purposely and not get an iPad. So in some classes, half the kids had them and half the kids didn’t, they were just sitting with their heads on the desk.”

True believers in technology don't like to think about these issues.   Theorists like LA Superintendent John Deasy believe that technology will relieve schools of the most difficult job in education - creating learning cultures that allow for teaching and learning for mastery. They have it backwards.   

Students must first understand that they are supposed to behave differently in class than at home or other places.  Before technology can live up to its prodigious promise, students must be taught how to be 21st century students who will use, not abuse their electronic devices.  It makes no sense to ignore the fact that some children are too young to bring $700 tablets home.  Others still need to be taught how to control technologies and not be controlled by them and there is no shortcuts for that process.-JT(@drjohnthompson) Image via

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Do you think technology like that helps kids learn better? I got one in Edmonton, post secondary school because it was easier for me to take notes and carry around instead of a million notebooks, but I never had one before that.

Anne, it isn't helping my students at all. I got them the access code for their Prentice Hall Chemistry text (Pearson owns it) and it will only display chapter 1 on the iPads! If students can get to a real computer, they have access to the whole book. We paid $110 per copy of those texts, on the argument that that price included the online version, but now they want more money for a tablet ap, and the district won't pay it. No book budget left.

Instead, the district is PAYING Pearson with a $435,000 "grant" for bull$hit professional development in flipped and blended learning. This turns out to be nothing but propaganda and marketing slogans, because Pearson doesn't know anything about teaching to teach anybody.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in This Week In Education are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.