The LA Unified School District (LA USD) recently initiated a program to provide students with iPads, which the justified by claiming that the iPads would cost less than providing every student with textbooks and other instructional materials. The LA USD provided 30,000 students with iPads that were already populated with the textbooks, instructional materials, and educational programs the district had selected. Each iPad was programmed to block certain web sites, like Facebook.
The problem – students aren’t stupid and figured out how to overcome the security programming so that they could access any web sites they wanted within a few hours. The school division will now be confiscating the iPads and providing students with hard copy textbooks and instructional materials.
Many schools in our county have begun providing iPads or other tablets to students, claiming that the devices cost less than textbooks and other instructional materials. I haven’t seen the math to back up that claim and find it dubious at best. Parents have been assured that the devices are enabled with security that will prevent students from accessing unauthorized web sites, but, as the case in LA USD indicates, students are pretty darn smart when it comes to gaining access to the information they want.
Maybe our schools need to re-consider their plans to provide iPads or similar devised to students. The claims of reduced cost have not been substantiated and the devices aren’t without risk as students will be able to access information we may not want them accessing. Most important, however, is whether the devices actually improve student learning. There is no evidence that iPads or other devices actually improve student learning and some evidence that they actually undermine it.
We need to think before we jump.