Schools learn tablets' limits

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The highest-profile snafu came in Los Angeles, where a $1 billion program—funded by voter-approved bonds—to provide Apple Inc. iPads for K-12 students came under fire after some students sidestepped the security system and accessed social media, online games and other content that was supposed to be blocked.

The Los Angeles Unified School District temporarily took back thousands of tablets from students at three high schools and required the devices to remain on-campus in all 30 schools where the effort had been rolled out. School board officials called a special meeting for Oct. 29 to assess the $50 million first phase of the program ahead of votes to fund the second and third phases.

Los Angeles school board member Bennett Kayser said the district's initiative was "hastily planned" and several "red flags" were overlooked, such as the potential expense of lost or stolen devices and questions about the completeness of the installed curriculum software. Plus, he added, "There is no silver bullet or Superman here; technology is a tool, not an end unto itself."

The fitful Los Angeles rollout comes as K-12 schools nationwide are expected to spend $9.7 billion on technology in 2013, up from $6 billion in 2003, according to the Center for Digital Education, a national research and advisory institute specializing in education technology trends and policy. Districts in Maryland, Kansas, North Dakota and elsewhere have rolled out tablet to thousands of students this year. And experts say the pace of technology spending is rapidly growing as schools try to become more tech-savvy.

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