Los Angeles Begins Rollout of iPads for All Students

More schools are using iPads and other tablets to take advantage of digital curriculum and to meet the growing demands of modern education, and the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) has taken the nationwide lead in implementation by recently announcing an ambitious plan to buy and distribute free iPads to 640,000 students in the nation’s second-largest school district by late 2014.

The first phase of the project is currently underway in 49 of the district’s 1,124 K-12 schools. Each student will receive an iPad pre-loaded with educational applications and other programs useful in the classroom.

As part of the $1 billion project, LAUSD has started rolling out iPads in a limited pilot. Broadacres and Cimarron Elementary in Hawthorne became the first to roll out tablet computers, according to Howard Blume of Los Angeles Times.

For Broadacres, in Carson, the tablets were an exhilarating upgrade for a campus that had no wireless Internet and few working computers. Technology was only marginally better at Cimarron, in Hawthorne, where the computer lab couldn’t accommodate an entire class. “This is going to level the playing field as far as what schools are doing throughout the district,” said Principal Cynthia M. Williams of Cimarron, where 70% of students are from low-income families.

The iPad project’s $1 billion cost breaks down to half for the Apple tablets and half for other expenses such as installing a wireless network on every campus. The vast majority of the cost will be covered by school construction bonds.

The effort is expected to improve teaching and boost achievement. In addition, it will “put a school district composed mostly of low-income, minority students on an even footing with more prosperous students, who have such devices at home, at school or both.”

Over the next two weeks, the district will distribute iPads at 45 other campuses. The district’s 650,000 students, from kindergarten on up, will receive iPads over the next year or so.

Each tablet with pre-loaded educational software will cost the district $678, which is higher than tablets cost in stores. The tablets come with tracking software, a sturdy case and a three-year warranty. To cover the cost of tablets, the district is using school construction bonds, approved by Los Angeles voters, which did not mention the purchase of iPads, which “raised questions among members of the appointed Bond Oversight Committee.”

As part of the project, the school district will buy digital textbooks for the iPads through an arrangement with educational books publisher Pearson. The digital books is also projected to help the district save money over buying traditional paper-based textbooks.

The district made the decision to buy iPads for the students after a long and detailed review process, Hovatter said, adding that the district looked at all possible options before issuing a request for proposals (RFP).