After iPad Debacle, Los Angeles Looking to Purchase Student Laptops

The Los Angeles Unified School District is bringing six types of laptops into schools in Phase 1L of the district’s one-to-one technology plan.

This comes as a change from last year’s plan to give iPads to all the students in 47 schools in the district in an effort to integrate technology into the classroom as well as alleviate the stress of carrying around heavy textbooks.

The deal with Apple was struck after what appeared to be no research into deals with any other company.   The district claimed the purchase would save money, as it was a bulk purchase, and allow for ease of maintenance with only one type of device.

“The benefit of the new approach is clear,” said Los Angeles Unified school board member Monica Ratliff, who chaired a panel that reviewed the technology effort. “Why would we treat all our students — whether they are a first-grader or a high school freshman — as if they all had the same technology needs? They don’t … to have a one-device-fits-all approach does not make sense.”

After spending $130 million of money from voter-approved bonds on an iPad for every child last fall, the district noticed multiple problems with the tablets.  Students were having trouble typing on the iPad’s touch screen, and state they are more comfortable on a laptop with an actual keyboard and larger screen.

According to Nate Swanner of Slashgear.com, students were easily bypassing the security features and using the iPads to visit YouTube, Twitter, and other non-school related apps.  The tablets were removed from several schools, causing distribution to fall behind.

Also causing problems was senior staff, who misunderstood the terms of the deal with Apple, stating that the district owned the curriculum, where in reality they simply had a three-year license.  The curriculum they did have proved to be incomplete in the first year.

Twenty-seven schools will be allowed to choose from six laptops to be tested this fall.  This includes the low-cost Chromebook, which has already seen success in schools across the world.  Also included in the choice are the Lenovo Yoga Touch, Microsoft Surface Pro 2, and the Dell Latitude E7240.

The California Board of Education is allowing $40 million for the cost of these 19,300 laptops, writes Vanessa Romo for The LA School Report.

Also to be tested out are curriculum from three different vendors: Pearson, McGraw-Hill/StudySync, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

“Let’s see what works from letting the people in the field — the teachers, the students and the parents — tell us what works,” said Thomas Rubin, a consultant for a committee that oversees the spending of school-construction bonds.

One principal says of using the iPads to take end-of-year exams:

“Students were more comfortable on the laptop because of the amount of writing and the size of the screen. It was really hard to see the whole problem on the iPad.”

Final pricing for the devices was being worked out last week, writes Howard Blume for The LA Times.