Schools are adopting new technology policies to meet the demands of modern education, and in district after district, Apple's iPads and similar tablet computers are becoming part of the discussion.
But no tablet program has received more attention than Los Angeles's ambitious plan. The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) recently announced plans to buy and distribute free iPads to 640,000 students in the nation's second-largest school district by late 2014, according to Todd R. Weiss of Cite World.
The school district has launched a new $30 million program to give free iPads to 31,000 students this school year.
LAUSD Chief Facilities Executive Mark Hovatter said: "The most important thing is to try to prepare the kids for the technology they are going to face when they are going to graduate. This is phase one, a mix of high school, middle school, and elementary students. We're targeting kids who most likely don't have their own computers or laptops or iPads. Their only exposure to computers now is going to be in their schools."
The school district is using $30 million in tax money to buy the first 31,000 devices. However, Hovatter said the school district is exploring other option to fund the project. The school district is hoping to find private donors who will help to fund much of the rest of the effort.
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.
The first phase of the project will be completed before beginning of the new school year in August.
Educators are realizing and that the digital age is a reality and that workers today in nearly every field require skills with computers and related technologies.
"We are making sure that everyone is able to take a test electronically. Even in construction, you can't do those jobs now without having some familiarity with computers. Whatever jobs kids want to have, technology is likely involved. You're just not going to be able to do well in society if you don't have some experience."
Hovatter also said that iPads will make education more interactive for the students. Students and teachers will be able to better plan and synchronize scheduling, share reference videos and news events, use interactive lessons, and conduct digital tests.
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 will also 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 issued a request for proposals (RFP).
The district school received 12 proposals from vendors, including Apple, Samsung, and others. A team of 30 people reviewed all proposals and selected Apple as the only vendor for the project.
"We were not just buying a device, but also a device with software" aimed at the students and their needs, Hovatter said.