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Apodaca: L.A. schools' iPad fiasco should serve as lesson

October 04, 2013|By Patrice Apodaca

As our local schools continue to experiment with ways to utilize technology, they are receiving a big lesson in how not to do it from our giant neighbor to the north.

I'm talking about you, Los Angeles Unified. We really must thank for providing such a sterling example of not-to-be-emulated dysfunction. Your boneheaded moves would be comical if they weren't so costly.

Here's a quick overview of LAUSD's iPad fiasco so far:

The district recently began rolling out its $1-billion initiative (yes, that's billion with a "b") to equip each of its more than 600,000 students with an iPad within a year. So far, nearly 50,000 schoolchildren have received their iPads.

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Faster than you can say, "Did you really think this through?" problems began emerging. Just one week after receiving their iPads, hundreds of high school students reportedly hacked through security to reach sites such as Facebook and YouTube, prompting school officials to halt home use of the tablets while they figured out what to do next.

The hacking episode led to another revelation. School officials acknowledged that issues of liability hadn't yet been settled. In other words, there was no clear plan for what to do or who to hold responsible should an iPad be lost, stolen or damaged.

A few days later, LAUSD reported that it was attempting to find 71 missing iPads.

Wait, it gets better. Turns out none of the LAUSD geniuses anticipated the need for students to be able to type on a keyboard instead of a touch screen. When they belatedly figured that one out, the district faced substantial additional costs for the keyboards.

The problems led LAUSD last week to begin confiscating iPads from some high school students. Meanwhile, some teachers reported problems connecting to the Internet in their classrooms.

As public outrage over the mess grew, LAUSD Supt. John Deasy defended the iPad project in a letter published last week by the Los Angeles Times. Technology is a critical factor in preparing students for the future, he wrote. He referred to the problems encountered as "glitches" and maintained that the program would continue.

In a subsequent interview, Deasy called the project "an astounding success." Providing equal access to technology for all students is a civil rights issue, he maintained.

True enough, but the rush to get technology into our schools has raised other worrisome questions.

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