iPads for L.A. Students: a Reflection

Written by: Emilia Marcyk

Primary Source: Information Literacy Resources

If you’ve been following the unfolding story of L.A. Public School District superintendent John Deasy’s plan give iPads to every student, you’re probably not surprised that he recently stepped down. Though the “iPad scandal” was not the only reason for his resignation, it certainly played a large part.

Some overviews of the story are available from The New York Times and Business Insider, among numerous other sources.

What can those of us interested in promoting the informed use of technology for instruction learn from Deasy’s resignation? One thing that bogged the program down from the beginning was lack of understanding of the full scope of what would be needed to actually get iPads into the hands of 640,000 students. Costs such as WiFi upgrades in buildings, and ongoing maintenance of the iPads should have been anticipated, but seemingly weren’t. The $1.3 billion cost certainly dismayed many; a Facebook campaign pointed out that money would be better spent renovating deteriorating school buildings. Teachers were not committed to the program. In short, the program was, as far as I can see, a textbook example of what not to do when implementing new technology in an instructional context.

So what should we do?

1. Be transparent about the process: provide sound pedagogical rational for the adoption of a technology and critically assess available alternatives.
2. Thoroughly account for costs: new technology, especially technology that is radically different than what students are already using, always seems to have hidden costs.
3. Make a plan for sustainability: technology quickly becomes obsolete. Is there money to provide for replacements and upgrades? Will the program receive continued support, and is it designed with the lasting best interest of students in mind?
4. Get practitioner buy-in: will the new technology support teaching, or will it create additional work for those in the classroom? This is especially important to examine when an initiative comes from the top down.

Do you have any thoughts Deasy’s resignation, or initiatives to integrate new technology into education? Share them below.

Lovingly written by Emilia Marcyk

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Emilia Marcyk
Emilia Marcyk is an Instructional Technology & Information Literacy Librarian at the MSU Libraries, where she develops instructional content, leads information literacy sessions for the First Year Writing program, and works at the reference desk. She is especially interested in developing new tools and strategies to help undergraduate students acquire information literacy skills, especially as they transition from high school to college. She received her MSLIS from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and her BA from Bryn Mawr College. In addition to her work in libraries, Emilia has been an environmental educator in Portland, OR, and Philadelphia, PA.