| LOS ANGELES
LOS ANGELES Nov 10 The Los Angeles school
district is putting the brakes on a project to give an iPad to
each student, a $1 billion initiative that is the largest
rollout of its kind in the nation and has been plagued by
students hacking the devices' security features.
District officials have already provided their devices to
over 25,000 students, and under their original plan would have
finished distributing tablets to the last of its 650,000
students in late 2014.
Superintendent John Deasy has described the rollout as a
civil rights initiative designed to give students in his
district, mostly from low-income families, access to a 21st
century tool common in middle-class households. Students are
supposed to use it to take standardized tests, do homework, read
curriculum, play learning games, capture video and more.
But they also want to use the devices for fun. In a
high-profile setback, some 300 teenagers from three high schools
found a way to bypass security protocols on their iPads earlier
this year to access Twitter and other sites the district seeks
Students have since been barred from taking the iPads home.
Following that and other concerns from school board members,
Deasy has proposed delaying by a year, to late 2015, the
completion of the iPad rollout.
One board member, Monica Ratliff, has questioned whether a
laptop and not an iPad was a better tool for high school
students, and has sought a school board vote in mid-2014 on
whether to go forward with the plan. The board, at a meeting on
Tuesday, is set to consider the idea of a mid-year vote.
The Los Angeles rollout would be the largest distribution of
mobile computers to schoolchildren attempted in the United
States, and its efforts have gained widespread attention as
districts across the nation experiment with ways to equip
students with such devices.
"It is certainly ambitious and I have to credit them for
that," said Richard Culatta, the U.S. Department of Education's
director of the office of educational technology, adding that
any such program was bound to experience "bumps along the road."
Los Angeles schools are not alone in choosing the iPad or
mobile computing devices.
In a 2012 survey of over 364,000 U.S. students by Project
Tomorrow, more than 28 percent of pupils in grades 3 to 12 said
they had access to a school-provided laptop. Some 18 percent of
third through fifth graders said they were given a tablet, with
lower rates for older students.
Some school districts, such as in Virginia and Nevada,
encourage students to bring their own devices to school for
educational use, Culatta said.
The Los Angeles district, the second largest in the nation
after New York, has struggled in recent years with declining
enrollment and test scores that lag the California average.
Officials have said one reason for spending $1 billion on
iPads, including $366 million to upgrade Wi-Fi networks and
other technical infrastructure at schools, is to give students
technology they can use to learn at their own pace.
In higher grades, they can use iPads with click-in keyboards
to write and research essays.
At home, students will be able to access most of the Web
including Wikipedia and news sites, but not social networking
sites where cyber bullying is a concern, schools officials said.
Student Jayla Hill, 10, told the school board this month
that the tablet lets students who may have missed a concept,
like math division, to review on their own.
"I feel like the iPad helps me because sometimes the teacher
pressures you to get the answer, but the iPad sits there and
gives you all the time in the world," she said.
Officials have sought to reassure parents concerned about
being held liable for the tablets by pledging to replace for
free those that are lost or stolen.
"We're doing kind of a groundbreaking rollout, we all knew
there would be attention paid to it and that's not a bad thing,"
Los Angeles school board member Tamar Galatzan said last month.
"If folks want to go back to the day of using a piece of
stone and a chisel, we can," Galatzan said.