The Los Angeles Unified School District's plan to give every child an iPad—at a cost of $1 billion to taxpayers—drew universal criticism after numerous problems arose. For one thing, when the devices were broken, lost, or stolen, it wasn't clear whether parents, the schools, or the kids themselves were responsible. Tech-savvy students easily broke through the firewalls administrators had installed to keep them from using the devices to visit social media websites. This prompted some schools to prohibit the use of the iPads at home, when students are away from teacher supervision, even though one of the major intended functions of the iPad program was to give kids a homework aid.
The entire thing was an unmitigated disaster—a clear example of real life trumping the good intentions of bureaucrats
But LAUSD has clearly learned its lesson, right? Wrong:
Los Angeles school district officials have allowed a group of high schools to choose from among six different laptop computers for their students — a marked contrast to last year's decision to give every pupil an iPad.
Contracts that will come under final review by the Board of Education on Tuesday would authorize the purchase of one of six devices for each of the 27 high schools at a cost not to exceed $40 million.
This story in the Los Angeles Times highlights that the new approach emphasizes choosing the devices that are right for each school, rather than expecting an iPad to be the answer to every kid's educational needs. Still, it's an awfully expensive plan, given that most of the options actually cost more than the iPad:
The initial money to pay for the technology is coming from voter-approved bonds. Officials have not yet identified funding to sustain the $1-billion-plus effort. Three of the laptops being tried in the high schools are likely to cost more than the iPads. A different style of laptop, called a Chromebook, would cost less.
Teachers and students at the high schools sent delegations to try out devices and meet with vendors at district headquarters.
It wasn't a perfect process. The curriculum, for example, was hard to assess in a process akin to speed dating, said one participant.
If I were an LA public school student, I would be pretty excited to get an iPad or a Chromebook or whatever. But if I were an LA voter, I would be skeptical that such things serve a worthwhile educational purpose and are a good use of my tax dollars.