Los Angeles

LA Schools Realize Giving Every Kid an iPad Was a Costly Disaster, Will Give Every Kid a Laptop Instead

The entire thing was an unmitigated disaster-a clear example of real life trumping the good intentions of bureaucrats.


Tom Morris / Wikimedia Commons

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.

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  1. I have an iPad, a desktop, and a laptop. The latter two allow actual work to get done.

    The iPad, on the other hand, is a fun toy – only as good as the apps, or for light web surfing. Trying to use it as a serious education toy? Harumphh.

    1. Remember this story?


      1. I call bullshit.

        All you have to do with someone with a stone age education is hand them an Ipod and they will figure out what a camera is for without ever having seen a written word prior ?

        1. Personally, it’s legit and that’s part of the problem.

          Tablets are a teaching aid, not a learning aid. Content is generated, approved and beamed to kids in the most user-friendly format possible. Kids that can’t spell or write can use a tablet to learn their multiplication tables, stumble through differential equations, or get a video walkthrough of how to replace their car’s discs and pads.

          The problem is teachers, who used to generate the content and have unions to make sure they get paid to do so, are now being forced to manage other people’s content; and school administrators, who are marginally qualified to keep the system afloat, are completely under-equipped to deal with the change.

    2. But, but, but…

      IPads are totally cool and hip and chic!

    3. Same. Since getting my tablet, my laptop has essentially become a desktop, plugged into an external monitor and only moved when I have to travel for work. The tablet is pure consumption.

      There are some aspects of education that can be consumed, like lectures, but for most tasks, you won’t get the spatial flexibility of a pencil and paper or the typing efficiency of a laptop.

      My cousins’ kids are homeschooled, and they make pretty good use of tablets for lectures and supplemental exercises, but software isn’t their backbone media. And these are kids who actually enjoy learning.

  2. How, exactly, is giving someone a choice of free laptops a “marked contrast” to giving them a free iPad?

    1. They take so long to boot up that kids will get bored and go do something else.

      1. yeah, like rob someone.

  3. To be fair, an iPad or laptop will let the kids access Khan Academy where they can learn a lot more than they will from the average LAUSD teacher.

    1. Also less molestation.

    2. Khan Academy supports a flipped classroom model. Students watch the videos (lecture) as homework. In the classroom, students practice what they have learned, where the teacher can monitor and assist with misunderstandings. It works well in a math classroom.

    3. A chromebook is cheaper. I don’t know if you can do anything other than browe the web, but that’s mostly all kids really need.

  4. They can always activate those webcams to make sure the kids are doing what they’re supposed to be doing with those laptops at home in their bedrooms.

    1. If I was in high school, I would hang a dick pic in front of the school laptop’s camera. A little treat for school administrators (or the NSA, which we know has exploits that can turn cameras and microphones on).

    2. This has merit. Rather than block porn, they could let the kids watch porn and catch them beating off. Red-handed, indisputable evidence, archived and accessible on the teachers’ network.

  5. Somewhere, someone is getting some serious amount of kickback.

    1. This.

      Someone’s brother in law sells the model that just happens to be the selection.

      Nothing new here. The taxpayers would be better off just handing whoever concocted this scheme a million $ to just go away.

  6. The entire thing was an unmitigated disaster?a clear example of real life trumping the good intentions of bureaucrats

    Just once, I’d like to read an article claiming that something was a mitigated disaster.

  7. everything the state touches is shit. The whole hobby lobby thing — which I’m so sick of hearing about — wouldn’t have been an issue if the state kept the hell out of health care. The health-care “crisis” was only a crisis because of the state and their wage caps in WWII that led to this asinine employer-provided health-care nonsense.

    The state gets involved in something the market or individuals could provide and it always turns into a pissing contest of who gets the loot and everyone continually petitioning the state from something they could have so easily if the state hadn’t become involved.


  8. This just in: Liberal La La Land LA is still pissing away money.

  9. Doubling down on stupid. Interesting how kids today can’t learn without a computer but the people who created computers never had them. Computers in school are not needed and actually cost more then the books that they are there to replace.

    1. I think computers can be a good thing in schools; after all, knowing how to use one will be helpful in many lines of work.

      But yea, issuing them iPads is going far beyond that.

  10. So public schools are starving for funds while they’re giving iPads and laptops to their students?

    1. The situation’s so bad, people have begun to resort to theft.

  11. My guess is that an IPAD would never be a part of the most cost effective solution.

    But students should have a touchscreen device, a stand, keyboard and mouse. Whether that comes as a touchscreen laptop, or is combination of a tablet plus wireless devices is a matter of economics and function. And internet access.

    “The Los Angeles Unified School District’s plan to give every child an iPad?at a cost of $1 billion to taxpayers”

    La Wik says there are 655,494 kids. So what, each kid got two of the most expensive IPADs? Probably not. I suppose a 2:1 to 4:1 graft factor isn’t bad.

    On a more realistic note, this was a capital expense which should be amortized over at least 2 years, and probably 3. With a total budget of 6.78 billion, I’d say it was likely the best spent money in the system.

    Gives the kids access to Khan Academy and infinite information. The kids who want to learn now have a chance. That’s surely a huge improvement over getting all your information and learning from the guards of LA’s childhood preprison complex.

    1. That works out to $1,525 per iPad! What are they doing GOLD PLATING them! I bought a good laptop 3 years ago for about $400.

      What was this, a SOLE SOURCE No Bid contract! The costs are absurd!

      On Amazon they are running about $350 to $450. Leave it to government to pay 3 times the average price for something. $600 hammers anyone?

    2. “Gives the kids access to Khan Academy and infinite information. The kids who want to learn now have a chance.”

      I live in the SF bay area and most of the kids I know already have web access, and subsequently, access to Khan Academy and infinite info. Cell phones and libraries provide access at a minimum, but most kids have at least a shared computer at home as well.

      But even with that access, I don’t see kids crashing the Khan Academy servers.

      And the kids who want to learn… you are joking, right? We gave up on them a long time ago when we decided it was best to reward all kids equally so no feelings would get hurt.

      If kids WANT to learn, they have an overwhelming amount of resources available without schools issuing an iPad or laptop. We live in an information age so vast that it’s startling and a bit depressing to realize that abundant knowledge is pointless without the wisdom to use it.

      I would much rather see tax dollars go toward rewarding good students with a laptop. Incentive is a lesson that pays lifelong benefits.

  12. They didn’t even have a plan as to who would pay for the ipad if it happened to break. That’s how little thought went into this whole thing.

  13. I am normally even keeled. Takes a bit to get me fired up. However …

    I can’t fucking wait to move out of this ridiculous state. Damn Marine Corp wanting to be by the ocean.

  14. The story left out the best part: the bonds they are using to buy these devices were supposed to be used for repairs and construction. Tax payers will be paying for them for 30 years!

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