A day after LAUSD handed out iPads to kids at two of its campuses, the school board's Technology Committee started its own deep dive into the program that will put a tablet computer in the hands of every student by this time next year.
Chaired by Monica Ratliff, who gave up her teaching career after she was elected to the board in May, the panel got an overview Wednesday of Los Angeles Unified's ambitious technology initiative. In a project that rolled out Tuesday, about 30,000 students at 47 schools will get iPads this year, with all 650,000-plus kids in the district being equipped with the portable computers in 2014-15.
"I can't reiterate enough about the excitement in the field about improved instruction," said Gerardo Loera, executive director of curriculum and instruction. "The feedback is overwhelmingly very, very positive."
Although the technology project has been in the works for years and the district's iPad purchase has made the national news, committee members had a lot of questions on the basics of the plan: Is there a cost to students? What happens if the device is damaged, lost or stolen? And just how does it fit in to what teachers do in the classroom?
Loera and Chief Information Officer Ron Chandler explained that the district will register each iPad so it knows who has which device, but there's no cost to students -- even if something happens to the tablet. However, there is software that enables the district to track and remotely "kill" a tablet, making it useless to thieves. There are also filters to prevent kids from accessing inappropriate material, both at school and at home.
Even more important, Loera said, is how iPads will help LAUSD implement the Common Core curriculum standards being introduced in 2014 and prepare students for college or careers. California and 44 other states have adopted the standards, which will rely on online tests to gauge student progress.
"This is led by instruction, but it's powered by technology," Chandler said. "It's about the magic in the classroom."
The iPads come preloaded with instructional software that teachers can use as tools in devising their lesson plans. The software is the main reason the cost of each iPad comes in at $678, well above what a shopper could pick up off the shelf at a big-box store.
The Technology Committee is one of several ad hoc panels organized by board President Richard Vladovic. He wants them to function as working groups, providing their colleagues with more in-depth information than available in past meetings.
Ratliff took detailed notes, pausing frequently to summarize issues and assigning Chandler and Loera lists of information she'd like to discuss in September. She also wants the public to weigh in with questions, which can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. ___
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