Los Angeles public schools created a stir of sorts by announcing a contract to purchase $30 million worth of iPads for one-to-one student distribution. Many school districts have bought iPads or other tablets, but L.A. is by far the largest. But will the district get its money’s worth?
That may depend on how much preparation the district undertakes before handing the tablets over to the kids. “Simply purchasing slick devices like iPads for the classroom is hardly a recipe for educational success,” says Lee Badman, a network architect/administrator and adjunct faculty member at Syracuse University in New York, in a commentary for InformationWeek.
Badman poses a number of questions that schools need to think about before deploying tablets as a classroom tool, starting with determining a concrete purpose and plan for using the devices. If the intent is to simply give students hands-on experience with the new technology, that’s not much of a goal, in Badman’s view.
“Students are often more adept in using devices than faculty are,” he says.
Quality instruction should still form the foundation for student education, he adds. Underperforming teachers won’t be transformed by the presence of tablets, while effective teachers may find their instructional time sucked away by technical problems.
And the technical problems could be plenty, Badman says, if the district doesn’t set up a fully functioning wireless network with enough access points and sufficient ISP connectivity. Printing capabilities and streaming video should also be considered. Badman says this calls for a skilled network administrator, not a teacher or administrator trying to squeeze those extra tasks into a busy day.